Losing your wallet can feel like the end of the world, and loss or theft can be the beginning of serious headaches. If you’ve upended the house and ransacked the car without success, acknowledge that gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach. You’ll need to move fast before identity thieves can use your private information to drain your checking account or wreck your credit.
Call the Issuers of Your Debit and ATM Cards
Contact the bank or credit union that issued your debit cards if your wallet is lost or stolen. Swift action can take you off the hook for fraudulent purchases made with your ATM cards. Your liability will be nothing if you report the loss or theft of the card immediately and the card has not been used.
If you notify the bank or credit union within two business days after the wallet goes missing, you may be responsible for no more than $50 if the debit card is used fraudulently. Wait to notify them longer than two business days and your liability goes up to $500. Make sure you call the bank within 60 days after your bank statement listing unauthorized withdrawals is mailed to you or your responsibility will be unlimited. These are your protections under the federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act.
Alert Your Credit Card Issuers
Immediately report the cards as lost or stolen to your credit card company, bank or credit union. They can suspend your credit card numbers to protect you and send you new cards with new account numbers. Make sure you’ll keep the same credit limits and any travel miles you’ve earned. Check that you’re getting the same APR. Now might even be a good time to negotiate a lower APR.
Procedures to provide new card numbers vary among card issuers, and it is not the same as cancelling your credit card. Cancelling credit cards can make an impact on your credit reports, so investigate thoroughly before you rush to close those cards.
Update Automatic Payments
If you’ve signed up to make automatic payments with your debit card or checking account, make other arrangements to pay the companies expecting your money. Otherwise, the automatic debit will be denied and you’ll face the consequences of late fees, cut-offs and dinged credit.
Let your bank know if the wallet contained checks. You may decide to the put a hold on the account or shut it down and open a new one. If you do, make sure to update your direct deposits.
Contact the Big Three Credit Bureaus
Alert the three major credit-reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — immediately about your loss and ask for a fraud alert. Creditors must verify your identity by calling you before they approve any new credit when a fraud alert is in place. Consider putting a credit freeze on your accounts. It’s free now to both put freezes on and take them off.
File a Police Report
Notifying the authorities is vital evidence on your behalf if you become a victim of identity theft or fraud. A police report provides the assurance bill collectors need.
Report Your Missing Driver’s License to Your Local DMV
Your driver’s license is a great tool identity thieves can use for fraud. Report the loss to your DMV as soon as possible. They will reissue a license for you, and they, too, are almost sure to ask if you have filed a police report.
What Else Is in Your Wallet?
If you carried a house key in your wallet, change your locks. If your Social Security card went missing, inform the IRS Identity Protection Unit at 1-800-908-4490. (The Social Security Administration will issue you a new card but they won’t give you a new SSN.) If your medical insurance card is gone, alert your insurance provider. Medical identity fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in our country. Make a list of the other vital things you stashed in your wallet and follow up.
Monitor Your Credit Reports
Keep an eye on your credit reports. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year, and you can get them by going to Annual Credit Report site.