Your purse or wallet can be invaluable. It doesn’t just hold cash, but also IDs, credit and debit cards, and other important documents.
Now, you’ve probably lost your wallet at least once or heard of someone losing their wallet or purse. Understandably, you’d be worried. Thieves can use the wealth of personal information here to steal not just your money, but at worst, even your identity. So, it’s important to act fast.
We’ve checked official pages from the government and other organizations to come up with this step-by-step guide on what to do if your purse or wallet is stolen. We also gathered the best tips from some online security publications.
Don’t leave even a small window of opportunity for thieves to commit crimes using your information. Keep reading until the very end to find out that one extra step you can take to bring your protection to the next level.
What should you do if your purse or wallet is lost or stolen?
With the amount of personal information they hold, a missing or stolen purse or wallet can be extremely worrying.
Here are the steps you should take if your wallet or purse is stolen so you can minimize the damage that thieves may cause.
1. Retrace your steps
If you suddenly realize that your purse or wallet is missing, don’t panic. Instead, take a deep breath and start retracing your steps.
This will help you determine where you last saw your wallet or your purse, giving you a better chance of finding it. This is especially effective if you can remember where you were when you first noticed the item was missing.
2. Check surveillance footage
If you were at a store or a public place when you noticed that your purse or wallet was missing, see if they have any surveillance footage. This can help identify a suspect in a crime.
Often, businesses will have cameras set up. Authorities can review the footage to identify the perpetrator if a crime occurs. It can also provide investigators with valuable information that may help lead to a suspect.
3. Go to the police
If you’ve been the victim of any crime, filing a police report as soon as possible is important. This will help ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. It will also provide you with important documentation should you need to file an insurance claim or take legal action.
Start by contacting your local police department to file a report. You’ll need to provide them with basic information about what happened, such as the time and location of the incident, as well as a description of any injuries or damage that occurred.
With the report filed, you’ll have a copy for your record. If you have any questions, the police department should be able to provide you with more information on the next steps in the process.
4. Track your phone
It’s no secret that our phones contain a wealth of personal information. Because of this, it’s not surprising that they’ve become one of the main targets for thieves.
While there’s no guaranteed way to prevent your phone from being stolen, there are a few steps you can take to make it more difficult for thieves to access your personal information.
One of the most effective ways to do this is to track your phone. Several apps allow you to track your phone’s location in real-time, making it easier to recover your device if it’s lost or stolen.
In addition, many of these apps also allow you to remotely lock or wipe your phone, further protecting your personal information.
5. Cancel your debit card
It’s also important to call your bank to report the incident and ask for the suspension of your debit card.
The bank should be able to issue you a replacement within a few days. They will also review any recent purchases you’ve made with your card to determine which ones are legitimate transactions.
You must report this as soon as possible so the bank can’t hold you accountable for any fraudulent or illegal transactions made with your card.
6. Freeze your checkbook
If your checkbook was inside your stolen purse, then ask your bank to freeze it as well. This will prevent the thieves from making any transactions or purchases in your name.
Similarly, the bank may review any recent transactions you may have had to check which ones are legit and which aren’t. If you want to be extra careful, just close your account altogether and open a new one.
7. Cancel your credit cards
With your debit cards canceled and your checking accounts frozen, the next step you should take is to cancel your credit cards. It will prevent thieves from using it for fraudulent or illegal transactions.
Just make sure you report it as soon as possible. The Fair Credit Billing Act says that financial institutions cannot hold you accountable for any amount lost because of credit card fraud, as long as you report the incident before the thief uses your card.
If they use it before you report the incident, the Act limits your liability to only $50.
8. Request for a fraud alert
Once you’re done with the steps above, it’s time to take extra measures to protect your identity.
One of the first things you can do is ask for a fraud alert. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and tells them they should take extra steps to verify your identity before extending credit in your name.
You can place an initial fraud alert on your credit file for free, which will stay on your file for 90 days. You can also renew the fraud alert for another 90 days after that.
To place a fraud alert:
- Contact any one of the three national credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion – and ask them to put an alert on your file. You will need to provide them with some basic information about yourself, including your Social Security number, date of birth and current address.
- Once the credit bureau has received your request, it will contact the other two credit bureaus to place an alert on their files as well.
- You should then receive a confirmation from each of the three credit bureaus letting you know that an alert has been placed on your file.
If you decide to apply for credit in the future, you may be asked to provide additional information to verify your identity before your application can be approved.
9. Freeze your credit
Another way to help protect yourself from identity theft is to freeze your credit. This means that creditors will not be able to access your credit report, making it more difficult for them to open new accounts in your name.
To freeze your credit, you will need to contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies again and request a freeze. There is usually a fee associated with this service, but it can be worth it if it helps to prevent you from becoming a victim of identity theft.
You should also keep in mind that freezing your credit will not prevent you from using your existing accounts. However, it may make it more difficult to apply for new loans or lines of credit.
For this reason, you should only freeze your credit if you are sure that you do not need to access any new lines of credit in the near future.
10. File a report with the FTC
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency. If you’ve been the victim of identity theft, you should also file a report with the FTC, as they maintain a database of identity theft reports that law enforcement can use to investigate crimes.
To file a report, you can either call their toll-free number at 1-877-438-4338 or visit their website When filing a report, you will need to provide details like:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your Social Security number and other personal information.
- How your personal information was misused along with relevant documentation, such as police reports or credit card statements
Afterward, the FTC will give you a case number that you can use to track the status of your report. You should also keep a copy of the report for your own record.
11. Make a list of the things in your wallet
With all the steps above covered, the only thing you can really do now is to wait and start replacing the items that were stolen with your purse or wallet.
That’s why it can be helpful to have a list of the things that were in it. This should give you an idea of what things you’ll have to replace, such as credit cards and your driver’s license.
