I was reminded recently how it easy it is to lose a wallet but some very kind people returned it. What if they hadn’t? What if it had been stolen? If that happens, what should you do?
Let’s start with what is in your wallet or purse now. There should really be nothing in your possession with your social security number on it. There’s no reason to carry your social security card. No one really needs to see it except in rare circumstances. What about carrying cash? That’s up to you and your personal preferences. I carry very little. If stolen or lost, cash can’t be replaced.
If I need cash, there are plenty of ATM’s nearby and I can get it when I need it. That leaves other items such as your driver license, credit or debit cards, insurance cards, etc. Make sure you understand what information is on those and think about if you need those on your person at all times. But, if you lose these, how do you proceed?
If you suspect your wallet or purse was stolen, the first call needs to be to the local police. It is unlikely your items will be found but having a police report on file may help. The next call should be to your bank and/or the issuer of all your credit and debit cards. It’s helpful to have account numbers handy so keep the documents given to you when the account was opened in a safe place but readily available.
The bank or issuer will likely want to close your existing card and send you a new one. But be prepared to contact any vendors or utilities who automatically charge that card for various services. You’ll need to call them with the new account number as soon as possible. Also, keep in mind that your card issuer’s policy may be that you are responsible for some amount of any fraudulent charges even if the card was stolen. That information should be in the same account opening documents and disclosures.
Also, play a little defense here. Many card issuers offer apps that will keep a card disabled until you re-enable it from the app. My experience has been that happens in real time. I’ve been able have a card disabled, activate it in front of the ATM or cashier, use it then disable it again on the spot. Also, many card issuers offer notifications each time your card is used. That way, you can quickly see if fraudulent charges are hitting your account.
Was your checkbook in what was stolen or lost? Call your bank and let them know right away. They will put an alert on your account but they will likely want to close your account and open a new account as soon as possible to prevent fraudulent charges. That again means you’ll have automated transactions that will have to be changed. All of that is not the easiest to work through but closing these accounts and opening new ones is the best way to protect your hard-earned money from thieves.
As for your driver license, you may be able to apply for a replacement online or you can visit the nearest driver service center (learn more at www.tn.gov/safety/driver-services/classd/dlduplicate.html). Even though your social security number is likely not on your license, it is still rich with information about your name, address and even a picture ID. That is all useful information to a criminal looking to cash checks in your name or open fictitious accounts.
Since a great deal of your information is now in the open, you might consider notifying the three credit reporting services and you may even want to freeze your credit for a period until you feel confident your information hasn’t been used. (More information can be found at Experian.com, Transunion.com and Equifax.com).
Lastly, you might want to wait just a few months then obtain a credit report on yourself just to be sure new credit accounts haven’t been opened in your name without your knowledge. You can learn more about that at annualcreditreport.com. You’ll want to be sure you recognize all the accounts listed. If you do find unauthorized accounts, contact the aforementioned credit reporting agencies to notify them as soon as possible.
With some diligent effort, you will make this as painless as possible. But, the greater lesson might be what I learned. Take better care of your wallet or purse. Stay financially safe.
Frank Freels, Jr. is the senior vice president, security officer of Volunteer State Bank.