Identity theft is a scary crime. The idea of some unknown person using your personal information to ruin your financial life and even possibly commit serious crimes is intimidating. While the threat of identity theft looms over everyone at any time, losing your purse or wallet makes the problem worse.
Now, your private and personal information is in the hands of a complete stranger. You have no idea if they are honest or a criminal ready to use your credit card to purchase a first class ticket to Fiji. Luckily there are ways to limit the damage should your purse or wallet ever turn up missing.
Know what is missing
The first most important thing is to determine what exactly is missing. You should always keep a file of your credit card information, including account number and phone numbers in a safe, secure location apart from your wallet or purse. In the event that you find these articles missing contact all those companies immediately!
The sooner you contact your credit card companies and notify them of the theft the better your chances of preventing fraud. If your check card, ATM card, or debit card are lost or stolen contact the bank immediately. In the United States you are protected by Federal Regulation E in the event someone uses your card fraudulently, but you have a short window in which to notify your financial institution.
Limit what you carry
Wallets only have so much room, purses a little more, but somehow people manage to cram them full of unneeded cards, receipts, and bills. Pay careful attention to only carry around the things you actually need so that in the event of loss or theft you are not scrambling to contact several companies.
You will have enough to worry about with only a few companies to contact.
In addition, limiting what you carry will also limit the amount of information that a potential identity thief will be able to get their hands on. A great example is your social security card. There are very few reasons to carry that in your purse or wallet, but many people do anyway.
Contact the credit bureau
After discovering that your purse or wallet are missing and taking into account what is missing contact the credit bureaus. You only have to contact one of the big three, but be sure to tell them to inform the other two.
The credit bureau will put an alert on your credit file to help minimize the damage that a thief can do to your credit report. The alert will only last so long though, so be sure to remember when the alert expires in case you need to call back and have it reapplied.
Contact the authorities
The bank probably already mentioned this to you, but you should put in a report at the police department. While there is not always a whole lot the authorities can do about identity theft it does create an important record. And who knows, maybe they will discover who stole the purse or wallet.
Sign up for a credit monitoring service
After taking all of the immediately necessary steps to help minimize the damage of having your purse or wallet stolen you will want to know if anyone tries to use your identity. Knowing when it happens will help to tackle the problem immediately.
One of the scariest things about identity theft is that it can be happening for months and even years before the victim finds out. Having a credit monitoring system in place will make sure you find out about it quickly.
There are many credit services like this available, but the safest bet is to use one of the big three directly. Equifax has a great service available at www.equifax.com for as little as $49.95 annually.
Identity theft is a faceless and scary crime. Take the appropriate steps so that in the event that your information is stolen the potential damage from identity theft is kept to a minimum. Losing your purse or wallet is bad enough, don’t lose your name as well.