The horrific panic that sets in as you are frantically looking around for your lost wallet is an experience usually filled with dread. No one expects to lose their wallet, a valuable possession that primarily holds money, credit cards, and an abundance of personal information. Nonetheless, it is definitely a smart move to prepare for such an unfortunate situation, because it occurs to the best of us.
Prepare Before it Happens
By taking proper precautions, you can prevent a financial disaster immediately after losing your wallet. Start by making copies of all the contents in your wallet. Be sure to scan or photocopy the front and back sides of credit cards and debit cards.
Next, make a list of the emergency contact numbers for everything in your wallet. This list should include your bank’s, insurance company’s, and credit bureau’s phone numbers. By consolidating this information, you can keep all the contacts in one place. It would also be a great idea to add these numbers to your phone, should you not be able to access this list away from home.
You should not be carrying your Social Security card and insurance cards on a regular basis. Bring them only when you expect to need them. Also, do not carry all your credit cards and debit cards with you because you probably won’t be using all of them. Two or three credit or debit cards should be more than enough. Also, you’ll want to have a backup debit or credit card at home to keep you solvent.
What to Do When it Happens
1. Retrace your steps and begin looking.
You are praying that the wallet just slipped out and is lying on the floor waiting for you to retrieve it. That is always a possibility, so it is best to spend 10 to 15 minutes checking the places you last visited and calling the people you were with. If the wallet cannot be found within this time, assume that it was stolen and is gone for good.
2. Call and report the situation to banks.
Pull out that list you prepared for this specific situation and start calling every number on the list. Notifying the banks in a timely manner will limit your liability on any charges or losses incurred by the thief. Have them send out replacement cards as soon as possible.
3. Call the police.
Take a trip to the local precinct and file a police report to validate the situation. Be specific with the details including date, location, and description of the wallet, along with the contents in it. Save a copy of the report in case any fraudulent activity takes place. In that case, you might need to show credit card companies that you were not involved.
4. Visit the DMV.
Everyone should carry personal identification on them, even if they aren’t driving. If you are driving, it is illegal and would be a hassle if police pulled you over and you had nothing to show them.
5. Monitor your credit report and bank statements.
The thieves could have used the information provided by the contents in your wallet to sign up for new credit cards or rack up a huge bill on your credit cards. Keep a watch for suspect activity in the months following the situation. If needed, you can call a credit bureau to place a credit freeze on your accounts. This will automatically notify all the credit bureaus to do the same.
Simon Zhen is a research analyst for MyBankTracker. He is an expert on consumer banking products, bank innovations, and financial technology.
Simon has contributed and/or been quoted in major publications and outlets including Consumer Reports, American Banker, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News – World Report, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Lifehacker, and AOL.com.