How to limit the damage if you lose your purse or wallet:
Losing your wallet or purse can be a devastating experience or merely a hassle, depending on how prepared you are. My daughter recently left her purse in the car while she went into a gymnastics school to pick up her children. Five minutes later, she came out to find a smashed window and her purse gone. While she was immediately able to call and cancel her credit cards, and stop payment on several endorsed checks that the thief got, she still lost money in the stop-payment charges and replacing her driver’s license.
What to do immediately:
Call the major national credit report organizations. The numbers are: Equifax 1-800-525-6285, Experian 1-800-301-7195, and Trans Union 1-800-680-7289. Tell them to put a “fraud alert” on your account. If anyone applies for new credit using your information, the credit issuer will call you for authorization.
Contact the Social Security Administration fraud line at 1-800-269-0271 if you suspect someone has gotten your number.
File a police report. This proves to credit providers that you are diligent and this is the first step in an investigation.
Call your bank to alert them if checks were stolen and to cancel debit cards.
If you had your cell phone in your purse, be sure to notify the phone company right away. You will not be liable for charges, however, the company may not be prompt about turning off the phone immediately, so check it by calling your cellular number.
If you find out where your cards were illegally used, ask for a copy of the security tapes. You may not get them, but you might encourage the company to turn them over to the police.
What to do to fight back:
Consider only having and using one credit card. Most department stores will accept a Master card instead of their own store cards. If you must have more than one card, only carry one with you and leave the others in a safe place at home.
Leave your checkbook at home also and carry only one or two checks with you. You could still carry the account register if you are afraid you’ll forget where you used it or the amount.
NEVER carry your social security card with you, or anything with that number on it.
NEVER carry passwords to bank accounts with you. If you can’t remember the password, go to the bank and change it to something you can remember.
Consider living without an ATM card, or only carry it with you when you are going to the bank. ATM cards can frequently be used without the merchant establishing the identity of the user.
On the back of credit cards, write “Check i.d.” Every time a merchant asks to see your i.d., thank that person for being vigilant.
Complain to the corporate offices of companies who are not vigilant about checking i.d’s or allow people to use credit cards without requiring signatures.
Make a list right now of what’s in your wallet or purse. Keep photocopies of any important identification at home with your important papers. Write a contact phone number on the copy. Then, you won’t have to remember what was in the wallet or what to do in case of loss.