Not Martha

stop, thief!

I have nearly recovered from having my wallet stolen. Surprisingly credit card companies and banks seem all setup to handle this. It took me seconds to cancel one card and have one with a new number on it’s way to me. By comparison the time I needed a print out of a seven month old statement from my bank threw everybody I contacted into chaos, you would have thought I asked to convert all my currency into donuts or something. I couldn’t get it done on the phone so I ended up going to a branch and talking to a teller who needed to call over a manager, and then having to use the extra special phones, (I still think of them as the war phones) to talk to an extra special customer service person. Even then it took three weeks to reach me and I swear is was printed on a dot matrix.

And I want to say a huge thanks to everybody who left sympathy comments yesterday, it helped tremendously.

So, I’ve gathered together some things you want to do if your wallet is stolen. Do these things fast, do them right away. The moment somebody spends some of your money things get much more complicated.

There is a difference between having a wallet stolen and being a victim of Identity Theft. I am not yet a victim of identity theft, but I have to watch carefully because I could be at any moment.

What I’ve learned about what to do when your wallet is stolen.

– Cancel all your credit cards and check cards. Phone up customer service and the second you get to utter the words “lost or stolen” they will have your card cancelled and a new one with a different number will be on it’s way to you. Some credit card companies can put a 24 hour block on your card, this is helpful in the case where you suspect you might have simply lost your wallet, but if it doesn’t turn up it’s up to you to phone back and have the card cancelled. Remember that when you get lost in a maze of automated phone options hitting “0” will often get you to an operator.

– All the card companies mentioned this to me, but if you have automatic payments, switch those to your new card numbers as soon as you know them, it would be easy to forget this and have a bunch of bill payments go bad in a month.

– If anything with your bank account number on it was taken, ask your bank what to do since thieves can screw with automatic payments. I, knock on virtual wood, didn’t have anything with my account numbers taken.

– If your SSN was in your wallet or on any cards in your wallet proceed even more carefully. My SSN was not in my wallet, again with the knocking on virtual wood, so I do not have any first hand advice for this situation. See this thread at Ask Metafilter, read the FTC site on identity theft thoroughly, and talk to somebody at one of the credit unions.

– Cancel your library cards and video rental cards. Thieves can and will borrow or rent things and never return them. In addition to stories from commenters from yesterdays post, the librarian helping me told me about somebody who discovered their thief had cost them $2000 in unreturned DVDs.

– Replace your drivers license. Here in WA state I cannot put a fraud alert on my DOT report unless somebody has already been found to be using my license (this is teeth grindingly stupid). But, I was able to get a replacement license the very next day. I can also order a duplicate license online, provided I have a credit card to use to pay for it.

– Replace car insurance and health insurance cards. While all of the places I contacted were sympathetic, none were unprepared to send me a new one right away.

– File a fraud report with the credit agencies – Equifax, Experian and Transunion. Here are the phone numbers. I phoned a number for Equifax and filed an automated alert. The agency you file with has to share the fraud alert with the other two. You should receive written confirmation from all three agencies. At the end of my phone call I spoke with a human who gave me a confirmation number for my report, and then tried to sell me a monitoring service (which you might also consider). The fraud alert will inform creditors that they need to contact you if any new credit is applied for in your name.

– File a police report with the place where it happened. This is big and scary but important. I wasn’t sure if I needed to do this since nothing of mine had been used yet, but then Arasaig left a comment saying that police showed up at her house fully armed to arrest the person who had been using her drivers license to cash bad checks. If she hadn’t had a copy of her police report to show them, she might have been hauled off until everything came clear. I filed a report online and it game me time to carefully list everything that was taken. I have a print out of my initial report, and when a case number is assigned to me, a PDF of the report will be emailed to me. Since nobody used my cards before I canceled them, I filed as theft, not identity theft (I phoned the police who confirmed that was the correct choice). This was very interesting, Chichimama left a comment saying when her wallet was stolen nobody used her identity until a year had passed, presumably so that the fraud alerts had been lifted and a year of a monitoring service has run out – ? If she didn’t have that police report from a year earlier it would have been an expensive and complicated process to sort everything out.

