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Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Future - July 2010

Identity Crisis - What to Do if You Lose Your Wallet
Protecting Your Identity and Your Money Takes Diligence, Planning

You just saw it on the counter. It was right there a second ago, you swear. Now, your wallet or purse is missing and the hunt is on. You search everywhere. You even search the same place several times because it just HAS to be there. But, alas, it is gone and you don't know where. What should you do now?

If you can't find your wallet or purse, it is safest to act as if it were stolen. If you can't find the wallet within a few hours, someone else might, and while most people will be honest, you can't count on its being returned to you with all its contents intact. When it comes to your identity, credit cards and bank accounts, you're better off safe than sorry.

If you can't find your wallet or purse, it is safest to act as if it were stolen.First, do you know what is in your wallet? In addition to cash, the typical person carries his driver license, health insurance card or cards, auto insurance card and one or more credit or debit cards. Knowing exactly what is in your wallet or purse before it is lost or stolen is key to protecting yourself from potential theft. Don't carry any personally identifiable information, checks or credit/debit cards with you that you don't use regularly, this especially includes your Social Security and Medicare cards. Keep a mental inventory of the contents of your wallet or purse or, better yet, write down its contents and keep the list in a safe place in your home. When it comes to credit and debit cards, record your account number from the front of the card, as well as the customer service telephone number on the back of the card. An easy way to do this is to photocopy the fronts and backs of all your cards.

If any of your cards go missing, call the appropriate lenders and report them as stolen. Doing so as soon as possible will help minimize any cost to you should someone use your cards without your permission. For debit cards, ask the lender if you should close any accounts or move your funds. For credit cards, have the cards canceled as soon as possible. Don't assume that if the card isn't used immediately, it won't be used at all. Your credit card companies will send you a new credit card with a new credit card number. They may also ask you about recent transactions to determine if they are yours. If your checkbook is missing, ask the bank to contact the major check verification companies and have them notify stores not to accept further checks from your account.

Next, file a police report. Doing so may not get the contents of your purse or wallet back, but may help with insurance claims, liability issues and more. Your bank and credit reporting agencies will need a copy of this report and its case number. Then, notify the fraud or security department of the three major credit reporting agencies:

  • Equifax - 1-800-525-6285
  • TransUnion - 1-800-680-7289
  • Experian - 1-888-397-3742

Ask them to add a "security alert" to your file. A few weeks later, get a free copy of your credit reports to determine if fraudulent transactions have been made in your name. If you notice charges to your account that were made between the time you lost your wallet and the time that you suspended your credit cards, call your institution and inform them, then file another police report. This insures that you are not liable for those charges.

If your driver license is gone, you'll have to go to your local deputy registrar's office and request a replacement. You'll need to take along a passport, birth certificate, Social Security card or marriage license for verification. Check with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles for all the requirements necessary for replacement.

Call your insurance companies to report any missing or stolen benefit cards. Similarly, if you had membership cards or customer loyalty cards in your purse or wallet, contact the appropriate companies to see what you should do so that nobody else accesses your membership or rewards without your permission.

If anything in your wallet contained your Social Security number, call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338 and the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213. Of course, you may later find your purse or wallet. If that happens, destroy any cards that you have had replaced and move forward with the new ones.