Published: May 26, 2023
3 Minutes

10 Steps to Take If Your Wallet Is Lost or Stolen


Dan Rafter

Contributing writer

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A woman lost her wallet - a reminder of the importance of taking the necessary steps if your wallet is lost or stolen.

Losing your wallet is alarming and stressful. If you’ve misplaced it — or worse, if it’s been stolen — you need to know what you should do. Whatever the reason, there are important steps you need to take to protect your personal data if your wallet is ever lost or stolen. To begin, get powerful identity theft protection like LifeLock to help keep your finances, credit, and reputation safe.

While it may be inconvenient and frustrating to cancel cards, contact credit agencies, or visit the DMV, our guide will help you to focus on what to do when you lose your wallet to help ensure you stay protected against ​​credit card fraud and other scams.

Here’s what to do when you lose your wallet:

1. Retrace your steps

The process of canceling cards and changing accounts can be time-consuming and frustrating, so the first step is to make sure that your wallet is actually lost. Where should you look? Start by checking cars, jackets, restaurants, offices — any place where you might have misplaced your wallet rather than lost it.

If you are certain it's lost, it is time to start protecting your accounts and keeping an eye out for the signs of identity theft.

2. Contact your bank

The most important thing to do when you confirm your wallet is missing is to contact your bank so that your debit card can be canceled. You will be issued a replacement card with a new number, and the bank will review your recent purchases to identify any unauthorized activity.

It is important to act swiftly so that you are not held responsible for purchases that are made without your permission. If you report your debit card missing within two business days, you’ll usually only be responsible for a maximum of $50 worth of unauthorized purchases. Most banks won’t charge you for this process.

If you wait more than two days and fewer than 60 to report your card missing, you could be responsible for up to $500 in fraudulent purchases. What happens if you make your report after 60 days? Then you can be held responsible for every illegal purchase made with your card.

To make this call, log into the website of your bank or financial institution. You should find an 800 number dedicated to reporting lost or stolen cards.

 Here are some of the numbers for some of the bigger banks to report a lost or stolen card:

  • Bank of America: 1-800-432-1000
  • Chase: 1-800-935-9935
  • Citibank: 1-800-950-5114
  • Wells Fargo: 1-800-869-3557
  • TD Bank: 1-888-751-9000
  • US Bank: 1-800-285-8585
  • PNC Bank: 1-888-762-2265

Your bank will also be able to freeze your checking account and cancel checkbooks.

3. Inform credit card agencies

Similar to calling the bank, you should also contact any credit companies that you hold accounts with to ​cancel those cards. If you act quickly and can report your card as lost or possibly stolen, then you will not be held responsible for any purchases that are made fraudulently after that point.

If a thief does use your credit card before you report it stolen, you’ll only be responsible for a maximum of $50 of unauthorized purchases.

If you need to call your credit card company, here are the numbers of the four largest ones:

  • American Express: 1-800-528-4800
  • Visa: 1-800-847-2911
  • MasterCard: 1-800-627-8372
  • Discover: 1-800-347-2683

4. Check for unusual account activity

After securing your existing accounts, the next step is to make sure that no one is using your identity to open new lines of credit or apply for loans. This can be done by regularly checking your credit reports.

There are three main credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can order copies of your credit reports using ​Annual Credit Report or ​Equifax. Both services may offer at least one free report per year.

Once you have your reports, look them over carefully. If you see credit card accounts or loans that you don’t remember opening, alert the credit bureau immediately. The accounts might be examples of fraudulent activity.

LifeLock membership includes credit monitoring as ​standard to help keep you safe from identity fraud. And if you want comprehensive protection, LifeLock Ultimate Plus has credit monitoring as well as credit reports and scores, with unlimited daily updates from one bureau and an annual update from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

5. Set up fraud alerts

You don’t want thieves stealing your identity and using it to open new credit cards or loans in your name. One of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft is to call one of the three national credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion — to request that they place a fraud alert on your credit report.

You only need to contact one of the bureaus. That bureau then must alert the other two so that they can place their own fraud alerts on your credit reports.

Your fraud alerts will remain in place for 90 days. With an alert in place, lenders and creditors are required to take steps to verify your identity before opening new credit cards or loans in your name. This usually means that if they get a request for a new card or loan in your name, they’ll call you first, making sure that it was you who made the request.

Here are the numbers of the three credit bureaus:

  • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
  • Experian: 1-888-397-3742
  • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

6. File a police report

You might not think that your local police department will want to bother with your stolen wallet. You might also think that filing a report is a waste of time, because the police will likely never find that missing wallet.

But ​filing a police report is actually a key step in protecting your identity.

Acquiring a case number is often required evidence to show to creditors to prove that you are the victim of fraud. The ​Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can provide an Identity Theft Affidavit, which is a form that reports information to creditors and lenders regarding your case of identity theft, but the Affidavit is only available if you have a police report as evidence.

Replacement driver’s licenses and social security cards may also require a police report as proof before they are issued.

7. Change your passwords and enable 2FA

Many accounts, from commercial banks to retailers, are managed online, so the next step is to ensure that the passwords you use are keeping your accounts secure. Only use strong passwords with a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters. Do not use phrases related to yourself or your life, such as the names of pets, and do not use the same password on multiple accounts.

