The worst has happened: You’ve looked everywhere, but your wallet is nowhere to be found. Gone with it are your credit cards, debit card, and driver’s license.
Best case scenario? Some nice person will track you down on Facebook to return it. Worst case scenario? A criminal is about to withdraw your money and steal your identity.
Don’t wait before you spring into action. If you’ve got a lost wallet, take these crucial steps right away to protect yourself from identity theft.
1. Call your bank
If your debit card was in your lost wallet, call your bank right away. Let them know about your lost debit card so they can cancel it and issue you a new one. It’s also crucial to review your account transactions for any fraudulent charges.
As long as you tell your bank within two days of losing your wallet, you can’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges over $50. But if you wait, you could have to cover up to $500. Delay for more than 60 days, and you could have to cover every unauthorized charge while the thief drains your bank account.
The bottom line is: Notify your bank ASAP if your wallet goes missing.
2. Phone your credit card issuers
After you hang up with the bank, call your credit card companies immediately. Let them know to freeze your current cards and issue you new ones. Be sure you don’t cancel your cards, as that will hurt your credit score. You just need to get replacements with new card numbers.
As with your bank account, keep a vigilant eye on your credit card transactions. If anything seems off, let your credit card company know right away.
Even if the transactions still go through, federal law protects you from unauthorized charges on a stolen credit card. In other words, you won’t be held responsible for fraudulent charges.
If you have any automatic withdrawals on your account, you’ll have to deal with those, too. Maybe your gym charges a membership fee every month, or your internet bill is coming up. If you have any scheduled withdrawals, let the company know before your transaction is declined.
3. File a police report
To protect yourself against identity theft, notify the police that your wallet is gone. The police probably won’t track it down for you, but they will have a record in case you suffer identity theft.
This record can be useful if you have to prove that you’re a victim of fraud. It’s especially important to take this step if your wallet contained your social security number.
4. Touch base with the major credit bureaus
Once you’ve protected your accounts, call the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) to place a fraud alert on your accounts. A fraud alert notifies lenders and creditors to be cautious about opening a new account under your name. They may take extra steps to verify your identity before letting you borrow money.
You can request one free credit report a year — over the next few weeks, look it over for any strange requests such as a credit account you never opened. Besides these official credit reports, you can monitor activity on a site like Credit Karma.
You may also want to request a freeze on opening any new accounts. However, this will also prevent you from opening a new account, so you’ll have to remove the freeze before you can open any new credit cards or take out loans.
5. Contact the DMV
The phone calls aren’t over yet. If you had a driver’s license in your wallet, call the DMV and let them know it’s missing. You may have to pay a fee to replace your license.
This step is another important one to protect yourself against identity theft. Someone could be impersonating you as they commit criminal acts. The DMV can flag your ID number in case someone gets pulled over and uses your license as their own.
6. Get in touch with your health insurance company
If you had your health insurance card in your wallet, call your insurance company. Ask them to issue a new one and let them know you don’t have it in case someone else is using it. If a thief has your insurance card and ID, they could use it to receive medical benefits.
Before your new card arrives, ask your health insurance what you can do to cover any expenses. Perhaps they can tell you the new number to cover prescriptions or doctor’s appointments. Otherwise, you may need to keep receipts of any expenses and submit them later for reimbursement.
7. Continue monitoring your accounts
Once you’ve notified all the major players, you can relax a little. The companies should freeze or replace your debit card, credit cards, driver’s license, and medical cards, and the credit bureaus will be on the lookout for fraud.
It’s still a good idea to monitor your accounts for any suspicious transactions. The sooner you report them, the better your chances of getting them dismissed.
Protect yourself in the future
Losing your wallet is a huge hassle, but by canceling your cards right away, you should be able to protect your money. If you’re worried about identity theft, companies like LifeLock could help protect you in the future.
Don’t carry sensitive information that you don’t need daily (such as your social security card) in your wallet going forward. If you act fast, you can minimize the damage of a stolen or lost wallet.
What else can you do to protect your money? Check out these eight security tricks to use against credit card fraud.
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