What To Do When You’ve Lost Your Wallet

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One of the WORST feelings is the realization you’ve lost your wallet. Whether it fell out of your pocket on the bus never to be seen again, you got robbed, or have no recollection of where or when you had it last, they are all equally awful. I’ve misplaced my wallet dozens of times, and always get a panicky feeling in my stomach when it’s not where I thought I put it last.

While not being able to find it right away is annoying in those cases, it’s nothing compared to the time I actually had my wallet stolen. The whole experience gave me a huge headache, I lost hours of time searching for it, and it left me with a really unsettling feeling.  I learned a lot from that experience and want to help you minimize the pains and frustrations I went through.

Here are my suggestions for you to follow now so you’ll be be prepared and know what to do when you’ve lost your wallet:

Minimize contents. Sit down at a table and empty everything out of your wallet, and ladies you’ll probably want to grab your entire purse(s).   Once everything’s dumped out, separate the contents into two piles.  One for your bare essentials and the other for the things you really don’t need to carry around that can just be kept at home in a safe place instead.  Declutter and simplify! The less you carry around, the less you’ll need to replace, and the easier it’ll be to fit your wallet in your pocket too.

Create a card log. Trying to remember all the various cards you were carrying around when they’re suddenly gone can be difficult and stressful, especially when you start worrying about someone racking up charges and stealing your identity.  Take a few minutes now and write down all the different cards you typically carry around.  Or if you’re too lazy to write it all down, take a picture or make a photocopy of all the cards together – super easy.  It’s also really helpful to have the account IDs and phone numbers of each customer service department you’ll need to alert all in one place.   You’ll be able to react quickly if needed and will feel more at ease knowing that you contacted ALL the necessary vendors.

Plastic > Cash money. Minimize the amount of cash you carry around and avoid depositing large amounts of money at ATMs at night or in sketchy areas. Same goes for making large withdrawals. Be street smart and trust your sixth sense.  Only carry enough cash for what you actually plan to spend (bus fares, cash only restaurants, tips, parking) and use a credit card for the rest.  Also consider keeping an emergency use only credit card and stash of cash in a secret place at home so you’ll have enough to get food and the basics while you wait for your new cards to arrive.  Just don’t hide them under your mattress because that’s one of the first places burglars like to look!

Make Copies of your IDs. Keep a copy of your current drivers license and passport in a safety deposit box or a wall safe. Copies can’t legally be used as replacements but they can assist in verifying your identity when you go to get official replacements and you’ll also have your identification numbers handy to help expedite the location of your records.

Contact me card. Consider keeping a “Please contact xyz if found” note in an easy to find place within your wallet. There are good people in the world who will try to return lost items to their rightful owners, and having a contact me card will make it easy for them to reach you. I suggest using a phone number and email different from what you have on file with your bank and credit card companies for your own protection just in case a malicious person gets a hold of it.

Fraud alerts. All three major credit agencies allow you to place free fraud alerts on your credit report if you suspect you could be a victim of identity theft or if your credit card information was stolen or compromised. You only need to notify one agency because they will automatically alert the other two.  Creating a fraud alert makes it much more difficult for someone to open a new line of credit using your stolen information.  Note that initial security alerts last for only 90 days, so you may need to call and extend the period if you suspect someone is actively using your identity.

File a police report.  If you know your wallet was stolen, make the effort to report it so the police can help track down the thief.  Sadly it’s unlikely to increase your chances of getting your wallet back by much, but you never know – a good samaritan may have found it and dropped it off at the station, or the police may have a lead on a repeat offender and your description could help them catch the thief.

Already lost your wallet and can’t think of what you had in it?  Here’s a list of common things we carry around:

  • Cash
  • Drivers license
  • Credit cards
  • Debit cards
  • ATM cards
  • Insurance ID cards
  • Office ID cards
  • Transit cards
  • Spare keys
  • Contact lists
  • Security cards
  • Memory cards (ex. SD, Compact Flash)
  • Thumb drives
  • Password lists (not a good idea btw!)
  • Parking tags and access cards
  • Gift cards
  • Gym ID
  • Library card
  • Receipts
  • Dry cleaning tickets
  • Photos
  • Coupons
  • Point cards (ex. Get 10 stamps, get XYZ free)
  • Frequent shopper cards
  • To do lists
  • Raffle tickets
  • Concert tickets

As you can see, the list can get quite big!  That’s why it really helps to follow the steps above so you have less to lose, logs of what you do carry around, copies, and contact lists handy.  Hopefully you will never have to go through what I did but if you worst happens you’ll know what to do when you’ve lost your wallet and can make a quick recovery and get back to fun, untemplate living!

