Avoid Disaster: 10 Steps to Take When You Lose Your Wallet

You could swear it was “just there a minute ago”, but it’s too late now. Your laden wallet with all its precious contents is on the run, and you have mere minutes to engage in a little damage control before things spiral out of control.

Once the initial shock of losing your wallet wanes away, the aggravating realization that the entire contents of said wallet will have to be painstakingly replaced leaves a horrible sinking feeling, often reserved for the end of worlds. But it needn’t be that catastrophic; following these simple steps on what to do when you lose your wallet will ensure the whole debacle isn’t quite as disastrous as it seems.

1. Don’t Panic

As much as you may feel the need to run around like a headless chicken telling anyone who will listen you’ve lost your wallet, it really doesn’t help. Take a deep breath, count to ten, and set about fixing the problem.

If you’re in a public place and you’re not sure if your wallet has been lost or stolen, Cate Williams, financial guru at Money Management International, suggests you spend no more than 15 minutes looking for the lost wallet, which is just enough time to retrace your steps. If you’re at home when you realise your wallet is missing the search time can be extended to one hour.

2. Cancel the Contents

Once you’re sure the wallet has indeed gone AWOL, ring your bank immediately to cancel your cards. Many countries have one number you can call where you’ll be able to cancel all your cards in one go. It’s always good to keep a note of the cards in your wallet at any one time so you know which banks to ring if you have to call each one separately.

Visa, Mastercard and American Express have 24 hour free-phone hotlines in most parts of the world, so you can cancel your credit cards no matter where you are.

Many people make the mistake of storing the emergency card numbers in their wallet; store it in your phone, too, to be on the safe side, or write it in a diary.

3. Visit the Local Cop Shop

If you’re sure that the wallet’s been stolen,  go to the police station in the immediate vicinity, so the report is filed as soon as possible. And remember, as with all stolen goods, insurance is completely null and void without a police report number.

4. Report Everything

Don’t forget, if your driver license or any other cards that can be used to identify you for any reason are lost or stolen along with your wallet, report them missing to the relevant agency. Some countries list social security information on the license, which can be used for identity theft.

5. Don’t Make it So Easy for Them

Never carry your social security card, national insurance card or medical card with you, keep those at home until such times that they’re needed. The same applies to library cards and membership cards. They’re all veritable gold cards to the potential identity fraudster.

6. Get Rid of Incriminating Evidence

Get rid of sales receipts, too, especially if they show the full credit card number and expiry dates, as many still do. Dispose of all receipts as soon as you know you won’t be needing them again. If you need them for tax purposes, file them at home.

7. Be Clever

With identity theft on the increase, it’s important you don’t flaunt your personal and financial information where people can find it easily. Instead of storing PIN number details in your wallet – it’s astounding how many people still do – record the numbers elsewhere. A good idea is to record the PIN as part of a phone number. So if your PIN is 3456, record it as, say, 03 9480 3456. Then file it under the initial of the card supplier, so something like, Wesley Packerman for Wespac or Amelia Exeter for America Express. You get the picture.

8. Carry Less

Some advisors suggest photocopying the contents of your wallet, which in theory sounds great, but not everyone has access to a photocopier, or is quite so organized. Instead, carry just one or two cards at a time – it’s easier to remember a few cards instead of ten if your wallet is stolen, and means you’ll always have access to money if you leave the least used cards at home. You also won’t have to go through the trauma of having to reorder all your cards, although, it usually takes a wallet being stolen before people adopt this way of living.

9. Check Who is Liable for What

Be aware that if your card is used to withdraw cash, the cash will not be returned to your account automatically, as it once was when people reported misuse of their account. Nowadays, you don’t get the money recredited unless you can prove it was not you who used the card, which can be a lengthy, form-fuelled process. And in some countries, like the US, you can be liable up to $500, depending on when you report the card missing. Cancelling your cards as soon as possible will help avoid this situation.

If you’re not sure whether your card is lost or stolen, cancel them anyway, it’s safer in the long run. And studiously check your accounts for any transactions you don’t recognise in case the perpetrator has recorded your details but may not have the card anymore.

10. Streamline Your Life

Use the event to your advantage: acknowledge this as an opportunity to ‘streamline your life’. Did you really need all those cards? Not having them means you can’t use them, so maybe losing your wallet was a blessing in disguise? Take this opportunity to reduce your debts and dependency on credit cards and start life over with only the cards you need. And next time, which hopefully there won’t be, losing your wallet won’t seem so daunting.

This article was originally written for Credit Card Compare, now Finty >>>