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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Lost and Found: GONE in 6 seconds: Your Wallet!

Who steals my purse, steals trash...

~ Shakespeare (Iago, Othello, Act 3, Scene 3)

Even if you've never experienced it, your imagination can conjure that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. You reach into your pocket, bag, drawer or center console of your car...and grasp thin air. Your wallet is gone. Not "darn, I left it on my dresser", but "ohmygosh, mymoneymycardsmyidentity, OhNoooooooooo!!!!!"

If you've pared down your wallet and only keep the essentials, you're already a step ahead. Last week, we reviewed the three main ways to keep an inventory of what's in your wallet to protect yourself in the event of a worst case scenario. Whether you:
  • Use a Wallet Protection Services;
  • Create a Photographic Inventory (via photocopying or scanning); or
  • Maintain a Digital Database (in a spreadsheet or financial program)
you will still have to make some calls--either to the wallet protection services to set the wheels in motion, or to each of the card-issuing companies/agencies whose contact numbers you wrote down when following last week's advice. Next...

Your wallet is not your child, spouse, parent or pet. Losing your wallet is an inconvenience and having one stolen is a violation, but the precautions you've taken up until now will help you get on the road to recovery quickly. Breathe deeply, call a friend to keep you company as you go through the calling process, and remember that getting mad will just slow down the process.

Facing a potentially lost or stolen wallet, I've seen people go through those five stages of grief, including bargaining. Carefully retrace your steps, check under the cushions, in pockets and darkly-lined bags and on the floorboard of your car, but even if you've prayed to St. Anthony, wished on a star or tried to be Buddhist about it (recognizing that attachment to possessions causes pain), there comes a point at which you have to accept your wallet is gone and take action.

But first, be cautious. If you get a call from someone claiming to have found your wallet, it could be good news, or it could be the thief, scamming for a bigger payoff. If it isn't showing on your Caller ID, ask them to supply a phone number so you can call them right back (from a quieter location, with a stronger cell connection... whatever it takes). If possible, type the number (with area code) into Google to identify who is really calling you.

Ask specific questions regarding how/when/where they found your wallet. Finally, do NOT agree to meet at your home or theirs. Arrange to meet at a nearby police station; if that's not possible, select another location that is very public, preferably a bank lobby or somewhere else with security cameras.

Is Paper Doll cynical? Perhaps, but I'd rather we were all cynical and safe, than endangered Pollyannas.

This may take a while--you might want to ask for the afternoon off of work, and/or arrange for someone else to handle carpool or watching the kids. The more you had in your wallet, the longer you will be on hold.

Time is of the essence; as long as you contact your credit card/debit card issuers, the most for which you can be held liable is $50 (each), but a fast response should mean you'll owe no money at all. Once you're sure the wallet is gone, don't hesitate!

Even if you think you threw out your wallet with the fast food tray, a police report is essential in case you face any future incidents of identity theft. (For more on protecting yourself against identity theft and recovering from it, check out Paper Doll's series, starting here.)

Depending on your community, you may be able to fill out a police report by phone, or they might have a patrol officer in your area. Conversely, you might have to go down to the police station. Eat first; as with emergency rooms, you might be waiting a long time.

Take a legal pad and be sure to write down the date of the report, the report or case number, the full name and badge number of the police officer who took the claim, and a contact number for the officer or at least the department. If possible, try to convince them to let you leave with a copy (even an unofficial photocopy) of the report.

Armed with the wallet inventory we discussed last week, call each credit card company or bank that issued each of your cards. For each call, note of the following on your notepad:
  • The name (Discover, Chase Visa, etc.) and last four digits of the card number
  • The date of your call/card cancellation date
  • The name and, ID number of the representative to whom you spoke
  • A direct number for follow-up calls and confirmations
  • The date and method by which your replacement card should arrive
  • Any special information the representative imparts
Depending on what was in your wallet (i.e., spare checks, your ATM card, etc.), you will probably want to cancel your checking and savings accounts and open new ones. The bank should link the accounts so that checks YOU wrote on the old account will still clear, but confirm this with the bank.

As with the cards, write down the name of the person who helped you and get a contact number. If you have a good relationship with your branch manager, you may want to handle this in person rather than calling, to get the tender loving care you need right now.

Your bank should also contact Telecheck and any other check confirmation companies to make sure that "new" checks printed with someone else's address won't be accepted.

Special note: Do you have automatic withdrawals?

Do you have automatic withdrawals (from either your credit card or your bank account) for your mortgage/rent, utilities, credit card payments, gym memberships, Netflix/Blockbuster, IRAs or other investments, or anything else on an ongoing basis)? If so, ask your bank and credit card companies whether they will link the already-in-place automatic withdrawals to your new accounts or if you will have to contact each company to make alternate arrangements.

If you have to do it yourself, review your financial files to see which expenses are drawn on which cards or accounts. Then, call or go online to change the withdrawals to reflect the new account numbers.


Equifax 800-525-6285
Experian 800-397-3742
TransUnion 800-680-7289

If you're shopping for a house, car or other type of loan, or if you're seeking employment, a credit freeze won't work, but if none of these situations apply, request a credit freeze from each agency and be sure to get a Freeze ID or PIN from each. Keep an eye on your credit reports at AnnualCreditReports.com, and again, if you think you've become the victim of identity theft, review the advice here.


In most locales, it's illegal to operate a motor vehicle without your driver's license in your possession. Keep a copy of the police report with you if you must drive, and try to call or get to the Department of Motor Vehicles within two business days of losing your wallet. Some DMV's keep photos on record, but if you hated your picture and are willing to spend an extra $5 or $10, they'll let you get a spiffy, new photo.

You will need a new health insurance card; if you carry your car insurance in your wallet instead of your glove compartment, call your auto insurance company too. Again, write down the names of the people you talked to, their contact information and the method and date by which new cards should be expected.

As discussed, shouldn't have been carrying your Social Security card in your wallet, but if you had other military or government ID, rush to replace these, as well. Usually, it's more important to protect yourself financially, by making bank and credit card calls. However, if you are in the military and need to get on base or might be called upon to deploy quickly, or are a military dependent, make this step a higher priority.

Go through your inventory of non-major, non-ID cards (like store cards, price clubs, auto clubs, library, etc.), report the loss/theft and get replacement cards. If necessary, supply new credit card and/or banking information to keep accounts current.

If you left a key in your wallet (even though Paper Doll peskily warned you NOT to), call a locksmith and have your entire house re-keyed--immediately. (If you rent, alert your landlord.) Even if you didn't have a key in your wallet, if you are a victim of theft of your wallet, you might be targeted by the bad guys as a further victim. Check your home security, keep the outside lights on and be cautious entering and exiting your home and workplace and approaching your car.

It's dangerous to walk around without any cash or spending power. If you have any ID at all, or your bank branch knows you, write and cash a check (from your new account) for enough mad money to get you through the next few days. If you have no identification at all, ask a friend to cash a check for you.


Losing or having a wallet stolen is inconvenient, but if you take the proper precautions, it doesn't have to be a misery.

posted on: 8/5/2008 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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Julie Bestry, President of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN, is a Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker and author. Julie helps overwhelmed individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems.

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