Lost or Stolen Wallet? Here’s What to Do (2023)

You never think it's going to happen to you—until it does. One minute, your wallet is snug in your back pocket or purse, and the next minute, you're frantically trying to figure out where you last had it when you realize you can't pay for anything.

This happened to me recently. Someone slyly lifted my wallet out of my purse while I was grocery shopping. I must have turned away for just a minute, but it was enough time for a thief to get exactly what they wanted, with me none the wiser. I only realized it was gone when my phone started blowing up with text messages from my credit card issuers, who were asking me if I really did just go on a multi-thousand-dollar shopping spree at Target.

Of course, I panicked. Luckily, I still had my phone with me and was able to get home, call all my issuers to cancel my credit cards. Since I never have much cash on me, I only lost $11, but my wallet had been full of other important stuff, like gift cards, my health insurance data, and the punch card at my favorite nail salon—not to mention the wallet itself that I really loved.

I did have to thank my lucky stars, though: My driver's license happened to be in a sleeve in my phone, though I usually keep it in my wallet. And of course I never keep my Social Security card in my wallet, so I didn't have to worry about my number getting in the wrong hands. But if you do carry your Social Security card in your wallet, stop what you're doing and remove it immediately.

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If you find yourself in a similar situation, follow this checklist to limit your liability and protect your identity from further danger. When you start making your calls, be sure to keep a log of what you did, who you called and when.

1. Call Your Bank to Report Your Debit Card as Stolen

The first card I reported stolen was my debit card. As long as you report a debit card is missing within two business days of the loss, you're only responsible for up to $50 in unauthorized purchases.

If you wait more than two days (but less than 60), you could be on the hook for up to $500 in unauthorized purchases. If you wait longer than 60 days, you could be held responsible for all of them. Read more here about the difference between debit and credit cards.

But if a thief has accessed your bank account via your debit card, the money could be debited from your account—and it could take time to recover it. I didn't want my checking account to be touched, so my bank was the first call I made. Report that your card has been lost or stolen; they will cancel that card and send you a new one.

If you had checks in your wallet, report that immediately as well. Your bank can allow you to put a freeze on your checking account so that no purchases made via check will be approved. To protect yourself completely in the case of stolen checks, you will probably have to close that account and get a new one with a completely different number.

If you do this, make sure you update your direct deposit and automated monthly payment information. Learn more about check fraud here.

2. Call Your Credit Card Issuers to Report Your Cards as Stolen

You'll want to call your card issuers immediately and let them know your cards have been stolen. This is different from canceling or closing your credit cards, which can cause problems with your credit reports.

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When you report a card as lost or stolen, the issuer will suspend those credit card numbers and send you new ones. They will also credit back any fraudulent charges to your account, although you can expect them to undergo a fraud investigation. If you have your credit cards set up with automated recurring payments, be sure to update the payments with the new credit card numbers.

Sometimes it can be difficult to remember which credit cards were in your wallet when it got lost or stolen. If you use an account aggregator site like Mint.com to keep track of your money, log in to get a list of all your active credit cards. That will allow you to cross-check which cards you have in your possession with the ones that were in the wallet.

You can also do this by looking at the current accounts on your credit report. It can be easy to forget about retail credit cards, so be sure to confirm you've gotten all of them. When I checked my credit report, I realized I had a rarely-used Old Navy credit card in my wallet and remembered to report it as stolen.

3. File a Police Report

It's very important to file a police report if your wallet is lost or stolen. You might be reluctant to do so, either because you don't think the police will be able to recover your stolen property (and it's likely they won't), or you believe that your matter is trivial.

However, filing a police report is vital to safeguarding your future identity: If you are the victim of further fraud or identity theft down the line, a police report will help serve as evidence that you were, indeed, the victim of a crime. Some credit card issuers or banks may also want the police report number as part of their fraud investigation.

When you file a police report, you'll be asked to provide a description of your wallet, what was in it, how, where and when it was stolen, and any other information you might have about the circumstances. If your credit cards were used, the police might ask you for the original card numbers and the locations and times of the fraudulent transactions.