– After all this keep a careful watch on your credit report and bank accounts. For years. It appears the hairiest of troubles comes when you discover a mortgage you didn’t know you had.

Some helpful links.

My wallet was stolen — how do I protect myself against ID theft? at Ask Metafilter. Not my question, but it might have well have been.

What to do when the safe holding all the really important personal documents is stolen at Ask Metafilter.

FTC site on Identity Theft, including four steps you should take. They include phone numbers for credit agencies so you can file a fraud alert, as well as explaining the difference between an Initial Fraud Alert and an Extended Fraud Alert, how to choose a monitoring service, what to do if something turns up on your credit report, and documents to bring with you to the police station when you are filing an identity theft report.

– See the comments in my previous post, they were very helpful and prompted me to do things I wouldn’t have thought of to do right away. A huge amount of gratitude to everybody who left advice.

– See 8 Things You Must Do If Your Identity Is Stolen.

Some things to do now, just in case.

– Scan or photocopy the front and back of all the cards you keep in your wallet. It’ll be an instant list of what you kept in there, and the numbers you’ll need to call are also on there.

– Don’t keep your social security card in your wallet. Put that sucker in a safe.

– Don’t keep anything with your SSN on it in your wallet. This can be impossible if your medical insurance ID number or a student ID use your SSN. See if that can be changed, see if you can apply for a State ID number and use that as your ID number on those cards. When I worked customer service it was not unusual to come across somebody who requested to use a state ID number instead of their SSN.

– Don’t keep PIN numbers in your wallet.

– Keep your checkbook separate from your wallet (this really only applies to those really big ladies wallets). I might not be able to use the ATM for the next few days, but I can write a check to buy groceries. Also, nothing in my wallet had my bank account numbers so while I’ll be watching carefully, there was no need to switch to a new account.

– Weed out your wallet. The fewer things in there, the less someone can screw with your life. I was lucky that I had cleaned out my wallet a few weeks ago since it was skinny and couldn’t fit many cards. As a result I could recall every card in there, and I had fewer places to phone with my sob story.

– If you carry a bag keep one credit card separate from your wallet. If I had done this I would have been able to pay for that cart of groceries that was being rung up as I was discovering my wallet was gone.

The picture with this post is from this story about pickpockets in Milan, which showed up on Boing Boing the same day my wallet went missing.

Any further advice is welcome.

· comments [34] · 07-4-2007 · categories:mumbling ·

34 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Patti // Jul 4, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Oh wow. I’m going to go make a list of all my cards. Thank you for sharing – I’m so sorry you had reason to research this!

  • 2 Stacerella // Jul 4, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    Last month I lost my debit card. As I sat in the nice customer service office to file the necessary paperwork to get that sorted out, the guy reached back to print something off and I remarked that his printer looks just like our new fancy, schmancy printer. He laughed and said it was a dot matrix printer from the early ’90s. I was equally horrified at my bank’s lack of yo ti date technology and their chutzpah at going with the old addage, “If it ain’t broke…” to save the customers a few bucks in service fees to upgrade.

  • 3 Stacerella // Jul 4, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Sorry, that should read up to date not yo to date. :-)

  • 4 MamaLana // Jul 4, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    So sorry you had to go through all that caca! And thank you for all the very useful information. Chins up, kiddo!

  • 5 K // Jul 4, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    Cancel your cell phone first.

    Your banks will usually give you a reasonable window to contact them to report your cards stolen. They also have a (longer) but functional process for recovering funds from unauthorized transactions.

    Your cell phone provider is extremely unlikely to credit you for any phone calls made before you report the phone stolen and have it turned off. It’s also very easy for someone to incur a very high long distance phone bill quickly. Another way to protect yourself against this is to password protect your phone.

  • 6 chica // Jul 4, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    Thanks for sharing this info. Sorry about your wallet being stolen.