 

 

“Personal

Unconventional Guides

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Tushar@EverythingFinance January 23, 2012 at 7:36 am

Very good advice. Minimize the contents of your wallet is key. I’m amazed at how people squeeze in like 25 cards, receipts, etc. in one tiny wallet.

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Sydney January 23, 2012 at 8:27 am

Thanks Tushar. I don’t like a heavy wallet so I’m always happy to take things out of mine every week and carry just the bare minimum of cards around. I can’t imagine having more than 5 cards let alone 25!

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Financial Samurai January 23, 2012 at 7:48 am

It really is one of the WORST feelings! I lost mine at the tennis club last month.. but Ithink it was stolen. I haven’t lost a wallet in 15+ years.

Definitely a good tip to MINIMIZE stuff in the wallet. Less things, less problems for sure.

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Sydney January 23, 2012 at 8:30 am

Oh no i’m sorry to hear that. It is totally the worst feeling especially in the first hour you realize it’s missing and trying to figure out if it was just misplaced or actually stolen. I like minimizing the contents of mine so it’s easier to fit in pockets too so there’s less chance of it falling out or being visible to pick pockets.

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Financial Samurai January 23, 2012 at 7:13 pm

I actually lost my new wallet as it fell out of my pocket on the beach while doing situps. Luckily, someone found it and returned it and a police officer gave me a ring and dropped it off!!!! All the cash was still in it!

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Sydney January 23, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Wow that’s lucky Sam. Good thing you had your phone number in there and how nice all the cash was still there too. That’s so nice the officer actually dropped it off, that’s unusual! We need more good cops like that.

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Charles January 23, 2012 at 8:06 am

I think having a contact me card is very important. Over the past 12 months, i’ve found 2 lost wallets. My first thought was to look through the wallet to see if i can find a phone number. One wallet had a phone number to his accountant. I called him and asked him to give the gentleman a call back to me since I had his wallet. I was able to return it because of that. There would have been no way to return the wallet to him without a phone number.

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Sydney January 23, 2012 at 8:35 am

Gold star to you for getting the wallets returned! I like the idea of using the contact info for one’s accountant on a contact me card. It doesn’t reveal personal phone numbers but an accountant is a trusted person who will be able to get the wallet back to the owner if it is ever lost and then found.

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PK January 23, 2012 at 8:21 am

It’s a bad feeling even when you lose it in the house, so I’m glad I haven’t experiences true wallet-loss yet! However, I’ve left individual credit cards at restaurants and bars before… it’s mostly just embarrassing, haha.

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JP @ Novel Investor January 23, 2012 at 8:43 am

I’d recommend a money clip. It eliminates having to carry around all that crap we carry in our wallets and toss out anyway 6 months later. Plus it’s much harder to lose or steal sitting in your front pocket.

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Sydney January 23, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Money clips are a good option, especially for traveling. I use a really small wllet that sits super flat so it’s nice and easy to put in front pockets. Money clips can really keep you disciplined to only have the bare essentials.

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MoneyCone January 23, 2012 at 10:01 am

Good tips Sydney. No one thinks about this till it is too late. Also, never carry cards you don’t normally use.

Good suggestion to keep a photocopy of all cards. One common factor with people who lose their wallet is that they don’t know what information was in their wallet! And goes without saying, never carry your Social Security card with you!

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Sydney January 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm

So true. I would have freaked out if I had my social security number in my wallet when it was stolen. I don’t think I’ve ever carried it around with me though. Having a list of cards with a copy of all the info is so handy and I wish I had one to reference when I had to deal with replacing everything. It’s unsettling not knowing what exactly was taken.

