If you’ve ever lost your wallet, or had it stolen, you know that horrible, gut wrenching feeling knowing that your driver’s license, your insurance cards, your credit cards – essentially just about all of your identity is on a card in your wallet. It may be only minutes before someone starts making use of it.
Identity theft is a big issue for people who use the internet frequently to make purchases but, according to a report by Travelers Insurance, a lost or stolen wallet causes 3 times more incidents of identity theft. So, how can you avoid it and keep your identity – and your money – safe? Here are some tips from Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam Proof Your Life.
1. Remove high risk items: Things that shouldn’t be in your wallet include Social Security cards, anything clearly identifying PIN numbers/passwords to bank cards and online accounts, blank checks, spare keys to your home or car. Keep your Medicare and Social Security card at home in a safe place and only carry it to doctor appointments.
2. Copy everything. Make front/back photocopies of all the cards in your wallet – driver’s license, credit cards, insurance cards, even library cards. Keep the copies in a safe place at home (with your Medicare and SS cards). Another tip – apply “CID” to the back of your credit cards. Clerks are required by law to see a Driver’s License. Most thieves won’t try to use your picture ID on your driver’s license to identify themselves. It could buy some time for you in reporting the card stolen.
If you lose your wallet, or it’s stolen, be sure to immediately do the following:
1. Get out your copies of your credit cards and call all of the card companies. File a lost or stolen card report and request an account number change. Filing a report immediately prevents you from being liable for purchases you didn’t make. However, don’t cancel, or close, the account which can lower your credit score.
2. Call the police in the place, city where you think the wallet went missing. Send a copy of the police reports to your bank and credit reporting bureaus.
3. Call your bank. Cancel old debit cards and get new ones. Change PIN numbers on any accounts, bank credit cards. Get new checking and savings account numbers and new checks.
4. Replace your Driver’s License. Tell the DMV that your current license is missing/stolen, and they will place a warning on your file.
5. Notify insurance companies. Call Medicare, your auto and home insurance companies and have them place a warning on your files in case a thief decides to make a claim on your policy.
6. File Fraud Alert report/check credit score. Notify 3 major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, TransUnion. They may either issue a fraud alert or freeze your credit (more secure). Alerts are free and most often so are freezes – especially if you are 65 or older. Then, 2 weeks later check your credit report to see if anyone’s applied for credit in your name. It’s usually not enough time for cards to have been issued.
Protect Your Wallet, Sid Kirchheimer, AARP Bulletin, October 2013, Vol.54, no. 8.