What To Do When Your Wallet or Purse is Stolen

by Miranda Marquit · 12 comments

Identity theft is one of the biggest concerns we have today. When your wallet or purse is stolen, it’s about more than losing the credit card or cash you have; your entire financial well-being is at risk unless you move fast. Here is what you need to do if your wallet or purse is stolen:

  1. Call the police: File a report as soon as possible. You will want a copy of the report, or at least the record number. Even if the police never catch the perp, there is a record of the theft. This might be necessary for insurance claims (if your car was damaged, etc.), and will bolster your case in the event of fraudulent charges on a lost credit card or debit card.
  2. Call your bank and credit issuers: While you are waiting for the police to come, you can call your bank and credit issuers. You might need to find a phone book or computer where you can look up the proper numbers, but it needs to be done quickly. It’s best to open new accounts, but credit card issuers can give you new numbers and close the stolen ones.
  3. Let credit reporting agencies know: Contact all the major credit bureaus and let them know what happened. They can put a note on your report that your identity might have been stolen, and this will help you when you apply for credit later. You can also have a credit freeze put on your account, meaning that no one can open up a new account in your name. You will have to lift the freeze if you want to apply for credit in the future.
  4. Suspend cell phone service: If your cell phone was taken along with your wallet or purse, you will need to call your service provider to deactivate the account so that you don’t end up with charges run up by the thief.
  5. Change the locks: If your wallet or purse has been stolen, chances are that the thieves now have your house keys, and your address. It can be expensive to change the locks, so if you are concerned about the cost, you can have your lock cylinder re-tooled for a different key.
  6. Call the government: The DMV, Social Security Administration and other agencies (Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) need to know if your cards and information have been taken. Alert them to the problem so that your benefits are intact, and so that replacements for things like driver’s licenses can be obtained.
  7. Call the insurance company: If you keep insurance information in your car (health, pharmacy, auto, etc.), you need to let your insurers know. Otherwise, thieves can get services using your information (and sticking you with the cost).
  8. Cancel memberships: If you have memberships to gyms, movie clubs, library cards and more, you should cancel them. Or at least cancel the cards and get a new one, with a different membership number.

Limiting your exposure to theft

One way to protect yourself is to carry as little as possible. You can’t lose what you don’t have. Only carry what you need. Most people only need to carry one credit card and one debit card around during the day, with a limited amount of cash. This makes it easy for you to remember what was in your wallet or purse in the unfortunately event that it’s stolen, as well as limiting the avenues thieves have to rip you off.

You can also limit your exposure to theft by not leaving yourself open to it. Thieves often stake out daycare centers, gyms and churches, since these are common places where purses and wallets get left in cars. It takes less than a minute to smash your window and take off with your wallet or purse. Take your sensitive items with you, even if you are just running your child into the daycare. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that your valuables are safe because you’re in church. If you feel like you must leave your wallet or purse in the car, lock it in the glove box. It won’t be visible or easy to get to, and most thieves will pass your car by in favor of an easier mark.

It’s never fun to be the victim of theft, but if you move fast, you can limit the damage it does to your financial life.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • forex says:

    very great article about security and financial secrutiy .. this can happen offcourse we must be careful

  • ParisGirl111 says:

    You may also want to consider purchasing identity theft insurance. It provides reimbursement to crime victims for the cost of restoring their identity and repairing credit reports. Mine is included in my renter’s insurance. A little extra security for situations like this.

  • Very good article. Want to point out one thing here when using debit verses credit cards. If you suspect your debit card was fraudulently used, you have 3 days to dispute the transaction (on PIN based transactions). If used like a credit card, different rules apply and you have 30 days.

    However, in the end, it depends on the bank. If someone has stolen your card and PIN and you did not know about for a week, your bank may be nice and cover your losses past 3 days.

  • kenyantykoon says:

    i have never lost anything or being a victim of theft and i hope to God that i never have to use these very well laid out pointers, ever. something like this would wreak a lot of havoc to my already tightly squeezed budget

  • Craig says:

    Cancel all cards and contact the companies and see if they can freeze everything.

  • Nikki says:

    Never lose wallet but post is much usefull. Thank you

  • Jodi says:

    If I lose my wallet, it would be good to hear that my robber checked into my gym when I get there.

  • Charles says:

    I have a spreadsheet where I write down all my credit card phone numbers. That way, I can just go to one place and get all the information that I need and there’s no need to worry about forgetting to call one company and what not.

  • Robert says:

    The first thing I would do is call my bank and freeze my accounts. Most banks will reimburse you if you DO happen to get nailed by fraud, but it’s better to freeze the account before that happens.

  • Cd Phi says:

    Great post, especially during a time when theft is occurring so often. Also, another thing I would add is to be prepared and with that I mean, list down every single thing you have in your wallet from your driver’s license to all your credit cards (if you carry more than one) that way when your wallet does get stolen, you will know every single thing that was in there. After that, I would list all the numbers of the credit card companies and keep that information filed in the event that I need it.

    And I totally agree with limiting your exposure to theft as well because I see so many people leave shopping bags in their car along with purses on top of the seats like nothing….Anyone desperate enough would totally just smash the windows and take all the goods. I’d say lock everything in the trunk.

  • MoneyNing says:

    Good step by step guide Miranda 🙂 Hopefully no one needs to use this, but useful when we need it.

    Thanks for the article.

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