Everyone has a lot on their plates these days, so it’s understandably easier now more than ever to misplace things – and to have a moment of panic when you think you’ve misplaced something important. Many people might experience that clutch of anxiety over the feeling that they’ve lost their wallets.
If you’re lucky, you might quickly find it left behind on the counter or fallen out of your pocket in the car. But if you can’t find it and have reason to believe it’s genuinely lost or stolen, taking swift action to help protect yourself from identity theft is essential to prevent further problems for yourself.
Here are a few things you can do after losing your wallet along with tips on how to help protect your identity.
- Quickly try to make a note of everything that was in your wallet. The last thing you want is to finish flagging your accounts and realize there’s one you overlooked.
- File a police report. Unless you’re calling in the immediate aftermath of a mugging, carjacking, or other emergent situation, you can call the non-emergency number for your local police department. But, you may ask, what’s the point since they’ll not likely track down the thief or your items? Reporting identity theft to the police can help you prove you weren’t responsible for the charges if there is fraudulent activity on your cards or identity in the future.
- Report your debit card and checkbook, if applicable, as lost or stolen. This is a crucial first step that you should take as soon as possible after you notice your items are missing, even while you’re waiting for the police to come to take a report. This is because if your account is drained of cash using your debit card or checkbook, there’s less protection than a credit card, so you need to get it locked down before the thief can access it.
- Report your credit cards as lost or stolen. Don’t cancel the cards or close the accounts, which is an entirely different process with different consequences.
- Consider freezing your credit. This prevents anyone from accessing new credit in your name (including yourself), so it’s an excellent stopgap to avoid identity theft immediately after your wallet is lost or stolen.
- When you’re ready to unfreeze your credit, consider setting up a fraud alert that prompts creditors to take extra steps to verify your identity for new lines of credit.
- Replace your IDs. This is another good reason to file a police report, as you may need to prove you filed for a lost or stolen wallet when getting a replacement ID.
- If your Social Security number was compromised, you need to report it stolen and take advantage of credit freezing and identity theft protection services. You can get a replacement card, but you won’t ever get a new number, so you’re unfortunately going to have to be vigilant about that risk.