Recently my wife thought she had lost the wallet from her purse. There were only a handful of possibilities as to what happened, and of course I started thinking about identity theft and stolen credit card numbers. To help yourself out, there are several proactive things you can do to protect yourself, minimize risk, and minimize the inconvenience. You might not realize what a problem it can be until it’s happened to you.
Be prepared. What’s in your wallet or purse? Would you be able to easily make a list of what you had that you lost? Similar to losing a laptop or phone, sometimes the value of information is worth more than the thing itself. Social Security card? A slip of paper with passwords on it? A gym membership card attached to your bank account? It’ll be difficult to protect yourself fully if you’re not sure.
Take a picture. A quick and simple way to catalog everything is just take it all out, put it on the table, and take a picture (or use a scanner.) At least you could check the photo, and maybe clean your wallet or purse up at the same time. Make a reminder for yourself to do it evey couple months.
Use reputable providers to begin with. Make sure that your bank, credit card companies, etc. have reasonable policies and protection against theft and loss. Check to see if there are fees and additional requirements as well.
Strong passwords. If any of the cards include access to online resources like bank and credit accoutnts, make sure it’s not easy for someone to use what they found to get at your accounts. Especially if you have the same password for everything. Written down in your wallet.
Have a list. Many cards have information on what to do or what number to call in the event of a problem – which doesn’t help if you don’t have your card. Based on what you have, put together a list of companies and numbers to call, or websites to visit in the event of a loss or breach. Take it a step further and prioritize if needed. That way you can take care of the biggest risks first.
Don’t panic. Act quickly. The more time that passes the harder it may be to minimize the damage. Your credit card company may also have requirements as to how soon they’re notified before liability amounts change.
Some additional things that might be helpful:
- Learn how to replace your Social Security Card: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ss5doc/
- Check recommendations on the FTC’s site: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/index.html
- Know how to notify one of the credit bureaus so that a temporary fraud and security alert can be placed on your identity
U.S. Consumer Services, Equifax Information Services, LLC.
Experian Security Assistance, P.O. Box 72Allen, TX 75013
Relax. Worrying about it won’t help anything. As long as you’ve done what you can, well, that’s as much as you can. Being prepared and taking a proactive approach will help you walk through the process when you have the luxury of time, allowing you to do what’s needed, when needed.