8 Things to Do Right After You Lose Your Wallet

Tylene Welch  | 

Lost your wallet? Before anything else, the first thing you’ll want to do is check (and double check) anywhere your wallet might possibly be. Retrace your steps and call or visit all the places where you may have left it. Once you’re absolutely certain your wallet isn’t under the seat of your car or sitting at the restaurant you went to last night, it’s time to take proactive measures.

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 that you need to cancel all of your cards. If you end up waiting 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 for those payments.

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 corresponding company for each one, and cancel the card before anybody else tries to use it. Here are the numbers for some of the most 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. This is because the smart chip, or EMV chip, doesn’t track your card, though it does protect your card number from being “skimmed” or stolen remotely. The chip isn’t effective when someone else has the physical card in hand, unfortunately.

File a Police Report

Calling the police over a lost wallet might seem like overkill, but it’s very important for protection against identity theft. Realistically, they probably won’t be able to find your wallet. However, 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 you file a police report. You may also need to present a police report proving your wallet was lost in order to get a new driver’s license and social security card.

Set up Fraud Alerts with the National Credit Bureaus

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

List Everything That Might Have Been in Your Wallet

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

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.

Replace Your Drivers License

If your license was inside your wallet and both are now gone, this puts you at a higher risk of identity theft. This is why it’s essential  to file a police report before you visit the DMV and purchase new identification. Also, be sure to review the requirements for a replacement license in each state.

Replace Your Social Security Card

First, you should never keep your social security card in your wallet. However, if your social security card was in your lost wallet, it’s best to assume it’s been 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 fraud, 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.

Call the Social Security Administration (SSA)

You’ll need to contact (and likely visit in person) 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.

Check Your Credit Reports

Even after filing the police report, cancelling your accounts, and notifying your bank and the credit bureaus, you might still be at risk for identity theft. You’ll want to order your free credit report to see if there are any discrepancies or signs that someone else is using your identity to open credit card accounts, take out loans, or engage in other financial activities that affect your credit.

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 may be worth the peace of mind.

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 February 28, 2019. It was originally published September 25, 2018.