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AverageJoe January 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm

This is a serious topic, but reminds me of a humorous bit by comedian Emo Phillips. In it, he finds a lost wallet with $100 in it. He thinks to himself, “what would I want to have happen.”

Then his brain replies: “I’d want to be taught a lesson!”

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Sydney January 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I’m not familiar with his skits so I’ll have to check out his work sometime. Sometimes we get stuck learning lessons the hard way but hopefully my tips will help a few people avoid the mess that I had to go through.

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Edward Antrobus January 23, 2012 at 4:53 pm

If my wallet were stolen, I would be completely and utterly screwed. My certification card for work is in there (only way I’m going to remember it everyday), and if I don’t have my card on me, I can’t work. If I get caught working without it, I can be fired. And if I loose it, I have to take the certification test all over again.

Aside from that, I just have DL/insurance card, 1 debit card, spare key for my car (I’ve locked my keys in the car more times than I want to admit) and 3 loyalty cards. Every so often a couple bucks, but I’ve never been a big cash person.

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Sydney January 23, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Oh wow that is one strict system you have to deal with at work. That doesn’t seem fair at all that you would have to take a certification test all over again if you accidentally lost it. Yikes. Is it a company specific thing or industry related rule?

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Edward Antrobus January 23, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Somewhere in between. The state mandates that in order for companies to be able to proctor the certification test, they aren’t allowed to provide duplicate copies of certification cards.

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101 Centavos January 23, 2012 at 5:57 pm

I lost my wallet in the parking lot at Barnes and Noble last year. Some kindly soul (who didn’t think I needed to be taught a lesson – good one!) turned it into the store, where I was eventually able to claim. Good idea on keeping a generic email address in the wallet to be used in case of loss.

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Sydney January 23, 2012 at 7:39 pm

That is awesome you got it back. Phew! It’s so nice to hear there are still kind people out there who are nice enough to turn things in. I’ve never actually come across someone else’s wallet but will definitely turn it in right away if I do find one because I wish someone had done that with mine.

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krantcents January 23, 2012 at 5:59 pm

The worst part of losing a wallet is replacing the driver’s license and other Identification.

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Sydney January 23, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Completely agree. I’m convinced the California dmv is one of the worst in the country. They are so slow to process things and it takes two months sometimes to get an appointment.

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Squirrelers January 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Thanks for this – it’s one of the things that many people simply hope never happens, but are scrambling when it does. I’ve never lost my wallet and hope that continues. Good to know what to do in case, as based on the law of averages it will happen to many people at one time or another.

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Nisma June 11, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Great article, I will definitely follow some of your tips in future. I got my wallet stolen by a colleague at work, and potentially a friend, last week. And I still get so mad when I think about it. I filed a report with the police, because there is a camera at the entrance to the washroom where it was stolen, and the security person watched the video and verified who he thinks it is. The police have yet to do anything, but I am pretty certain who stole it. Should I wait for the police to do something, or should I confront the person? It sucks to not be able to do anything, I feel so helpless now, it’s like all of my personal information was in it, including my USB,which has SO much info! I even had $250 in cash that day. Any advice as to what I should do in this case? Is there anything else I can legally do, I want this person caught, can’t I accuse them of it, and go to court or something? The camera evidence is definitely not 100% proof, but it about 75% verifies that it was this person.

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Sydney June 11, 2012 at 8:48 pm

I’m so sorry to hear that Nisma. Augh that’s so awful. I don’t know what your legal rights are in this situation as I’m not a lawyer but sounds like you have some good evidence. Maybe talk to HR about it since it happened on site? If you didn’t tell the police there was camera evidence when you filed the report, it’s probably a good idea to let them know now and see what they can do. I’m not sure what’s required for them to issue a search warrant though. I know it’s frustrating feeling helpless especially since theft usually isn’t very high on police priorities. Definitely call all your credit card companies right away if you haven’t already. You may also want to search for a pro bono lawyer in your area.

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Mike R April 4, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Typical, My wallet gets stolen on payday.. An entire months wage gone to some f-ing scumbag thief… great.

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Sydney April 7, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Oh man that’s awful. So sorry to hear that Mike. If it was a check that was stolen see if your employer can put a stop payment on it and issue you a new one. You should look into filing a police report too. Hope things get sorted out.

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