The loss of your wallet can be a very frightening experience. Most people carry credit cards, debit cards, driver’s licenses and cash in their wallets. It is critical to act promptly in order to minimize your monetary loss, hassle and worry once you realize your wallet is truly missing.
Your first action should be to notify the police in the city or town where the wallet was stolen or lost. Usually, you will need to appear in person at the police station to file an incident report. Be sure to get the number of the report and an official copy of the report when it is available. Making an official police report likely will not result in finding your wallet, but it will serve to protect your interests should you become the victim of identity fraud.
Next, you should contact the banks and credit card issuers to notify them of the loss of your ATM/debit card and credit cards. You should close the existing accounts, and open new ones to prevent fraudulent use from that point forward. Your liability on credit cards is limited to $50 each under federal law, but if you report the missing card before it is used, your liability is reduced to zero dollars. ATM and debit cards must be reported missing within two business days to limit liability to $50. If you wait longer than two days, your liability limit could be as high as $500 per card, if unauthorized transfers of your funds take place. Waiting for more than 60 days to report the loss could subject you to much higher losses, without a specific limitation.
As you work through your notification process, keep a record of each person you speak to at each institution, including the day and time. Follow up the conversations with an e-mail or letter to the issuer to give you further evidence that you notified each party.
The next part of the notification process is to contact the three national Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs), and ask each of them to place a “fraud alert” on your credit report. Although each of the three CRAs is required to notify the other two of the fraud alert, it does not hurt to notify all of them yourself. The fraud alert means the agencies should contact you before any new accounts are opened in your name, or if changes are made to existing accounts.
Here are the phone numbers and websites of the three agencies:
- Equifax: 888-766-0008 — www.equifax.com
- Experian: 888-397-3742 — www.experian.com
- TransUnion: 888-909-8872 — www.transunion.com
After you have placed a fraud alert on your file with the three CRAs, you will be entitled to a free credit report. If you had previously ordered your free annual report within the last year, you are entitled to another free report with this alert. We suggest that you wait a week or two to request a report from one of the three CRAs. Then stagger the request of the reports from the other two agencies over a period of a month or two. This should give you the benefit of monitoring your credit over an extended period of time after the loss you have experienced. For more information regarding this topic, please contact Henssler Financial at 770-429-9166 or [email protected].