The last thing anyone wants is for their stuff to go missing. But losing your wallet is a whole other level of annoying. Here’s your checklist of what to do if this happens to you and some things to consider to protect you from the consequences of it again.
#1 Contact Your Financial Providers and Check Your Transaction History
Pick up the phone, go to their website, or visit a bank branch to report that your cards need to be canceled, or at the very least, temporarily frozen while you try to find them. Be careful to check that the number or website is legit by going through the bank’s main website.
Most replacement cards take between three and seven business days to arrive via snail mail. See if your bank can issue you a temporary card number so that you can add it to a virtual wallet like Apple Pay or Google Pay to hold you over while you wait. Of course, you can also use this time to have a few no spend days too.
While you are contacting them, review your recent transactions to make sure you recognize everything. This is especially important for debit cards; the longer you wait to report fraudulent charges, the more you are on the hook.
This is because debit cards don’t have the same fraud protections as credit cards. The Fair Credit Billing Act states the most you can be liable for is $50 of unauthorized charges on a credit card. Many credit cards promise that you would be liable for $0.
On the other hand, debit cards are required to give you the same courtesy for just two days. For days three through sixty, you could be required to pay $500 of those same charges. After sixty days, all of those unauthorized charges could come out of your checking account. Yikes.
If your checkbook was lost or stolen too, then you’ll need to freeze your checking account, review the transactions made on the account, and then open a new one with the help of your bank.
#2 Replace Your Other Cards
Your license, IDs, health insurance cards, vaccination card, and Social Security card (if you carry it) will also need to be replaced.
For state IDs, you may be able to avoid the DMV and order a new one online. This usually isn’t free. If you have an emergency fund, this is exactly what it’s there for, so feel free to reimburse yourself after.
Additionally, your health insurance cards should be replaced; make sure to tell your health insurance providers what happened when you request a new card. Identity thieves may want to use your benefits for their bills. Keep an eye out for any Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) that you get either digitally or in the mail to make sure you recognize everything you are billed for.
There’s your COVID vaccine card as well. It can be replaced by contacting the location where you got your shot or your state health department’s Immunization Information System (IIS). After contacting them, you should get your new card in one or two weeks, but you can ask for a digital copy too.
If your Social Security card was in your wallet you’ll need to take further action outlined in step #4.
#3 File a Police Report if Your Wallet Was Stolen
Will the police find your stolen wallet? Maybe not. But filing a police report will create a formal record of the incident. If your identity is stolen, or if your financial institutions ask for proof that your wallet was stolen, you have the documentation to back up your case.
Your local precinct will give you a case number and a copy of the report, so keep this in a safe place.
#4 Get a Plan if Your Identity Was Stolen
The Federal Trade Commission operates IdentityTheft.gov. If you suspect your identity—including your Social Security number—was stolen, they can create a plan for you to execute to recover your identity.
Bonus: How to Prepare for Next Time
To make this process suck less next time (although, hopefully there won’t be one!), be sure to:
Keep your Social Security card out of your wallet—preferably in a safe at home with other important documents
Have the contact information for your financial institutions handy, along with your card numbers ready in a safe place
Monitor your transactions so you can catch fraud before it’s too late, ideally by tracking your spending
Consider freezing your credit to prevent crooks from opening accounts in your name
Check your credit report annually for each credit bureau (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion) at annualcreditreport.com
Use a tracker like Tile to keep tabs on where your wallet is
If your state offers one, download a vaccine digital pass