What to Do When You Lose Your Wallet, License, Social Security, and Bank Cards

Tylene Welch  | 

You may have lost your wallet and all its valuable contents — or maybe it was stolen. Don’t panic! It’s a nerve-wracking situation, but now is the time to act fast. Losing your wallet puts you at a higher risk of identity theft. This article will show you how to minimize your risk, even if you can’t retrieve your stolen goods. There’s a lot you need to do, so let’s get started.

What to Do When You Lose Your Wallet

First, check (and double check) anywhere your wallet might be. Retrace your steps and call or visit the places where you might have left it. You don’t want to go through all of this trouble if your wallet is under the seat of your car, or sitting at the restaurant you went to last night.

If all else fails, this is what to do when you lose your wallet:

Contact Your Bank and Cancel All Cards

Once you know for certain your wallet is missing, and possibly in the wrong hands, the first thing you’ll want to do is contact your bank. Let them know your wallet was lost or stolen, and you need to cancel all of your cards. If you wait too long to cancel your cards, and they are used for unauthorized purchases, you will need to dispute the credit charges and could still be held accountable.

This step might require a few calls as you probably have cards from different issuers, and maybe even a few department store cards. You will need to call the company for each one, and cancel the card before anybody else tries to use it. Here are the numbers for a few common banks and card issuers:

  • American Express: 1-800-528-4800
  • Bank of America: 1-800-432-1000
  • Chase: 1-800-935-9935
  • Citibank: 1-800-374-9700
  • Discover: 1-800-347-2683
  • MasterCard: 1-800-307-7309
  • US Bank: 1-800-872-2657
  • Visa: 1-800-847-2911
  • Wells Fargo: 1-800-869-3557

When you call, tell the representative that your card has been lost or stolen, and ask them to go over any recent purchases made to ensure they are authorized. Your bank will issue you a new account number immediately, and you should receive new cards within a few days.

Lost or stolen cards cannot be tracked, even if they have a smart chip. The smart chip, or EMV chip, doesn’t track your card, but it does protect your card number from being stolen. The chip isn’t effective when someone else has the physical card in hand though.

Call the Police

Calling the police over a lost wallet might seem like overkill, but it’s very important for protection against identity theft. They won’t be able to find your wallet. But if your identity is stolen, you’ll need to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and fill out an Identity Theft Affidavit. Both of these actions require a police report. You may also need a police report proving your wallet was lost in order to get a new driver’s license and social security card.

List All Subscriptions and Online Accounts

Your banks and card issuers will cancel your account numbers, so you’ll need to update that information with each of your subscription services, online accounts, and any other billing system you use. A merchant could charge you a fee for a failed payment and/or for late payments.

Also, note any purchases you made recently that haven’t fully processed. If your account number was cancelled, those purchases might be cancelled. You might have to contact the merchant with your new card information before they get the “payment declined” notice.

List Everything That Might Have Been in Your Wallet

Making all of these lists is a pain, but getting an unexpected bill for overdue library books you never borrowed will be worse. Try to contact every company that you might have had a store card, membership card, benefits card, or rewards card with and explain you lost your wallet and need to cancel the account for a new one.

What to Do If You Lose Your License

Your license was likely inside your wallet, both of which are now gone. Unfortunately, this puts you at a higher risk of identity theft. Make sure and file the police report. Then, visit the DMV and purchase new identification. Here are the requirements for a replacement license in each state.

What to Do If You Lose Your Social Security Card

First, you should never keep your social security card in your wallet. However, these things do happen. If your social security card is gone, it’s best to assume it’s stolen and proceed as such.

Stolen Social Security Card

When someone steals your social security number, they have easy access to loans and lines of credit in your name. In order to prevent this, you’ll need to open a credit freeze with the three major credit bureaus, which usually costs a small fee.

You’ll eventually need to unfreeze your credit in order to apply for any loans or credit cards in the future. Then, you’ll need to visit your local social security office to get another card. Generally, you can’t get a new social security number, so it will be important to keep a close watch on your credit report for any unusual activity.

Will a Lost Wallet Affect Your Credit Report?

Your lost wallet won’t affect your credit score, but identity theft could ruin your credit. In this situation, it’s a good idea to set up fraud alerts with the national credit bureaus. You’ll only need to call one, and they will notify the other two bureaus for you. Fraud alerts are free for 90 days, and it means lenders will need to take additional steps to verify the identity of anyone trying to use your identity. Here are the phone numbers for the national credit bureaus:

  • Equifax: 1-888-548-7878
  • Experian: 1-888-397-3742
  • TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800

Even after filing the police report, cancelling your accounts, notifying your bank and the credit bureaus you might still be at risk for identity theft. If your cards and information were stolen, you might consider getting identity theft protection. This usually costs a monthly or yearly fee, but if your information is already out there, it might be worth it.

Image Sourcehttps://depositphotos.com/

Tylene is a freelancer in Boise, Idaho. She's a self-taught personal finance hacker with zero debt. She eats avocado toast for breakfast.

This post was updated September 24, 2018. It was originally published September 25, 2018.