Be sure to get the case number and a hard copy of the police report for your records. The police department may take some time to complete the report, so get your investigating officers business card and contact information so you can follow up.

(Video) I Tracked My Stolen Wallet to Here…

4. Make a List of Everything That Was in Your Wallet

You'll eventually want to replace all the other important stuff in your wallet, like insurance cards. While it's still fresh in your mind, make a list of items that were in your wallet so you can contact the appropriate organizations.

You can request a replacement policy number on your insurance accounts so someone can't use your data for their own medical expenses. Read more here about medical identity theft.

5. Initiate a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report

You'll want to protect your identity by monitoring your credit reports.

Start by filing a free initial security alert that is active on your account for 90 days at the Experian fraud center. The credit bureaus are legally required to share such alerts with the other two counterparts, so you don't need to file it with all three. This notifies lenders pulling your credit to take extra steps to verify your identity, but it does not block access to your credit report altogether.

If you want even more protection, you may want to consider freezing your credit, which will prevent lenders from extending new credit in your name altogether.

Credit freezes typically cost $10, though they can be up to $20. Remember, you also have to pay to unfreeze your credit if you need to apply for credit in your name, as well. (President Trump recently signed a bill that makes credit freezes free, but it won't go into effect until later this year.)

You may also want to consider enrolling in a credit monitoring product, like Experian IdentityWorks, which can help you keep tabs on your credit reports and identity.

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6. Replace Your Driver's License

If your driver's license or state ID was in your wallet, you'll want to replace that as soon as possible. Each state has its own requirements for replacing a license; visit your state's DMV or Secretary of State website for details. The state may also ask you for a police report number if your ID has been stolen.

7. Report Your Social Security Number Stolen

If you carried your Social Security card in your wallet—which by the way, you should NEVER do—you'll want to be extra vigilant. The Social Security Administration can send you a new card, but you won't get a new number. That means you will want to take every precaution to avoid having your identity stolen.

In this case, an identity protection product like Experian IdentityWorks is vital to keep an eye on any inquiries or new accounts on your credit report that you don't recognize. You should also call the IRS Identity Protection Unit at 1-800-908-4490.

8. Get a New Wallet

While I loved my wallet, my mother tried to console me by suggesting that now I had the opportunity to go shopping for a new one. After you've taken care of all the necessary steps, treat yourself to a new wallet—and vow to be more vigilant about protecting it when you're out and about.

It's also a good idea to assess what you carry. It's a good idea to minimize the number of cards and items you carry in case your wallet is ever lost or stolen again.

Here are some additional resources to check out:

  • What to Do If Your Identity Is Stolen
  • How Stolen Information from Your Car Can Lead to Identity Theft
  • How Much Your Personal Information Is Selling for on the Dark Web
  • How to Replace a Social Security Card


How do you respond to I lost my wallet? ›

12 Steps to Recover a Lost or Stolen Wallet
  1. Retrace your steps and search for your lost wallet. ...
  2. List everything you keep inside your wallet. ...
  3. Call your bank. ...
  4. Call your credit card company. ...
  5. Freeze your credit. ...
  6. Change your passwords and enable 2FA. ...
  7. Update auto-pay accounts. ...
  8. File a police report.
Jun 1, 2023

What action should you take immediately to protect yourself if your wallet has been lost or stolen? ›

What to Do if Your Wallet Is Lost or Stolen
  1. Cancel your debit and credit cards. Credit or debit accounts should be closed as soon as possible. ...
  2. Freeze your credit. ...
  3. File a police report. ...
  4. Set up fraud alerts. ...
  5. Update your auto-pay accounts. ...
  6. Keep an eye on all of your accounts. ...
  7. Replace what's been lost:
Jun 20, 2023

What happens if my AARP credit card is lost or stolen? ›

If you or your household member lost your card or it's been stolen or damaged, we'll gladly replace it with a new one free of charge. Don't worry; only your name and membership number are associated with your membership card. No financial or sensitive personal data is associated with your card.

