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.
– 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.
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.
Any further advice is welcome.