Inconvenience aside, a lost wallet means the keys to your life could be in the hands of a crook. Here’s how to get back in control of your identity before someone else does.
Act fast. Be smart. Or you could get screwed.
You’ll probably replace your credit cards and driver’s licence quickly, but don’t just go through the motions. You want to fortify your identity like your house: Close the door, and lock it, too.
Your wallet has your whole life in it. Basically every piece of information someone would need to steal you identity is in there: Date of birth, address, credit card numbers, plus all sorts of little clues that don’t hurt. It’s common to carry around business cards of close friends and family. Mother’s maiden name? Poof.
Protect your identity from the unpredictable
The internet makes it easier than ever to steal someone’s identity. Some crooks will just go on a shopping spree, but others will use your identity to wire cash, open weird financial accounts, scam unwitting folks on Gumtree — the list goes on. There is just no way to know what they’ll get up to.
Get a police report: You need a real record of the event — maybe not right away, but down the line when something funky happens, you’ll want it in writing. Head to your local police station and file a report in person (It’s faster than on the phone). It’s common practice and only takes a few minutes. Remember that this is the police and they work 24 hours a day, so go at an off-time to get better service.
Notify the credit reporting agencies and keep an eye on your report: When the bad guys get up to no good with your persona, the credit reporting agencies could screw you. Notify them before anything goes wrong that someone may have access to your personal information.
Similarly, you should keep an eye on your credit report for a while after your wallet goes missing. If something bad happens, it’s better to take care of when there’s no pressing need to sign a lease.
Dealing with your bank cards
Canceling your cards: Call your bank as soon as you realise your wallet is gone. Don’t give anyone a chance to spend your money or screw up your credit. Banks universally reimburse fraudulent transactions, but why go through the trouble when you can nip it when it happens? Many big banks allow you to undo the cancellation within a day if your wallet turns up.
Don’t forget about the retail credit cards you signed up for at checkout to save 20 per cent on your purchase.
Get a temporary card: If you are a local customer of your bank, it should be able to issue you a temporary card. You’ll need proper identification: a Passport and birth certificate, for example.
Fix your bill pay: You’ve likely linked everything from your electricity bill to your iTunes account to your cards. Grab your last statement and update your payment information for your accounts. Not a bad time to trim the fat either.
What else was in your wallet?
Health insurance card: You should carry one of these around for emergencies. Getting a new card is very easy, but some medical providers don’t change your membership number. It’s tricky for someone to file claims on your behalf, but in the hands of a pro, it could happen. Health insurance companies have sophisticated online services so you can easily monitor your claims for discrepancies.
Membership cards: The gym, the video store you haven’t gone to since you signed up for Quickflix, the library, etc. It’s unlikely anyone would use these, but it’s worth getting replacements or placing a call so that your cards go dead.