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If you’re reading this article, it may be because you’ve fallen into an unfortunate situation — you’ve lost a wallet, or you can’t find a debit or credit card.
While it might seem like the end of the world at first, you can easily protect your information and recover important items with a few steps. Plus, technology has made securing your personal information more efficient than ever.
Here’s what you’ll need to do if you’ve lost your wallet, and what you can do to prevent future troubles.
1. Lock your cards before searching
The first thing you’ll want to do if you’ve lost your wallet is make sure you don’t lose any (or any more) money. While you may not be able to get lost cash back, you can prevent a potential thief from spending with your debit or credit card by locking your cards.
One way to do this is by calling the card issuers and asking them to place a lock on the cards. While the lock is in place, the cards will be declined if used for purchases. Many institutions also allow you to do this through a mobile banking or credit card app. You can typically find a lock or freeze your card option directly in the app or under “manage your card.”
It’s a good idea to keep your cards locked while you search for your wallet. If you do find it, you can unlock the cards in the same way you locked them — by calling the issuer or doing so in the app.
Locking your cards, rather than canceling them right away, gives you the option to still use the same card if you do find it again. It also means you can unlock it to make any immediate, necessary purchases before you order a replacement card.
2. Replace your debit and credit cards
If you’ve searched every possible place where the wallet could’ve been misplaced and nothing turned up, you’ll need to take further action to prevent any of your personal information from being compromised.
Call the debit or credit card issuer of any card that was lost to cancel the card and order a replacement. Again, you may be able to do this through a mobile banking app or on the bank or credit card company’s website. Once you cancel the card, it will no longer be usable for spending.
Some financial institutions may have card-printing capabilities at their branches. Call your local branch to see if they can print a new debit card for you on the spot.
3. Contact police
Even if you don’t suspect that the wallet was stolen, filing a police report is an important step to take. Supposing that someone finds your wallet and brings it to the police, your contact information will be on hand so the wallet can be returned to you.
On the other hand, if there is theft involved, the police report can serve as evidence on your behalf in case you’re a victim of identity fraud.
4. Replace your driver’s license
To replace your driver’s license (or non-driver ID card), you’ll need to get in touch with the Department of Motor Vehicles. In some states, you can order a replacement ID through the DMV website and receive it in the mail. The fee for a replacement ID typically ranges from $15 to $30.
5. Set up fraud alerts
Setting up fraud alerts means that you’ll be notified if someone tries to open up a credit card with your information. To do so, contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion), and the bureau is required by law to notify the other two of your request.
It’s still important to continually monitor your credit, as well as monitor bank account transactions, for any suspicious activity. You can also enact a credit freeze, which will block lenders from viewing your credit report, so someone else would not be able to take out credit in your name.
6. Replace any other missing items
Once you’ve taken care of the more critical items from your wallet — debit and credit cards and your driver’s license — you can make a list of whatever else might have gone missing and needs to be replaced. This can include insurance cards, membership cards, business cards and so on.
Insurance cards are relatively high priority, especially when it comes to medical insurance. You can contact a customer service representative for the insurance company to request a replacement card.
How to pay for things when you’ve lost your wallet
Now that you’ve taken steps to protect your personal information, you may be waiting for a new debit or credit card to come in the mail and wondering how to pay for things in the meantime.
The simplest route would be to use a back-up card — but realistically, you might have kept all of your debit and credit cards in the wallet that was lost.
Most likely, you’ll have to take out cash. Without a debit card on hand, you can still get cash by going to your bank or credit union’s local branch and asking a teller to withdraw money from your account.
Another option is to wire money to a transfer service such as Western Union or Wise. You can connect your bank account and use it to send money to a transfer service location near you. Then, pick up the money as cash or sometimes as a prepaid card. Just know that you’ll need a government ID to receive the money.
Finally, you can always ask for help from a friend or family member. You could try sending money to someone you trust via a peer-to-peer payment service, like Venmo, which can be linked to a bank account without a debit card. Then, the friend or relative can withdraw cash at an ATM on your behalf.
Consider taking steps to prevent future hassles
Losing a wallet and all that was inside it is time-consuming as well as a potential threat to your financial security. There are some things you can do now, however, to make it a bit less inconvenient if you lose a wallet in the future:
- Limit what you keep in the wallet. Most important identifying documents (such as Social Security cards, passports and birth certificates) should stay at home. Also, consider which cards are most important to you and which you can leave at home.
- Take a photo of or scan important items in your wallet, including driver’s license, debit cards and credit cards. This can make it much easier to replace the items that were lost.
- Include contact information in your wallet so if a good Samaritan finds it, they can easily return it to you.
- Consider a Bluetooth wallet tracker, such as Tile. These are typically thin, card-shaped devices that fit into your wallet and connect to a smartphone app. When you misplace your wallet, the app will locate it. Just note that these only function within a specified range — usually a couple hundred feet.
Even though losing a wallet can be a big inconvenience, it’s nothing to panic about. As long as you take action quickly, you can prevent losing money and protect your personal information from potential identity thieves.
Additionally, make sure to track your bank account and credit card activity regularly so you can swiftly detect any unusual activity and report it.