lost wallet
Updated July 08, 2021

5 Things to Do After You’ve Lost Your Wallet

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Losing your wallet can be scary, but most people are able to resolve the situation quickly and get back to normal without any significant issues.

The important thing is to respond as soon as possible and take the necessary steps to protect your money and private information.

Today I’m going to share with you the first things you should do after losing your wallet.

The sooner you complete these steps, the sooner you’ll be able to remove the risk of things like fraud and identity theft.

I’ll also cover a few strategies for reducing those risks in the future.

And for my purposes here today, I’m going to assume that you have actually lost your wallet for good, that you’ve already backtracked your steps and you’re sure you’re not getting your wallet back.

1. Call Your Debit and Credit Card Provider

Some people might tell you that the first thing you should do when you lose your wallet is to flat-out cancel your credit and debit cards, but that’s not really the best thing to do since canceling your card, especially a credit card, could hurt your credit score.

But you do want to inform your debit and credit card providers about your situation as soon as possible since these cards can both be used fraudulently, and you only have two days to report the loss before you could be liable for any charges.

As long as you file a report within the first two days, your responsibility is limited to just $50 for debit cards — and the majority of banks and providers will forgive that amount anyway.

Similarly, you can only be held responsible for up to $50 in credit card purchases made before you reported the loss.

On the other hand, that limit increases to $500 if you wait more than two days, and there’s no limit on fraudulent charges after 60 days without a report.

Your bank’s 1-800 or 1-888 number will walk you through the steps required to report a lost or stolen card.

There’s nothing you can do about lost or stolen cash, so it’s best to avoid carrying any amount of cash that you wouldn’t want to lose. $50 should be more than enough to cover any cash expenses, and you can use a credit or debit card for anything more expensive.

2. Alert the Major Credit Bureaus

In addition to making purchases with your existing cards, using your information to apply for credit cards and loan is another crucial risk to consider after losing your wallet.

Fortunately, the credit bureaus make it easy to prevent this from happening if you activate a fraud alert on your credit file.

All you have to do is contact at least one of the three major bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian). From there, they’re legally required to let the other two know what happened.

Fraud alerts automatically last for 90 days and force creditors and lenders to call you before approving an application in your name. You can extend the alert later on if needed.

3. File a Police Report

Most people don’t think to file a police report when their wallet is lost, but this is an important step for a number of reasons. You should go to the police anytime you lose sensitive information such as your debit card, credit card, or driver’s license.

A police report provides critical documentation of the incident and offers evidence of the loss in case you notice suspicious activity later on.

Banks and credit card providers often ask for police reports as part of their anti-fraud practices, so this is a good place to start once you’ve contacted your bank and credit card provider along with the credit bureaus.

4. Get a New License

Filing a police report will alert the authorities to the possibility of a fraudulent license, but you’ll also need to get a new license to replace the old one.

First, let your local DMV know about the situation to make sure everyone knows that there’s a lost license because your driver’s license is something that scammers can use for identity theft or fraud.

Of course, you won’t be able to legally drive without a valid license, so a friend or family member will have to drive you to the DMV or in some instances you can register for a new one online and have it sent in the mail.

It’s never a good idea to drive without one, even if you think it’s “just” to get a new license—the last thing you need after losing your wallet is a charge of driving without a license.

5. Make a List of Everything Else in Your Wallet

OK, so I’ve covered the major things that you have to worry about when you lose your wallet — your credit cards, debit cards, and of course your driver’s license.

But you probably had other cards in your wallet as well like your gym membership card, your library card, or maybe your employee identification for your work.

These items aren’t as urgent to replace as your other pieces of plastic, but it’s still a good idea while the memory of your wallet is fresh to make a list of everything else you can think of that was in your wallet so that you can eventually get replacements for those cards as well.

It’s easy to panic when you realize you’ve lost your wallet, but banks, credit card providers, and other institutions have procedures in place to help you get back on your feet.

Complete these steps as soon as possible to minimize the effects of losing your wallet.

Have you ever lost your wallet? How did it go? Did you get it back? Let me know in the comments!

Alex McOmie

Alex McOmie currently serves as the Managing Editor for Money Done Right. He joined the Money Done Right editorial team in summer 2019. Learn more about Alex.

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