  • 7 inraincity // Jul 4, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    After you get all your new documents put them on a scanner and make a copy of everything and keep it filed away for emergencies.

  • 8 sera // Jul 4, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    I can’t agree more with your advice to keep an eye on your credit report, for years. As part of the FACT Act, you can get a free credit report from all 3 credit agencies through, which is great to keep an eye out for these things.

    So sorry that this happened. I totally feel for you, I was robbed 3 years ago and it was horrible. I hope all your diligence in taking care of everything pays off!

  • 9 Roger // Jul 4, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    Card and cheque fraud will continue to grow until banks implement ID KEY system described on website

    ID KEY (memory stick or card) which will have Card Key Code matching individual card or cards will reduce card fraud to virtually ZERO at retail outlets and ATMs because fraudsters will not be able to obtain this invisible and changing to new value after every transaction complex code required for activating transaction.

    Why would fraudsters get tempted to use stolen or skimmed cards when they know that unless they have the right ID KEY they will not have option to enter PIN number to conclude transaction? This system will eliminate the need for us to use CHIP on cards and even protect our PIN numbers.

    Image and name retained on ID KEY will activate printer to print ID sticker (small sticker with image and name printed on it) at any transaction point. This will enable us to personalise our signatures to deter identity fraud.

    Government MUST make banks implement ID KEY system to protect the public and traders from becoming victims of card and cheque fraud because since 1994 they are declining to exploit this system to combat virtually all financial frauds. Along with banks, this system will save police, courts and prisons fortunes plus deter doggy traders from selling our personal and card details to fraudsters and terrorists.

  • 10 Tina // Jul 5, 2007 at 4:13 am

    I just watched that video-amazing!
    I live in a large city, and am always amazed when I see some of the things tourists do- like leave their luggage unattended, women who hang their purses on the back of their chair in an outdoor cafe, and people who leave piles of shopping bags on the backseat of their car. Another time I witnessed a woman with a toddler pull out her gigantic wallet to give a dollar to a panhandler, who in turn grabbed her wallet and ran. What was she going to do, abandon her kid and run after him? No matter where you are, you have to be aware of your surroundings and exercise some common sense. That video is a great example- these tourists were being robbed in broad daylight and didn’t even know it.

  • 11 Missy // Jul 5, 2007 at 4:21 am

    Our local news here in Minneapolis did a report about identity theft at your doctor’s offices- I don’t know how often this occurs, but it may be worth notifying your doctor/clinic and ask them to confirm id for your visits. Thousands of dollars in someone else’s unpaid medical bills would be quite annnoying.

  • 12 Jenagain // Jul 5, 2007 at 6:06 am

    The fraud alert with the credit companies does not expire. I had my wallet stolen years ago now, and still, if I want to apply for credit I need to phone from my home number. Be aware that once you put the fraud alert on your info, you can no longer take advantage of those offers you get at the cash register where they say “sign up for our card today and get an extra 10% of your purchases”. But it takes a long time for the cashier to figure this out, so don’t bother. You’ll just waste a lot of time and eventually be told they can’t approve your application at the store.

  • 13 Amy // Jul 5, 2007 at 6:08 am

    I have one more tip for you, and if it is listed and I missed it sorry! My purse was stolen a few years back from out of my trunk (broken window blah blah ugh!). A few hours later I received a phone call from one of the businesses saying someone found it in their parking lot with everything in it and that they would send it to me. I got my purse in the mail a couple of days later with only money missing. Now this is the important part. Cancel everything anyway!!! If a stranger has all that access to your information it could mean they wrote it down made certain you got it back and then hoped you won’t alert anyone, and a spending spree will soon occur with no red flags. I did indeed cancel all of my cards, bank accounts, etc. And to this day have not had any theft of identity. What a pain it all was though.
    P.S. Another good word of advice from someone who did this…don’t throw your purse in the trunk when you get somewhere…they could be watching!!!

