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The 5 Steps You Need To Take If Your Wallet Is Stolen

Updated on September 18, 2015

So Your Wallet Was Stolen

Not too long ago on a night close to Halloween, my car was broken into in downtown San Diego. While I was lucky and didn’t have anything of value taken, my friends—who all had their belongings in the car—did not fair so well. Besides both of their purses being taken, each of their wallets, their night’s tips, and thousands of dollars worth of clothes and makeup were taken. Was it partially our fault for thinking we could keep so much in our car without tempting fate? Probably, but in the end it comes down to the fact that someone was greedy and ended up hitting pay dirt. Unfortunately, the number of people who have had their wallets or purses stolen is quite large and growing each year, meaning that at some point or another this situation is likely to happen to someone you know. If you find yourself wallet or purse-less follow these steps to bring comfort to a stressful situation.

Approximately 1,000 wallets and purses are stolen every two minutes in the U.S.

Where Did It Go?

Though it’s easy to panic when you realize your wallet is missing, it’s important to try and think with a clear mind. For example, three months ago I had convinced myself that my wallet was stolen and I proceeded to drive all around town searching for it, before closing all of my credit and debit cards. Of course, the kicker was when I reached into my purse after going through all of this and finding it zipped tight in the hidden compartment (whose great idea it was to put it there is still beyond me). Panicking will only increase the possibility of you not looking somewhere it might obviously be. When you reach your hand into your pant’s pocket or purse and come up empty, try and take a deep breath before instantly losing your mind. Think about whether or not you think it has been lost, stolen, or misplaced. Search around your person, your room, and the immediate areas you’ve been. If you’ve just left or entered a store then retrace your steps or call the places you’ve been and alert them to your missing wallet. If, at the end of all of this you still can’t find it, then your panic will most likely increase ten-fold, in which case you’ll want to head onto the next few steps.

Be Honest

Would You Return A Lost Wallet To Someone?

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Call Your Bank

After your panic has subsided and you begin thinking clearly again, you’ll want to sit down and make a list of all of the credit or debit cards that were in your wallet. Though your Sephora Reward’s Card is important, it’s replaceable and nowhere near as important as the credit cards that may have been taken. Next, you’ll want to call your bank and credit card providers to put a hold on your accounts. Instead of cancelling your cards, you’ll want to alert them that they’ve been either lost or stolen. This will mean that a temporary hold is placed until you approve it to be lifted, in contrast to a cancellation, which can be messy and often more stressful than helpful.

Avoid cancelling your cards wherever possible to avoid your credit score getting dinged, or having no money and cash flow if you happen to find your cards hours later. Once you’ve set the wheels in motion for your cards to be cancelled, you’ll experience an added level of stress. Putting your cards on hold, however, will ensure that you are able to return to using them should you happen to find your purse or wallet, plus you won’t be charged for any purchases made while your card was reported missing or stolen. As a basic rule, if you call before fraudulent charges are made to your account you are not held liable, while if you wait to call and purchases have been made you’re responsible for up to $50.00.

Four Major Credit Card Company Numbers

1 (800) 307-7309
1 (800) 847-2911
1 (800) 528-2122
1 (801) 902-3100

Report the Loss/Theft

Something that many people, myself included, wonder about is whether or not there is a point to reporting the loss or theft of your wallet once you’ve put a hold on your cards. Yes! There is! Despite the fact that your cards can no longer be used for the time being, it doesn’t mean that whoever took them won’t be trying. Report the loss or theft and it will be put along the police reports in the area. If your card is used and rejected it will be a red flag for authorities to check the place out and investigate the users if they happen to be around. Don’t, however, expect that your purse will take priority over crime happening, and be prepared for the sad fact that you’ll likely never see your wallet again.

Reporting the loss/theft is also important to avoid identity theft in the future. If you report it early on and you notice that your information is being used oddly down the line, there will be a record that your information was taken and stolen beforehand.

Top Three Credit Report Agencies

1 (888) 397-3742
1 (800) 437-4179
1 (800) 916-8800

Credit Report Companies

On the same line of avoiding identity theft is to make a point to call the three major credit report companies. Let them know that your information was either lost or stolen. This will let them know if fraud occurs that can negatively impact your credit score, while potentially leading to a situation where your identity is stolen. Initial fraud alerts stay in effect for 90 days, though if needed, you can request a fraud alert to remain active for seven years.

Change the Locks

Perhaps the biggest hassle for my friend was realizing that her car and house keys were stolen. While many people don’t think this is a big deal, it’s important to realize that if your license was taken, then your address is available to whoever took it. This means that there’s a possibility that your car can be stolen.If your car keys were stolen you’ll need to contact the dealership and see what they can do for you. Not to mention, if your home key was taken, there’s a large possibility that your home can now be broken into. Find a reputable lock and key company that can change your locks quickly and at you earliest convenience. Explain the situation to them and see what they can do for you. Do not trick yourself into thinking that your home is safe and that a burglar will not go out of their way to find your home. This person already stole your wallet, why would it be such a far stretch to believe that they won’t try and break into your home as well?

Misc. Tips

  • Don't do what my friends did and leave all of your belongings in the car. However, if you’re in a bind and don’t have a choice, then ensure everything is tucked away and out of site before you head to your destination. Avoid putting things like purses, laptops, or bags in the trunk of your car in a public parking lot as this can lead to unwanted visitors poking around your belongings.
  • Don’t leave things like your social security or birth certificate in your wallet. If, for whatever reason, you do keep them in your wallet and it is stolen, be sure to call the Social Security Administration Services as soon as you’re able and let them know what happened.
  • If your license has been stolen, be sure to make a trip to the DMV (annoying, I know) to request a new license to replace your old one.

Though I hope that you’re never in a position where your belongings are stolen, these tips will help. While your initial reaction may be to panic because your wallet is, for all intents and purposes, gone, try and relax and clear your mind. There’s always that chance that you’ve simply misplaced it, but for those times when its not that easy, then you’ll be needing to make a few extra phone calls.


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    • Kelsey Farrell profile image

      Kelsey Elise Farrell 2 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Johnny, I'm glad the advice helped. I, too, was blown away by the social experiment. It's nice to see that the majority of people would return a wallet, but valuable to know that plenty of people would not. Thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image

      Johnny T. 2 years ago

      Wonderful post and summary! When I lost my wallet, I was lost and didn't know where to even begin... It would have been useful at the time to have all of this information in one place.

      Very interesting social experiment video also!