You’re on a wonderful vacation enjoying all the sights, sounds, and refreshments this magical place has to offer. Whether it's Munich, Venice, or Savannah, GA, all is going right and it feels like a fantasy. But then, you are jolted back to reality. Something is not right. You’re missing something. Did you leave it on the bar, is it in the canals, or did someone swipe it from you while you were enjoying the views? You’re not sure how, but you are sure that you are missing your wallet. And not just your wallet, but everything inside it: credit cards, bank cards, IDs, cash. This is now a disaster! Or does it have to be?
We’ve all been there. Stuck in a moment of panic where it seems like the future of our trip, our finances, and our relaxed vacation mindset is in peril. There are concrete steps you can take to help you mitigate fraud that could harm your credit, minimize financial losses, and ease your panic back to a more mellow state. Here are some next steps to help you get back on track, back to vacationing, and back home after losing your wallet while traveling.
- Try and be calm
We realize this is easier said than done, but there is a very good reason for this advice. Take a few deep breaths and try to avoid full panic. Now, make a list of what was in your wallet, so you know what you have lost, what you need to replace, and what could potentially be used for fraud. This list will be useful as you go through the steps to follow and will help inform you on what you might need to do and which you can probably skip. For example, maybe you didn’t have your bank card in your wallet and left it at the hotel with your passport. That would be a relief and give you less work to do and more time to enjoy the rest of your vacation.
- Contact your bank and credit card companies
If you do have your bank card, credit card(s), a check, or any other financial information in your wallet, you should contact these institutions immediately. If you know your log-in info and bank and manage your credit cards online, you should immediately log-in to your accounts and lock your cards. This will help keep them from being actively usable.
Next, you should call the 24-hr emergency lines for your bank and credit cards to report them as lost or stolen. It is smart to go through the last few transactions with them to see if anyone has tried to use the card. Hopefully, your wallet was found by a good Samaritan or lost in the sea. But, in case it may have been stolen or found by someone who sees a chance at a quick score, you need to notify your bank and credit card companies that your cards are missing to help protect against fraud.
With a debit card, if you report it missing before it is used fraudulently, you will not be liable for any subsequent fraudulent charges. If unauthorized charges have already been made but you have reported the card lost or stolen within two business days, your liability should be limited to $50. Similarly, for your credit cards, if you report them as lost or stolen before any fraudulent charges are made, you will not owe any future fraudulent charges. If they have been used for unauthorized charges before you can contact the card company, you’re protected by U.S.federal law limiting your liability to $50, as long as you report the loss or theft.
Both your bank and credit card companies should cancel your cards on the spot and offer to send you new cards with new numbers. This will help nullify any future fraudulent charges someone may try and make with your lost cards, rendering them useless.
After you return home and have received your new cards, check your statements to find a list of subscriptions and bills that are automatically paid by these accounts. The numbers have now changed and you will have to update your information for these bills in order to make sure there are no hiccups in your payments.
If you anticipate having trouble finding money to use for the rest of the trip, you should ask either institution if they could help you with an emergency cash advance.
- Contact the local authorities
After calling your financial institutions to help you mitigate any immediate loss, you should contact the police to report your wallet as lost or stolen. While it is unlikely that they will find and return it to you, a police report may be useful to have later on if someone tries to steal your identity.
In the same vein, when you return home, if you find that fraud or attempts at fraud have occurred as a result of this loss, make sure to report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at IdentityTheft.gov.
- Contact/Visit your embassy
If you are on an international trip and lost your passport along with your wallet, the embassy should be the next stop on your list. You should try to replace your passport as soon as you can. Find the local U.S. Embassy and tell them your passport was stolen. They should be able to help you replace your passport. You may need to bring a passport photo with you for your replacement.
- Contact family/friends at home
If you don’t have spending money for the rest of your trip or even enough money to get you home, call someone back home to help you. They should be able to wire you money through a money transfer service.
- Put a fraud alert on credit/lock your credit
Next, contact one of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and put a fraud alert on your credit report. This will put a one-year alert on your credit report that will encourage lenders to take steps to verify that it is you requesting credit before granting it. You only need to contact one of the three bureaus to put this in place, as that bureau will transmit your request to the other two. To take even more precaution, we also recommend locking or freezing your credit reports.
A credit report lock or credit lock has the same impact on your credit reports as a security freeze, but isn’t exactly the same. Credit report locks are desktop or mobile app-enabled and allow you to lock and unlock your credit reports using identity verification techniques such as usernames, passwords, and Touch ID or Face ID technology.
A credit lock will not hurt your credit. It will help prevent access to your credit report to open new credit accounts. Since potential creditors can’t check your credit report, a lock helps better protect against identity thieves opening new accounts in your name. If you legitimately want to apply for credit, you will need to unlock your credit report.
You must lock your credit reports separately at each nationwide credit bureau (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).
To learn more about fraud alerts, credit report locks, and security freezes you can read this resource.
- Contact your health insurance
If you were carrying around your health insurance card in your wallet, you have another call to make. You will need to replace this card as there could be some risk of fraud down the line. You want to contact your insurance company to make sure they are aware that your card was lost or stolen, in case someone does try to use your identity to get medical or dental care and potentially leave you on the hook for the costs.
- Get an appointment to replace your driver’s license
Once you get home, if you lost your driver’s license in this ordeal, you may need to set up an appointment at the DMV to get it replaced. Luckily, it may not have to come to this. In many states, you will have the ability to renew your license online, for a fee.
- Consider a credit monitoring/identity theft solution
Taking the above steps should help minimize the chance of immediate financial loss and fraud. But completing these steps doesn’t mean you are fully out of the woods. At least some of your information is out there and could be used for nefarious deeds in the future. Depending on who gets ahold of your credentials, it could end up living on the dark web to be acquired and traded for use in fraudulent activity. So, while it is always good practice to be diligent in checking your financial accounts and requesting your credit report to find any abnormalities, it can also be a lot of manual work.
With features like Credit Report Lock and Lost Wallet Vault & Assistance, enrolling in an identity theft protection solution like ID Watchdog® can help lighten your burden to better avoid and help you manage future incidents. You’ll be alerted to potentially suspicious activity and enjoy greater peace of mind knowing you don't have to face identity theft alone.
Learn more about ID Watchdog identity theft protection at https://www.idwatchdog.com/home.
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