Losing your wallet can be frustrating, embarrassing, and, if it falls into the wrong hands, a threat to your finances and your good name. If you cannot quickly locate your lost wallet using sensible search strategies, acting promptly to secure your identity and credit can save you a good deal of aggravation down the road. Consult this article to help take back control of what you’ve lost.
Handling a Lost Wallet
Search for 24 hours before canceling credit cards or requesting a new ID. You have 48 hours to report a missing card before you are liable for any charges, so use the time wisely. If you know the card is stolen, move on to the next step immediately.
Search all clothing, bags, and pockets.
Call recent locations, like restaurants and bars.
Search your house systematically, circling from the perimeter of rooms to the middle.
Go online and check for any fraudulent charges. Check your bank and credit card accounts online to see if any purchases have been made since the card went missing. If there are charges, this likely indicates the card was stolen.
Inform your bank of the missing card. Call your bank and let them know the card is gone. Report any fraudulent charges immediately. Log the date and time of every interaction in case there is a dispute.
Cancel any credit or debit cards. Call the institutions involved and request a new card. If you have any alternate copies, cut them up and discard them. You may need to provide bank information to verify your card is missing.
Visa : 1-800-VISA-911
Call the major credit bureaus and to request a fraud alert on your credit line. This helps prevent serious changes to your credit score. The numbers are:
Apply for a replacement ID. Call, visit, or go online to check your state DMV’s policy on new licenses. Many let you get your first replacement online, though it does cost money.
Call your insurance company and request a new account number. You should do this for medical, dental, and auto insurance to avoid potential identity theft.
Report potentially stolen property to the police. They will let you know if something comes up. Having a police report will also make it much easier to deal with disputes from your bank or credit cards if something goes wrong or your identity is stolen.
You should file a police report online no matter what, providing a paper trail for your bank in a dispute.
Photocopy all of your cards and IDs for future reference. It is much, much easier to remedy a lost wallet if you have copies of all the documents and cards. Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet, even a copy.
Searching for Your Wallet
Relax, focus, and think. Have you ever gotten angry because you can’t find the remote or the Corn Flakes, then gotten even angrier because nobody in your house can put things back where they belong, then eventually calmed down and realized the remote or Corn Flakes are in fact exactly where they belong and you just missed seeing them?
When we panic about losing something, especially something important like a wallet, we lose focus and can easily overlook obvious clues — or even the item right in front of us.
Take several deep breaths, and try to clear your mind. Try not to think about all the problems you’ll have to face if you can’t find your wallet. Focus only on the wallet, where it should be, and where it could be. Then begin your true search.
Look again in places it would normally be. Your first search was probably increasingly panic-stricken and thus increasingly useless. Now that you are calm, pick out the most obvious spots where your wallet would be — the pocket of your pants hanging on the chair, your nightstand, your desk at work — and give a proper search.
Search in proximity to the obvious places as well — the floor around your nightstand, your other desk drawers / pants pockets, etc.
Retrace your steps. Think about the last place you remember having your wallet — paying for coffee downtown, picking it up from your nightstand, etc. — and work backwards until reaching that point.
Go through all the clothes you’ve worn in that period of time, and check all the pockets carefully. Be sure to include coats and bags as well.
Working your way back through your routine may help jog your memory, so leave no stone unturned even if it seems an unlikely place to have lost your wallet.
Consider whether someone may have (without bad intent) picked up your wallet — a curious child? a friend trying to help? Contact anyone who may have had inadvertent contact with your wallet.
Call places you visited recently. Did you visit a restaurant, theater, an office, or even a friend’s house? Call and ask if your wallet has turned up.
You may need to describe your wallet. Knowing the name on your ID and credit cards will probably suffice to prove it’s yours, but being able to describe a family photo or ice cream punch card might help as well.
Don’t assume a business will call you if they find your wallet. They might place it in lost and found and forget, or they may have a policy not to call for privacy reasons — they may not want to disclose where you were without your permission by calling your home.
Look carefully in places it would not normally be. Expand your search radius further away from the most likely places your wallet would be — your whole bedroom, your whole second floor, your whole house.
