wallet? Take these four steps now
My wallet was just stolen and there is enough information
in it for someone to open credit cards in my name. Is there a way
I can prevent any lines of credit from being opened in my name? Say,
for the next 60 or 90 days? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks
in advance. -- Colleen
Make sure what happened to you is not what happened to me (actually
it was my wife's doing). Recently she lost her wallet, which had
one of my credit cards in it! I was ready to call the card issuer,
the FBI and my mother. But my sweetie said, "Just wait a little
and see if it turns up." Well, some people have all the luck,
and the bank called the next day to say she had left it on the teller
counter and could she come get it.
So in this case, a short wait turned out to be the
right thing to do. Dirty Harry said it best: "You've got to
ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya?"
If you don't, then here's what you need to do:
Cancel lost credit, ATM
and debit cards. Information
regarding what to do if your credit card is lost or stolen is provided
when the card is issued. Sometimes this information is included
in your billing statement as well. Usually a toll-free telephone
number is provided that you can call 24 hours a day to report the
loss. Some good news for you is that once you have reported the
loss you are protected under federal law and will only be liable
for a maximum of $50 per card on any unauthorized charges. Your
homeowners insurance may cover any loss; however, you still should
watch your billing statements carefully. If any unauthorized charges
show up on your statement, let the issuer know.
ATM and debit cards are different and can cost more.
Your liability for unauthorized use of them depends on how fast
you notify the issuer of the card's loss. Report a lost card within
two days of discovering it is missing and your liability is limited
to a maximum of $50; after two business days and within 60 days
from the date your statement is mailed, you could get hit for up
to $500 per card. If you don't report the loss within 60 days of
the day you received the statement containing the first unauthorized
use, you are on your own. All losses, including any line of credit
associated with the cards, become your responsibility. Ouch! It
is a good idea to only carry the cards that you will be using and
keep the others in a safe place until needed.
Your main concern was about identity theft. Here's
what to do about that:
Report the theft to credit
bureaus. Contact one of
credit reporting agencies. The good news here is that each agency
is bound by law to report your loss to the other two and a fraud
alert will be placed on all three reports. The initial alert stays
on your credit report for 90 days. You may choose to put an extended
alert on your report, which will remain for seven years. If, as
you say, there is enough information in your wallet to open credit
accounts, better to go for the extended alert. There is no way to
keep your thief from filing your information away for future use.
File a police report.
This is very important if your identity is indeed stolen by an unscrupulous
individual. A copy of the report will make it easier to prove that
future credit card charges do not belong to you and you are not
liable. Contact your local police department and they will take
it from there.
Provide details to the
FTC. The Federal Trade
Commission keeps a database of identity theft cases, which once
reported, may help other people avoid identity theft. The agency
pursues only large-scale cases, but every report helps them monitor
the problem nationwide and take appropriate action. And it can help
you, too. Once you fill out the ID
Theft Affidavit at the FTC's Web site, you can use it to make
copies and send to creditors in the case that unauthorized credit
lines are opened.
Colleen, I sincerely hope your wallet is the only
thing that was stolen and not your identity.
Debt Adviser, Steve Bucci, is the president of Money Management International
Financial Education Foundation. Visit MMI
for additional debt
advice or click here
to ask a debt question.