If you don’t have a list of the things in your wallet, now is a good time to make one. Make sure you update this as you add more items to your new wallet.
12. Get a new driver’s license
If your driver’s license was stolen with your wallet, you’ll need to get a new one. You can do this by visiting your local DMV office and filling out a form.
You may need to provide proof of identity, such as a birth certificate or passport, and pay a small fee. If you don’t have all the necessary documentation, the DMV may be able to help you obtain it.
In some states, you can also get a new driver’s license online.
13. Replace your credit and debit cards
If you haven’t already, now’s a great time to replace your stolen debit and credit cards. Just make sure that your stolen cards have already been canceled before you do so.
At the same time, if you have any automatic payments set up, such as for your cell phone bill or gym membership, you’ll also need to update your payment information. This can usually be done by logging into your account online and updating your credit card information.
14. Replace your Social Security card
If your Social Security card was in your wallet when it was stolen, you’d need to get a new one. You can visit your local Social Security office or call their toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213.
You’ll need to provide a proof of identity, such as a birth certificate or passport, and you may need to fill out an application. The good news is there’s no fee for replacing a Social Security card.
15. Call your health insurance company
If you have health insurance, there’s a good chance your insurance card was in your wallet when it was stolen. If this is the case, you’ll need a new card from your insurance company.
You can usually do this by calling the customer service number on your policy. You’ll need to provide your name, address, and policy number, and you may need to verify your identity with a Social Security number or date of birth.
Once you have a new insurance card, keep it in a safe place so that it doesn’t get lost or stolen again.
16. Change your locks
If you’re concerned that the person who stole your wallet may try to break into your home, you may want to change your locks. This can usually be done by hiring a locksmith or by doing it yourself.
If you do it yourself, be sure to follow the instructions carefully so that you don’t damage your door.
17. Change your passwords
If you have any passwords stored in your wallet, such as for online banking or email accounts, you should change them as soon as possible. This will help prevent someone from accessing your accounts and stealing your personal information.
When choosing a new password, be sure to make it something difficult to guess but easy for you to remember. You may also consider using a password manager to keep track of all your different passwords.
18. Monitor your accounts
It’s important to keep an eye on your bank and credit card accounts after your wallet is stolen. You can spot any unauthorized charges quickly and report them to the proper authorities.
Be on the lookout for any strange activity, such as withdrawals from ATMs that you didn’t make or charges for items that you don’t recognize.
You can also order a copy of your credit report after your wallet is stolen. This way, you can check for any suspicious activity, such as new accounts that you didn’t open or inquiries from creditors that you don’t recognize.
If you see anything on your credit report that doesn’t look right, or you notice any transactions that you didn’t make, you should contact the credit reporting agency and dispute the information as soon as possible
19. Sign up for a credit monitoring service
Identity theft can happen in a number of ways, including through data breaches, physical theft, and even by going through your trash.
Once hackers or thieves steal your information, they can use it to open new accounts, make purchases, or even apply for loans in your name. As a result, you may end up with damaged credit, unwanted bills, and even legal problems.
FTC records show that in 2021 alone, there were almost 1.5 million cases of reported identity theft.
The best way to protect yourself from identity theft is to get identity theft protection. It can help monitor your transactions for suspicious activity and provide you resources to quickly recover if someone steals your information.
There are a few different ways to get protection, but one of the best ways is to sign up for a credit monitoring service. This can help you keep track of your credit report and score and alert you to any changes or activities that may cause concern.
While you can obtain your credit report and score for free from several sources, a credit monitoring service can provide more comprehensive coverage and protection. For a monthly fee, you can sign up for a service that will not only monitor your credit report and score, but also provide tools and resources to help you understand and improve your credit.
In addition, many credit monitoring services offer fraud protection and identity theft resolution services. That can give you peace of mind, knowing that you’re being proactive about protecting your financial information.
How can you prevent your wallet or purse from getting stolen?
No one ever wants to lose their wallet, but it happens. Whether you misplace it or it’s stolen, a lost wallet can be a major inconvenience. It can also cause a lot of financial and legal headaches.
So what can you do to prevent losing your wallet? Here are a few tips:
1. Keep it close
Avoid putting your purse or wallet in a back pocket, behind your body, or in a place where it can easily be forgotten or stolen. Instead, keep it close to your body in a front or jacket pocket. That way, you’ll be less likely to lose it and more likely to notice if it’s gone.
2. Carry only the essentials
Leave your credit cards at home unless you’re planning on using them, and only carry the cash you need for the day.
Remember, you don’t need to carry your Social Security card or birth certificate everywhere you go. Unless you really need them, leave them at home where they’ll be safe.
3. Have backup cash or cards
If you lose your wallet, having backup cash and cards can help minimize the inconvenience.
Keep a spare credit card in your sock drawer or another safe place at home, and keep some extra cash in a hidden compartment in your car. That way, you’ll have something to fall back on if your wallet goes missing.
4. Get a tracking device
If you’re really worried about losing your wallet, consider getting a tracking device like the Tile Mate. This handy little gadget attaches to your wallet and can help you track it down if it ever goes missing.
5. Split things up
If you’re carrying a lot of cash or important documents, consider splitting them up into different wallets or even hiding them in different places. That way if you lose one wallet, you won’t lose everything.
The bottom line
If your purse or wallet is ever stolen, then it’s important that you take proactive steps to minimize the damage that the thieves can cause.
Immediately call your bank and credit card providers to cancel any cards that were in them. Afterward, file a police report, request a fraud alert and a freeze on your credit, and closely monitor your accounts for suspicious movements.
Of course, the best solution is still prevention. Signing up for a credit monitoring service is a great way to monitor your credit and protect yourself from identity theft and any damages that may come from it.