Is it bad to take money from a lost wallet? ›

Most states make it a theft crime to keep lost, mislaid, or misdelivered property without using reasonable measures to find the owner. Even though you did not steal the money by taking it directly from its owner, you are holding the money belonging to another and not trying to return it.

How do you respond when someone says they lost something? ›

What to say to someone who has been bereaved
  1. Say how sorry you are. ...
  2. Share a memory. ...
  3. Offer them space to talk. ...
  4. Tell them however they feel is OK. ...
  5. Recognise how hard it is for them. ...
  6. Ask if there is anything they need. ...
  7. Tell them you're thinking of them. ...
  8. Sometimes you don't need to say anything.

How do you respond to a lose? ›

The Best Things to Say to Someone in Grief
  1. I am so sorry for your loss.
  2. I wish I had the right words, just know I care.
  3. I don't know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way I can.
  4. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.
  5. My favorite memory of your loved one is…

What if my wallet is stolen and I need to fly? ›

Call the Airline Regarding Your ID

You can still file a report even if you're not sure where your wallet was lost. You may still be allowed to fly without your ID. Just arrive at security earlier than you usually would in order to undergo identification verification.

What would be the top 3 actions that you could take to prevent ID theft? ›

Help Prevent Identity Theft
  • Keep Your Personal Information Secure. ...
  • Monitor Your Credit Reports, Bank and Credit Accounts. ...
  • Ask Questions Before You Share Your Information.

What to do when everything is stolen? ›

What to Do If You Lose It All
  1. Don't panic. First of all, take a breath. ...
  2. Ask for help. ...
  3. File a police report. ...
  4. Gather critical information. ...
  5. Replace your passport. ...
  6. Cancel debit and credit cards. ...
  7. Rearrange travel plans. ...
  8. Replace travel gear.

Are you liable for lost or stolen credit cards? ›

What to Do If Credit Card Theft Happens to You. In the event that your credit card is stolen in the United States, federal law limits the liability of cardholders to $50, regardless of the amount charged on the card by the unauthorized user.

Can someone use my lost credit card? ›

Scammers can use a lost credit card to make fraudulent purchases. But they can also use the information on your card to scam your lender or bank into giving them access to your funds or even opening new accounts in your name.

What happens if I lost my credit card and someone used it? ›

Call — or get on the mobile app — and report the loss or theft to the bank or credit union that issued the card as soon as possible. Federal law says you're not responsible to pay for charges or withdrawals made without your permission if they happen after you report the loss.

Should I panic if I lost my wallet? ›

Don't Panic

Even banks and debit cards will generally limit your losses for unauthorized charges – and if you contact your bank before any charges occur, you won't be held liable if somehow the thief is still able to make charges.

Would most people return a lost wallet? ›

A recent study found that people across the world are more inclined to give back a lost wallet if there is money inside.

How many lost wallets are returned? ›

In the United States, 57 percent of wallets with money were given back. Mexico and Peru were the only two countries where return rates dropped when wallets held money, but those outliers were not statistically significant.

Why do I do if I lose my wallet? ›

File A Police Report

Filing a report with the police helps prevent fraud when you've lost your wallet. Even if you don't believe the cops will find the thief, file a report. This creates a paper trail, which can be instrumental in disputing any potential fraud with creditors, credit bureaus and insurance companies.

How do you console someone who lost something precious? ›

Ideas for Writing Condolence Messages to a Friend
  1. “I know there are no words that can ease your pain. ...
  2. “Thinking of you during this difficult time.”
  3. “Sending healing prayers and comfort during this tough time.”
  4. “You're not alone. ...
  5. “My heart goes out to you for the loss of your dear friend.
May 26, 2022

How do you tell someone you found their wallet? ›

The driver's license, credit cards and any retail rewards cards can help. Just call the number on the credit cards or rewards cards and provide the name or account number. They should have a contact number for the owner and can pass along the location of the wallet.

What do you do if you lost your purse? ›

File a report with your local police department. They'll want to know when and how your wallet or purse was stolen, what it looked like and what was in it.


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