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Stolen Purse, Lost Wallet? What to do, step-by-step

A stolen purse or lost wallet gives an identity thief all the information and documentation they need to take advantage of your good name and credit. Criminals can sell your identification very easily, view the Dateline MSNBC video on our home page to see how quickly and easily it is done. As frustrating and scary as it is, there are many things you can do right now so that you aren’t victimized further. Here is what to do if your wallet is stolen.

1. Call your credit card and ATM card issuers.

Request account number changes. Be sure to understand your options here. One option is to call and completely cancel all your cards. This is almost never the right choice. Canceling credit cards that have an outstanding balance, or canceling a whole set of credit cards can have a negative impact on your credit score. Also, if you simply cancel cards, this may incite Banks to maximize the interest rate on any outstanding balance. It is best to contact customer service for each debit or credit card by phone and clearly explain that your card has been lost or stolen. Most Banks have plans in place to address this situation.

  • Your hard copy or electronic statements contain the Phone numbers, or call toll free assistance 800-555-1212.
  • Insist on new account numbers, and request transfer of any mileage or other card benefits. Same credit limits (important for maintaining credit score), same or better terms.

2. Open a report with local Police or Sheriff

  • Do not skip this step as it will be an essential piece of information if you do become an identity theft victim.
  • Keep a copy of this police report for your records.
  • Likely questions during the report filing process:
    • When did you first notice your wallet was lost
    • Where do you think your purse was stolen or lost
    • What items were in your wallet or purse at the time
    • Description of the stolen wallet or lost purse
    • Any suspects? Do you have a description?

3. Call all three major credit reporting agencies and request a fraud alert be put on your account.

  • Experian PO Box 9595, Allen, TX 75013-9595 Tel: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
  • Equifax PO Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 Tel: 800-525-6285
  • Trans Union PO Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022 Tel: 800-680-7289
  • This fraud alert will require creditors to verify your identity before approving any credit
  • Verification is often done by calling your phone number which will be placed in your credit file when you place a fraud alert.

4. Contact your bank or credit union’s fraud department and report the event.

  • You may be able to combine this with step 1 above, especially regarding ATM (debit) cards.

5. Order and begin a vigilant review of your credit reports

  • Order from Annual Credit Report the only government mandated free service.
  • Look for and investigate any suspicious activity.

6. Report a missing driver’s license to your state’s department of motor vehicles.

  • Re-issue of driver’s Licenses varies by state, ask about your state’s process when visiting with DMV

7. If your keys are missing (Auto or Home) change the locks on your home and car.

  • This important step is often neglected. If your purse was stolen, you have to remember that even if keys and other items are recovered, they may have been duplicated prior to recovery.

8. Begin a written list (inventory) of every item in the stolen wallet or lost purse

  • List everything, credit cards, Blockbuster cards, retail shopping cards, gift cards, cash estimate, lipstick, children’s information, etc. Keep the list with you and add to it, in a day or two you will have remembered nearly every item you had in your wallet or purse. This complete inventory will be very useful in detecting fraud and speeding your recovery.
  • Questions to ask yourself:
    • Were there any blank checks in my purse when it was stolen
    • You didn’t have any account numbers or passwords in your wallet, did you?
    • Did you have any of those little plastic car or house keys?
    • ID cards for daycare or Sunday School pickup?
    • Cards or slips of paper with padlock, mailbox, or safe deposit box combinations

9. Enroll with a reputable Identity Theft Protection Service and Check With Your Agent to Add ID Theft Protection thru your Homeowner Policy

  • This is a recommendation, but we believe in it, and you will sleep much better! Consider enrolling with a reputable Identy Theft Protection Service. These services are very affordable at $9 or less per month or $99 or less per year, plus, if you do become a victim, you will have an identity protection company to help you restore your credit and good name.  You may also be eligible to add Identity Theft Coverage to your homeowner policy.  This coverage will help with costs incurred while trying to fix what the thieves stole from you.

    Trust us, you don’t want to go through this experience. It is far more frustrating and stressful dealing with all the red tape and bureaucracy than the loss of your wallet or purse. You also won’t have to worry about when the attack will be initiated, identity thieves may wait anywhere from a few months to a few years. 

10. Have a detailed discussion with your bank

According to the Federal Trade Commission, no federal law limits your losses should someone obtain your checks and forge your signature. State laws usually hold the bank responsible in this case, but the Catch-22 comes when they also require you to “take reasonable care” of your account. Stay in the law’s good graces by closing your current checking account and reopening a new one, especially if you lost checks. The bank will notify its internal processors about the now defunct account, but the FTC recommends you call these check verification services to stop someone from using one of your checks at a merchant’s cash register:

  • TeleCheck 1-800-710-9898 or 927-0188
  • Certegy Inc. 1-800-770-3792
  • International Check Services 1-800-631-9656

This is a stressful situation and can leave one feeling violated and angry but knowing what to do when your purse is stolen is half the battle. If you act quickly using the guidelines above you can keep it from taking your stress to a whole new level and from becoming a major financial disaster or identity theft situation.

If you have not lost your wallet or had your purse stolen, great! By reading the information above you can easily see why identity theft protection is the key here! Taking a few simple precautions now can save you time and money if your personal information is ever compromised.

Here’s a few tips that may save you a lot of time, money and stress:

  • Carry only what you need in your wallet or purse. Store all non-essential information in a safe place.
  • Make a detailed list of the items you do carry with you.
  • Never carry your Social Security number in your wallet or purse
  • Never carry account numbers or passwords in your purse or wallet
  • Keep the contact numbers and information for all your financial and personal information in a secure place so they will be available easily if needed
  • Purchase Identity Theft Protection.
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