One of our staff members recently had to deal with a stolen wallet. Someone then used her debit card to buy expensive computers online, which caused an overdraft of her account.
Her bank put a hold on her account, and she had no money for a week before this was cleared up. It was a giant pain in the rear end, to say the least.
This post explains what you should do if your wallet or purse is lost or stolen. There is no way to make this a painless experience. But by following these steps you can get it over with as quickly as possible – so you can have access to your money again.
First – Be Prepared
Your life will be a lot easier if you have taken a few steps to protect yourself before you lose a wallet. Most of this involves having access to all that information somewhere else as a backup. Read our post about things to do before your wallet is stolen here.
Second – Take These Steps Quickly
Do not mess around if you discover your wallet is lost. Find it right now, or start taking these steps immediately. Any delay is going to give a thief more time to mess up your financial life. And you could incur rising liability for fraudulent charges if you delay and a thief uses your card. The longer you wait, the more the banks are allowed to charge your account. You should report a missing ATM card within 24 hours if at all possible.
Step 1 – Make a Call Log
Make a call log so you can document when you made each call and who you spoke to. You will make a lot of calls and you will not remember all this if you have to later.
Step 2 – File a Police Report
Call the cops and make an official police report of a stolen wallet if you cannot find it. This is not solely about doing the right thing and trying to catch the bad guys. Many banks will not take your case seriously unless you take this step. They get scammed all the time, and they are going to be suspicious if you swear you didn’t buy that jewelry and computer they see on your statement. If you file an official police report, they will believe you.
Step 3 – Call your bank and credit card issuers
Cancel your ATM/debit card. Report a lost or stolen credit card and they will issue you a new one. It will arrive in the US mail. Did you lose your checkbook too? If so, make sure the bank knows that so they can issue an alert for fraudulent checks. That is a separate system. You may need to close a bank account and open a new one. If so, make sure you redirect any automatic deposits or bill payments.
Step 4 – Contact the Credit Bureaus
Contact the big 3 credit reporting agencies. Their contact information is below. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your credit. This last for 90 days. If you call one of these agencies, they are supposed to notify the other two. Don’t rely on that. We suggest you contact all three.
A fraud alert will protect your credit by forcing any business to verify your identity before extending credit. This will also make it a lot easier to have fraudulent transactions removed from your credit if they do appear.
Also request a free copy of your credit report as you are a victim of fraud. They must send you one as a victim of fraud. Examine it very carefully and find each and every fraudulent account, credit inquiry, and any other erroneous information.
- Equifax – www.equifax.com
- PO Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
- (800) 525-6285
- Experian – www.experian.com
- PO Box 2002, Allen, TX, 75013
- (888) 397-3742
- TransUnion – www.transunion.com
- PO Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
- (800) 680-7289
Step 5 – Get a New Driver’s License
You will need a new drivers’ license. Luckily, Maryland makes this easy with an on-line option for getting a new card. See this link and follow the instructions. They will mail you a new card within 7-10 business days.
Step 6 – Get a New Social Security Card
If you did lose your social security card, you have to call the social security agency to get a new one. They will make you fill out a form and present proof of identification. The card is free, but the process is a pain.
Step 7 – Monitor Your Credit
Order a copy of your credit report after the dust has settled. Make sure no fraudulent charges ended up on it. You get one free credit report each year at www.annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228. That is the official site for a free annual credit report.
This is in addition to the one you get when you put a fraud alert on your credit, so use this free one later. There are other private companies that will provide your credit report for a fee. I suggest you get one 30 days after your wallet is stolen, and another one 3 months later. You will have to pay for that second one, but it is worth it.
Step 8 – Has This Escalated to Identity Theft?
Did the thief open any new accounts in your name? Did they make more than a few charges on your card? If this has escalated to full blown identity theft, you need to read our series on how to recover from identity theft here.
We hope this never happens to you, but if it does, we hope this post helps you recover your life quickly.