  • 14 jesser // Jul 5, 2007 at 7:37 am

    Sheesh. Losing your wallet is such a pain. But it showed me what credit cards to get rid of. Citibank for example who required a signed, notorized affidavit to get rid of the fraudulent charges someone made on my account.

    In related information, the biggest pains in the butt when I changed my name after I got married? United Mileage Plus – frequent flyer miles. Another trip to the notary. Credit cards all did it over the phone.

  • 15 renee // Jul 5, 2007 at 7:58 am

    thanks for the very useful information. i’m sorry you had to go through such an ordeal to create the list. i will be weeding out my wallet later.

  • 16 Mat // Jul 5, 2007 at 8:06 am

    Banks are all about stopping credit fraud because it costs them a LOT of money and they’re the ones liable for it, not you.

    That’s why I use my credit card for purchases, and not a debit… I used to work for a bank and they’d always fight way harder if something was lost on the credit side because it’s technically their money. If you lost money from your debit… “eh”, they’ll try, but not very hard.

  • 17 Adrienne // Jul 5, 2007 at 9:25 am

    I saw this on the “Today” Show and thought of you!

  • 18 megan // Jul 5, 2007 at 9:45 am

    Jenagain – When I called I was told my fraud alert would last nine months. I did an initial fraud alert. You can also file an extended fraud alert which lasts seven years. I’ll have to ask again to be sure.

  • 19 Tux // Jul 5, 2007 at 11:57 am

    A customer of mine slipped and fell in the snow. She didn’t realize it, but her wallet fell out of her coat pocket. When she got home a few hours later, an elderly woman called and said she found her wallet with the money still inside. Sarah got the woman’s name and number and asked her to hold on to the wallet because she had to go out of town for the weekend and would be back on Monday.

    When she got home on Monday, her apartment was cleaned out- as in her furniture, dishes, books, clothing, towels, you name it- it was gone.

    The old woman’s name and phone number were bogus, thankfully she had renter’s insurance, but the scam artists also went on a major shopping spree courtesy of her Amex and Visa.

    Sad to think you can’t trust anyone.

  • 20 Red Zinnia // Jul 5, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    Thanks for the great list of tips. I’m so sorry this happened to you, what a nightmare. I once lost my wallet at a truck stop after a Dave Matthews concert. That’s better than having it stolen (at least no one was creeping up on me) but still, I felt freaked for weeks after.

  • 21 lisaann // Jul 5, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    be careful with the “extended” fraud alert – i had to do that because someone stole my identity [oh joy that was!] but i *still* have a hard time proving that i’m me now – the extra extra checking on my personal identity proof almost stopped me from being able to buy my last car. only go the seven year route if you ABSOLUTELY have to.

  • 22 stef // Jul 5, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    it is so nice of you to share your findings even during this challenging time of trying to regroup/rebuild your wallet.

    i’m sorry you had to deal with this and i am glad that you’re on your way to having a complete wallet soon.

  • 23 AnnieD // Jul 5, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    This is such a helpful list. I wish it was around when my wallet was stolen three weeks ago. Sorry this happened to you but thanks for sharing.

  • 24 PC // Jul 6, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Actually, banks are pretty good about returning money and whatnot right away, so you shouldn’t always cancel everything ASAP.

    I was held up at gunpoint and the police told me not to cancel anything for 24 hours. So I left all of my cards active and through the thief’s purchases they were able to track him and arrest him!

    Now he’s serving 30 years for armed robbery. Of course, he was dumb enough to pay his cell phone bill with my credit card. That helped, as well, but they have video at every convienence store where he made a purchase with my money. And I still got it all refunded.

    Stupid criminals. I still don’t feel safe….

  • 25 miranda // Jul 6, 2007 at 11:39 pm

    wow, that is super-sucky! and scary! hope things calm down for you soon.

    My local library system, always one of the top 5 in the country (but where they are on the list varies from year to year), makes you punch in a PIN every time you want to check books out. I think they’re hip to the “lost/stolen library card” scam. They confirm your address every so often, expire the cards every couple of years, etc. The PIN is part of your phone number, so if your entire handbag is stolen (with cellphone or phonebook, etc) the protection wouldn’t be so good.

