Losing your wallet is like losing a piece of yourself. If you’re like most people, you probably carry credit and debit cards, and medical cards, in addition to some cash for emergencies. Accompanying the panic that you’ll likely feel upon realizing your wallet is gone is the sheer dread of not knowing who is in possession of your private information. If your wallet gets into the wrong hands, a thief could cause a world of damage to your credit report that could take years to fix. So what should you do?
- Call your bank. Immediately let your bank know that your debit card has been stolen. One of the first things thieves will try to do is clean out your bank account. Beat them to the punch.
- Contact your lenders. Call your credit card issuers and let them know about the loss of your card. One thing you can do before you lose your wallet is make a photocopy of the front and back of your credit and debit cards. You’ll need your card number and most likely the security code on the back of the card when you speak to a representative.
- File a police report. Contact your local police department to report the incident. A police report will help prove that future unauthorized charges do not belong to you.
- Keep an eye on your credit. Alert all three credit bureaus and place a freeze on your credit report. Also send them a copy of your police report and have it placed in your file. A freeze restricts access to your credit report, preventing third parties and creditors from accessing it unless you lift the freeze temporarily. State laws vary as to who is allowed to freeze their report so check with your state first. As an alternative, you can place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert, which stays active for 90 days, requires potential lenders to confirm your identification before granting new credit. These measures will add a layer of protection in the event the wallet thief attempts to open a new credit card or loan in your name.
- Replace your ID cards. Get new identification as soon as possible. The Department of Motor Vehicle will issue a temporary paper identification card to you while you wait for a new card to arrive. Also be sure to contact your medical insurance provider and replace your medical insurance cards.
Has your wallet ever been lost or stolen? Tell us about how you handled it.
Sheiresa Ngo is the consumer affairs editor at Black Enterprise.