It can be hard to remember strong passwords, so consider using a password manager tool. Not only will these securely store your passwords, but they will also auto-fill forms and even generate new passwords.

Another increasingly common security measure is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). As the name suggests, this type of security requires both your password and verification from your device to prove you are the account holder. Should your password be stolen, the additional requirement of 2FA can prevent a hacker from accessing your account. Not every account will turn on 2FA by default, so make sure that it is active wherever it is available.

8. Review auto-pay services

Eventually, you will receive new payment details as your cards are replaced. Make sure that all your online subscriptions and automatic monthly payments are updated with the new payment method.

This could be a lengthy process if you have a lot of accounts, but it will be worth the effort as it will prevent payment issues from disrupting your services — and avoid any hit to your credit score if repayments are accidentally missed.

9. Get identity theft protection

Even after you’ve canceled your checking account, credit cards, and debit cards, you might still be vulnerable. Thieves can use other cards in your wallet, including your Social Security card, to steal your identity. For this reason, non-essential cards should be left at home and secured in a safe place.

In addition to setting up fraud alerts, you might consider signing up for an identity theft protection program such as a ​​LifeLock Standard. As a LifeLock member, you'll receive Lost Wallet Protection. Once you notice that your wallet is missing, you can call LifeLock at 1-800-416-0599 to report it stolen and the company will help you cancel or replace your credit cards, driver's license, Social Security card, insurance cards, and other items you may have carried in your wallet.

10. List everything in your wallet

Having secured your major financial accounts, you will now need to consider anything else that may have been stored in your wallet, from coffee loyalty cards to health insurance details. 

Make a list of everything you kept in your wallet and identify cards or other details that need to be replaced urgently. This could be a slow and frustrating process, but the risks of identity theft are much worse, so take the time to protect yourself from fraud.

Replace your social security card

Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Thieves love this card because your Social Security number is especially valuable to them. They’ll have a far easier time applying for loans or lines of credit in your name with this information.

If, for whatever reason, you did have your Social Security card in your wallet when it was lost or stolen, you’ll need to order a credit freeze with the three national credit bureaus. This may help prevent a thief from opening new credit under your name, unless you personally remove the freeze. 

You will also need to order a replacement Social Security card. In most cases, the Social Security Administration will give you a new card, but not a new Social Security number. But you might be able to convince the administration to give you a new number if you can prove that someone has used your current number to steal your identity. That’s where filing a police report, and showing a copy of the report as evidence, comes in handy.

Get a new driver’s license

If your driver’s license was in your wallet, you’ll need to replace it. If you don’t, you could face a hefty fine if you’re driving and stopped by a police officer.

You might have to visit your local DMV to do this. The requirements for a new license vary by state, so make sure to check the website of your local DMV to make sure you have the proof of identity you need. Most states will require you to show proof of your residency, usually in the form of a utility or cable bill or some other paperwork with your name on it, along with your birth certificate and Social Security number.

Many states limit how many replacement driver’s licenses you can order in a year, and others will charge a fee to replace a license. However, some states will waive this fee if you can prove that your license was stolen. This, again, is where a copy of a police report is useful.

Keep your personal information secure with LifeLock

Anyone can lose their wallet. It’s often best to carry only essential cards and forms of ID to minimize the number of people you may have to contact to protect your personal and financial information. ​​LifeLock by Norton is powerful identity theft protection that can help you respond quickly and effectively if your wallet is ever lost or stolen. We’ll help you cancel or replace your credit cards, driver’s license, Social Security card, and more. Get ironclad identity protection today.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you lose your wallet, you need to call several financial institutions to protect yourself. Start by calling the bank that issued your debit card, then call the financial institutions that issued your credit cards and checking accounts.

Yes. Call your local police department and file a police report. You can use this report later if you need to order a new driver’s license or Social Security card. Having the report means that you might not have to pay any replacement fees for new cards.

If someone stole your wallet, that person could use the information in it — such as the personal information on your driver’s license or Social Security card — to steal your identity. They can then take out loans in your name or open credit card accounts using your information. By ordering your free credit reports, you can check for new loans or credit card accounts that you know you never took out or applied for.

Visit the websites of the three national credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — to place a fraud alert on your accounts. You can also freeze your credit so that others can’t take out new loans or credit card accounts in your name.

Keep a close eye on your online bank and credit card accounts. If you notice suspicious withdrawals or purchases, someone might be using your credit cards or debit cards to make fraudulent purchases.

Keep a close eye on your online bank and credit card accounts. If you notice suspicious withdrawals or purchases, someone might be using your credit cards or debit cards to make fraudulent purchases.

If you lose your wallet — as opposed to someone stealing it — don't despair. The odds are good that someone will return it to you. A study published in the journal Science in 2019 found that more than 50% of people that found lost wallets contacted the owners of the wallets if those wallets had any cash in them.

Never keep a key to your home, your Social Security card, or your insurance cards in your wallet. If your wallet is lost or stolen, thieves can use the information on the cards to steal your identity and the key to break into your home.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. LifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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