    On a completely inappropriate and flippant note, I would like to point out that fine establishments such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Tim Horton’s are *happy* to convert currency into donuts. ;)

  • 26 aubri // Jul 8, 2007 at 6:37 am

    Thanks for the information. Sorry your wallet was stolen that is awful.

  • 27 david // Jul 8, 2007 at 10:12 am

    another way to get through those phone voice-mail mazes is to mumble…it’s works sometimes!

    (btw: hope you don’t think it was me that lifted your wallet…)

  • 28 Jennifer // Jul 10, 2007 at 8:21 am

    Thanks for posting this information. I’ve actually printed this post out and will make use of the wonderful suggestions that apply to me. This whole situation must have been a real b***ch for you, but I must admit that it’s been a good learning experience for me….

  • 29 Jeannette // Jul 10, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    ALWAYS give your credit card to the cashier FACE DOWN!!! My # was stolen by camera phone (I think) once.

  • 30 margot // Jul 10, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    I’m sorry you had your wallet stolen, but I just read an article today that had a great idea. it said take everything you carry in your wallet and make a xerox copy of it. File in a very secure place. That way, if you lose your wallet, you will have an itemized list of everything that is missing, so you will not forget any of them. You will also have all your account numbers.

  • 31 Amber // Jul 19, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    I’m a bit late to the party, but I would add to be wary of monitoring services. Not that they will do anything bad or scary, just that they don’t much at all. If you check your statements every month and your credit report every year, you see everything that they do. There was just a big article in the NY Times this year about several people who had paid monitoring services but hadn’t paid attention to the fine print that they didn’t look out for people applying for new stuff (mortgages, cars, new credit cards, etc) in your name, just activity on the existing stuff, which is exactly what you get every month yourself.

  • 32 Steph // Jul 22, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    I work for a credit card company. I hate to scare everyone but it is uber easy for people to steal you identity. Example: someone puts in a change of address at the post office all your mail goes to their address. A few fraud preventative things I didn’t see. NEVER put your outgoing mail in your house box with the flag up, it’s like a neon sign inviting someone to steal your payments. Never put your ss# on your checks or if your state allows it take it off your license. If someone calls you never give or confirm your personal info. Ask them for their phone number to call them back to make sure its a reliable company. If you have fraud start the leg work yourself. I have helped many many customers catch the people who stole their id by advising them to check the store they used it at & see if they still have the video tapes from that day. The police especially in large cities don’t consider True Name fraud a big deal & won’t do the leg work. Ask what was bought. One woman caught her theif because they ordered pay-per-view, crooks aren’t that smart sometimes.

    OH & to reply to #9 by Roger that is a great idea in theory but I already see a bunch of ways around it. Insider fraud, anyone from the company who makes those can alter your info & sell it to the highest bidder along with posting the plans to get around it on the net in a second. Also what are you going to verify for people who are sick like stroke victims their signaturs and/or apperance change drastically, then you have the poorly educated or who do not speak the language well who do not know their basic info like address or ss# what will you verify for those poor people who are just uneducated or have poor communication (trust me there are a staggering amount)then that leads into well if you only verify a little bit for those people what is to stop a fraudster from calling up acting like they had a stroke & cant remember the stuf you need to verify & they get a new stick. Its not that easy PLUS the companies will have to deal with all the people who loose their verification sticks & complain because they can get to their money immediately thats bad for business. Unfortunately when it comes to security companies have to set it to the lowest common denominator for all those type of people.

  • 33 Cool Stuff I Found on teh Interwebs « Di Has Stories… // Jul 23, 2007 at 7:33 am

    […] not marthaWhat to do if your wallet is stolen….a handy list. […]

  • 34 FredE // Jul 29, 2007 at 9:33 am

    My wallet was stolen last night in a street near germantown / chelten ave.
    I have almost $600 in that wallet since I need it to open a bank account. I dont have my ss# in there. Please someone help me.. I really dont know what to do..

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