The nuisance of a lost or stolen wallet or purse: what to do about it

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Recovering from a lost or stolen wallet or purse is a pain in the derriere.

Let me paint you a recent picture. My husband and I were out for a coffee and it was time to pay the bill. Well, it was time for me to pay the bill. His wallet was off on an excellent adventure somewhere. I may have rolled my eyes as he patted his empty pocket and recalled maybe leaving his wallet at home. And that was the beginning of a few long days of phone calls and paper exchanges ahead… and the inspiration for this blog post.

What to do if you’re 99.9995% sure your wallet or purse has gone for good

Losing your wallet or purse is not an activity to be taken lightly. In today’s mostly cashless society, a thief or ‘opportunist-finder’ of your cards can start spending with merely a simple tap of a bit of plastic on plastic. If that’s all that happens, you can count yourself lucky. If the criminal knows a bit about the value on the dark web, or on the streets, of your identity, your life could be turned upside down.

Here is what you need to do if you’re almost certain that your wallet or purse is not going to be easily recovered.

Be sure to be sure

Once you kick off this process, you’re in for a long ride. So, make sure you’ve covered all possible locations to try to find it first. There is no turning back once you kick off this security operations process.

You know the ‘100 point check’ that Australian banks ask of you to open a bank account, or take out a loan? Most of those identity points can come straight from that purse or wallet that is now in the hands of someone else!

Step 1: Report your lost or stolen wallet or purse to the police, always.

The very first and most important step is that you report your lost wallet or purse immediately to the police. Not because they’re going to pull out all stops to chase down the offender that has their sweaty hands on your possessions, but because every step from here on, you’re going to be asked if you’ve reported it stolen.  Make sure to ask the police for a reference number that you can quote when asked.

And, if the sweaty palmed criminal happens to be in the know about how to steal your identity, you may well need the original police report on your side.  Imagine trying to prove who you are, when someone else has just racked up a bunch of massive debts using your identity; or been a get-away driver on a bank robbery heist in a car registered in your name…

Of course, if you had your house or car keys stolen too, it is strongly recommended to change your locks and get a new set of keys, and contact your car manufacturer to find out options available for replacing car keys.

Step 2: Set up a Post Office (PO) box immediately if you don’t already have one

If you believe your wallet or purse was intentionally stolen and not just lost, consider changing your forwarding address to a secure location. A career criminal may employ a commonly used strategy of waiting for you to replace all of your stolen debit and credit cards, and identity cards, and just to go straight to your street address mailbox and steal the replacements! It happens. So your best bet is to set up a PO box (easier than it sounds as often there are waiting lists) or redirect your mail to your work address or another trusted relative or friends address for a while. If a PO box isn’t possible, invest in a mail box with good security.

Step 3: Contact all of your credit and debit card providers

For every card you had in your wallet or purse that allows you to access money, or debt, you’ll need to call the issuer to report the cards as stolen.  Guess what the first thing you’ll be asked is?

“Have you reported it to the police?”

You can confidently say, “yes indeed I have”.

At the same time, ask to change your forwarding address to a safe destination. Or be sure to be home to collect the mail!

Once reported, debit and credit card providers will mostly offer the benefit of the doubt on transactions made from the time you allege your cards went missing. The sooner you report it, the better the potential outcomes.

My husband and I were surprised to learn how quickly our sweaty handed criminal managed to swipe $99.99 transactions by ‘tapping’ his cards at point of sale shopping terminals. It would go a little something like this:

Criminal to cashier: “Can I put $99.99 of this $103 transaction on ‘tap’ and pay the rest in cash?”

So the crim is likely to be enjoying a shopping spree equivalent to having a bunch of $99.99 gift cards!  The good news is, financial institutions artificial intelligence (AI) are increasingly able to pick up patterns like this and suspend cards proactively.

Step 4: Call your State vehicle driver licensing issuer

This is as critical as step 2 and in priority terms is equally as important. Your driver’s license is worth considerable ‘points’ when it comes to proving your identity, and is worth a bit of money on the darker ‘identity-theft’ markets.  Contact your driver’s licensing body as soon as possible to report your licence stolen. Again, consider providing them with a safe forwarding address to receive the replacement card.

Step 5: Contact your medical insurance providers and all Government card providers

Again, your Medicare card, private insurance cards, student identity cards, concession cards and so on are all worth ‘identity’ points. Make sure you call the issuers’ customer service departments immediately and arrange replacement cards, and a safe forwarding address.

Step 6: Change all of your passwords or passcodes

You’ll need to do this anyway as you receive your replacement cards, but why not invest some time in increasing the security of all of your passwords by changing them to strong, secure ones. To find out what makes a strong password, visit Stay Smart Online > Protect yourself > Passwords and passphrases.

Step 7: Order a credit report from a credit reporting agency

Contact a credit reporting agency to check for unauthorised outstanding transactions. You really should do this annually anyway to make sure you don’t have a doppelganger that has defaulted on a mortgage in your name!  To find out more visit Stay Smart Online > What everyone needs to know about personal identity.

Step 6: Update your new credit or debit card details on all of your automatic payments or transfers

My husband’s wallet incident happened a month ago. We’re still finding automatic subscriptions being suspended or automatic payments not going through because he now has new debit and credit card numbers. This one is a real nuisance. So before you find yourself with your Netflix subscription cancelled – get in early and update all your automated payments with your new payment details.

And the moral of this story is, don’t lose your wallet or purse in the first place!  Stay safe.

To find out more about keeping your money and your identity safe visit:

The Australian Federal Police > Identity crime

Stay Smart Online


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