This scenario has probably happened to a lot of us: you are out for a day of shopping or fun and come home to realize that your wallet is missing. You do not know if it was lost or stolen; but you do know that your now missing wallet has your credit cards, driver license and tons of other personal information that could be gold to any identity thief. So what do you do now? Well, if you take action quickly, you can prevent your cards from being misused if they end up in the wrong hands.
THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU USE YOUR CARDS
1) Make copies of your cards and license.
As soon as you receive a new credit or debit card, you should record the number, expiration, and three-digit CVV security code. If you have access to a copy machine, then make copies and store it with your important documents in a safe place. Otherwise, simply record the numbers on a piece of paper, along with the customer service number that you would call in such emergencies. This information is vital and will help make reporting a lost or stolen card easy.
2) Sign your credit cards.
This may sound like a simple and obvious task, however, a lot of people walk around with unsigned cards. By signing your card you are applying your personal signature to the name on the card, making it harder for thieves to forge your name.
IF YOUR CARDS ARE LOST OR STOLEN
1) The first thing you want to do is call the customer service number for your credit cards and report that they are stolen. There is usually a 24/7 hotline so that you can report loss or theft anytime and day of the week, including holidays.
2) Immediately file a police report. This will be evidence that you communicated the loss or crime to local authorities. Your credit card company may require this report in case there are unauthorized charges on your account.
3) Contact the three major credit- reporting bureaus. You can place a temporary fraud alert on your credit report. This will prevent new credit from being issued in your name until the situation is resolved.
AFTER REPORTING YOUR CARDS
1) After you report your cards lost or stolen, you should keep an eye on your credit. You can sign up for a credit monitoring service, which is usually offered by your credit card company for a reasonable fee. This type of service will alert you if and when new credit is issued and will keep you informed of any and all changes to your credit. You will also be provided with updated credit reports so that you can see if the loss or theft of your card affected your credit.
2) If your debit or ATM card was lost or stolen, then you should immediately freeze your checking or savings account and open a new account.
As a consumer, you should be vigilant in the security of your financial documents. Consider not even carrying credit cards with you that you do not use often. By only carrying what you need, you will be a less likely target of identity theft and fraudulent activity on your account.