Stolen wallet? Limit the damage up front

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stolen-walletYour wallet is stolen? Within days the thieves could run up huge debts, max out your credit cards, apply for new credit and store cards in your name at a new address, receive a PIN number from the DMV and try to change your driving record information online, and more. But here’s some critical  information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone  you know.

Cancel your credit cards  immediately. Make sure you have all the toll free numbers and your card numbers so you know whom to call. Keep the records at home where you know you can find them.

Now I’m betting you don’t have these to hand – and if you do you probably haven’t updated it recently. We are always getting new or updated credit and bank cards. So you should perform the next action right now, or as soon as you get to a photocopier, scanner, or smartphone.

Copy both sides of each license, credit  card, etc. Record every item that you had in your wallet and all of the  account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Make two sets and put them in sealed envelopes that you would know if someone had tampered with.  Losing these would be almost as bad as losing the cards. Keep one set in a safe place at home and the other someplace else, maybe at work, or at a close friend’s. Not a bank – you might need to make all your calls concerning your cards out of business hours. If you carry a a passport, photocopy that and your driver’s license.  Alternatively, do it the old-fashioned way and copy down all the phone numbers, card numbers, bank names, expiry dates, security numbers (the four-digit code printed above the card number on your card and/or the digitally printed number on the signature strip on the obverse of the card). (You should always have a spare set of the details when you travel in case you are robbed when you’re away from home. Just make sure the details are locked in the hotel safe.)

File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where  your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation in the unlikely event there will ever be one.

Most important of all. You must call the three national credit  reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your  name and Social Security number. The alert means any company that  checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.  These are numbers we printed recently when we wrote about your credit scores. These companies are all powerful when it comes to keeping your good name.

Now, here are the numbers you always need  to call and record that your wallet and all its contents has been stolen:

Equifax:  1-800-525-6285

Experian : 1-888-397-3742

Trans  Union: 1-800-680-7289

Social Security Administration (fraud line):  1-800-269-0271

Tips:

The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of your first name) and last name put on them. If someone takes your checkbook, they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or  your first name, but your bank should know how you sign your  checks.

Do not sign the back of your credit cards.   Instead, put “PHOTO ID REQUIRED”.

When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the “For” line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels won’t have  access to it.

Tiny SquirrelThe Squirrel says: For extra security, put your work phone number on your checks instead of your  home phone number. If you have a PO Box use that instead of your home address. If  you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. This reduces the chance that criminals will follow up on the theft of your wallet or purse and foil their efforts to come to your home and steal from there. This is especially likely if you lost your house keys with the initial theft. Never have your social security number printed on your checks.