Have you ever lost your wallet? I most certainly have. I recently lost my wallet while traveling, and I had to go through the whole process of calling credit card companies, calling my bank, filing a police report, and dealing with different law enforcement agencies.
The process is actually fairly complex. When relating my story to the police and various TSA agents, I had to go through a list of everything important in my wallet: credit cards, cash, driver’s license, and etc. It made me realize how much very personal information we keep on our persons on an everyday basis. So what do you do when you lose your credit card?
I found a very helpful checklist on the website for the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions:
1. File a Police Report
2. Notify your bank
3. Cancel all of your credit cards immediately
4. Notify major credit reporting agencies
5. A few weeks after the loss or theft, get a copy of your credit report to determine if
fraudulent transactions have been made in your name
These are all important steps. I’d like to give a little bit of advice on each one and include some personal tips that I have had the misfortune of needing to learn.
1. File a Police Report.
Contact the police department in the city where you lost your wallet. Some cities, such as Denver, have an online police form that you can fill out.
Make sure to keep a copy of your case number so that you can track whether the report was actually received. Keeping a copy of your report is also important for several reasons. Some states (like Illinois) will allow you to obtain a new driver’s license for less if you bring in a copy of the police report and meet certain other conditions. Definitely make sure that you know what your individual state’s policy is on replacement licenses so that you have the necessary documentation on hand.
2. Notify your bank.
If you happened to have a debit card or checks in your wallet, it is a good idea to notify your bank so that they can flag your account and issue a new debit card. You should try to report the loss as soon as possible to limit your liability.
It is a good idea to have an account statement on hand with your account number ready. If not, it isn’t a huge problem. Most local banks are willing to work with you, but I have found that it makes it easier to get through the various automated prompts. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is a useful resource for figuring out some of the laws that govern how much you can be held liable for if you lose your debit card. Under federal law, you are only liable for up to $50 if you notify your bank of your lost debit card within two days of the loss.
3. Cancel all of your credit cards immediately.
By cancelling your credit cards as soon as possible, you help prevent fraudulent charges if someone else tries to use your credit card after it has been lost. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) you are only liable for unauthorized credit card use up to the amount of $50. However, if you cancel as soon as possible, you can avoid liability entirely by canceling before anyone can make fraudulent charges. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) outlines some helpful tips for dealing with lost credit cards and for protecting your personal account information.
If you need to cancel your credit card, try to have the account number on hand (although this isn’t absolutely necessary). If you call the customer service number for your credit card company, a representative can usually help direct you to their fraud departments to report the loss. Different companies have different policies for how long it will take to mail you a replacement card, so it is a good idea to have a spare card at home if you are used to relying on credit cards. If you have a replacement card at home, you won’t be left high and dry when you lose your wallet.
4. Notify Major Credit Reporting Agencies
If you notify major credit reporting agencies in advance, it can help protect you from the negative consequences of fraudulent credit card transactions.
Your credit report is important because many lenders use it in determining whether you are qualified for certain loans.
Three of the major credit reporting agencies are:
5. A few weeks after the loss or theft, get a copy of your credit report to determine if fraudulent transactions have been made in your name
***Make sure that you only contact the major credit reporting agencies through annualcreditreport.com for a Free Credit Report. You can also only get a free credit report once every twelve months.***
For more information on credit reports visit the FTC’s website here.
You can also find more information on the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s website here.
I know that it is a hassle to go through the process of cancelling cards and filing police reports, but it is important for your financial safety. The best tip that I can offer is to try to take care of everything as soon as possible (It will help minimize your liability risk).