You’ve Lost Your Wallet: What to do First


If you’ve ever lost your wallet or even “just” a credit (or debit) card, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the ice-cold fear that runs through your body when you first realize what has happened. With identity theft and credit card fraud running rampant in society today, there’s no telling what might happen to your personal information, money and credit score when your wallet goes missing.

As soon as you discover that your wallet or purse has been misplaced or stolen, the absolute most important thing that you must do is: ACT QUICKLY. Do everything on the following list, and do it now. Whether you’re at work or up to your ears in finger paint at home with the kids – stop what you’re doing immediately, and:

  • Call your bank:  If you have a debit card (and who doesn’t these days?), the most time-sensitive thing you must do is alert your bank. You have your hard-earned money sitting in your account just waiting to be spent by the person who finds (or has stolen) your wallet. The faster you act, the better the end result will be for you. Most banks won’t hold you responsible for any transactions that occur after you report your debit card as stolen or lost – as long as you make that call right away. If you wait a day or two, you may end up liable for money you didn’t spend. Your debit card will have to be cancelled and you’ll be sent a new one with a new debit number, however it will still be routed to your bank account. The difference will be that the original debit card will no longer work, so no one will be able to use it.
  • Report your credit cards as stolen/lost: It used to be common practice to immediately cancel any and all credit cards that you’ve lost or have had stolen. Now we know that there is a better option – one that won’t wreak havoc on your credit rating. Make phone contact with all of your credit card companies, but instead of cancelling your card(s), explain that your wallet was stolen or lost. Credit card companies are able to freeze any activity on your cards without actually cancelling your accounts, which would send the wrong message to credit reporting agencies and potentially lower your credit score. Request that new cards be sent out to you. They’ll have completely different card numbers, making the original cards unusable, but your account will not be reported as closed or cancelled.
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit report file: Make a call to all three of the major credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union – and let them know that your wallet was stolen or lost. Ask them to place a fraud alert on your personal file. This will cause a chain reaction (a good one) that will prevent anyone other than you from opening a new credit card or taking out a loan using your personal information. This step is especially important if your wallet contained your driver’s license or other personal identification information that may result in identity theft. If your social security card was lost or stolen, you’ll also need to alert the Social Security Administration and begin the process of getting a new card.
  • File a report with your local police: Although this may make you feel like you’re being overly dramatic, reporting a stolen wallet to the police isn’t done so that they can open a case to look for the thief. Naturally, (most) police officers simply don’t have time for that. The purpose of reporting a stolen wallet or credit card to local law enforcement is to create a paper trail of your loss. A police report is a solid piece of evidence you can use regarding any fraudulent charges on your stolen card(s) or identity theft.
  • Learn from your mistakes: Keep your credit cards in a safe place at home and only carry one with you when you need to use it. NEVER keep your social security card in your wallet. In order to avoid your debit card from going missing, always keep it safely inside your wallet in the same place. Tossing it in your purse or keeping it in a pocket is a good way to lose track of it quickly.


Image credit: Ryan Loos


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