Pick out high-traffic areas in your home/workplace where you wouldn’t usually place your wallet but could have — the kitchen, the restroom, etc.
Search a room methodically by using a grid search (breaking the room up into small segments and searching each one-by-one), or a spiral search (searching around the perimeter, then working inward to the center).
For more search ideas, see How to Find Lost Objects
Assume your wallet is stolen if not found within a day or so. No, don’t call before making a good effort searching for the wallet, because it would be very frustrating to go through the process of canceling cards, etc., only to find it in your jeans pocket. That said, it is better to be safe than sorry if you can’t track down your wallet relatively quickly.
Your liability for purchases made with a stolen debit card begins after 48 hours (at $50), and other lost cards may have deadlines for reporting as well. And even if you are not liable for credit card purchases, it is much easier to stop fraudulent charges before they can happen than deal with them after they do.
Begin making the notifications indicated in the relevant Part of this article.
Protecting Your Identity and Finances
Call your bank(s) and report your debit card(s) as missing. Because laws governing debit cards and credit cards are different, you should make this call first and within 48 hours of losing your wallet to protect yourself from fraudulent charges.
If you alert your financial institution within 48 hours, you maximum liability is $50; within 60 days, it is $500; after that, your liability is unlimited if someone is using your card.
Because your debit card is linked to your checking account, and your checking accounts may be linked to other accounts, expect to receive not only a new debit card / number but also new account numbers. You will also need new paper checks.
Keep in mind any automatic payments you may have through your debit card or checking account (phone bill, life insurance premium, etc.). You will need to update the payment information on these when your account number changes.
Yes, this is a hassle, but it is better than having your bank accounts drained and then having to jump through hoops to have your funds restored.
Report your credit cards as missing. You don’t actually need to cancel them, which would necessitate applying for cards all over again. By reporting them as missing / stolen, you will get new cards with new numbers but be able to retain your current account status.
You maximum liability for fraudulent credit card charges is $50, and is $0 if you contact the company before the card is used fraudulently, but it is easier to prevent fraudulent purchases before they happen than work to erase them afterward.
Program the customer service numbers for your credit card companies (as well as your banks) in your phone so you can contact them quickly.
Don’t forget store-issued credit cards as well.
File a police report for a lost or stolen wallet. No, finding your lost wallet isn’t likely to be their first priority, but making a police report is an important way to protect yourself regardless.
Filing a report creates an official documentary record of the loss and your recovery efforts. This can prove quite valuable for any insurance claims, fraud liability resolution, identity theft problems, or other issues that might arise.
Provide as accurate and detailed an account as possible, with specific time frames and locations. Keep a copy of the report for your records.
Call the major credit bureaus to protect your credit rating. In the U.S., contacting one of the three major agencies — Transunion, Equifax, and Experian — should suffice, since they are required to share this information, but it can’t hurt to notify all three directly.
A fraud alert will be placed on your accounts, meaning that any attempt to extend further credit will require identity verification.
Anything you can do to avoid the mess of cleaning up damage to your credit score caused by fraud is well worth your time and effort.
There are pay options for fraud monitoring services, sometimes offered through your credit cards, that can alert you immediately of possible fraudulent activity.
Replace your lost identity cards. No one looks forward to visiting the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, but you shouldn’t expect the police to buy your story of a lost wallet (and driver’s license) if you are pulled over.
Each U.S. state has its own policies and procedures regarding replacing lost or stolen driver’s licenses, but expect to have to visit in person and pay a replacement fee.
Other ID cards — school, work, etc. — will need to be replaced as well.
Make a list of everything that was in your wallet. Try to remember as much as you can, and see if you can come up with anything else that needs to be reported or replaced.
Don’t forget about store discount cards or even a library card. These may seem like small potatoes compared to debit and credit cards, but they may permit access to personal information that you don’t want in someone else’s hands.
Basically, you want to start over from scratch in order to make the contents of your lost wallet as worthless as possible, both financially and in regards to your identity.