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Wallet Self Defense - 7 Ways To Keep Criminals Out Of Your Pocket

Perhaps one of the most upsetting circumstances anyone can be in is the loss of a wallet or purse.  We have all heard the stories of online criminals stealing credit card numbers, one can only imagine what level of damage they could do if in possession of the actual card itself.  I am not going to address how to physically protect your wallet or purse, I will leave that to a security expert.  Instead, I will outline for you a plan of wallet self defense. If you are unable to find your wallet within a very short period of time (no more than a few hours) you should assume it has been stolen.  This is your only option as you just can’t be sure where it is or who may have it.

1.  Create A Backup File On the Content Of Your Wallet

In just a few minutes with a copy machine or scanner, you can make a copy of every important document in your wallet.  This would include credit cards, insurance cards, Social Security card, driver’s license, school or work identification, etc…  You should copy both the front and back of each of these items.  The end result of this quick project should be an emergency backup file.  You should check to be sure that your copies allow you to easily read all of the account numbers as well as the phone numbers on each card.  In my case, I used the magnification option on my scanner and enlarged the copies to be sure everything was easy to read.  Of course, it goes without saying that this file should be kept in a very secure location. 

2.  Immediately Notify Your Credit Card Companies That Your Cards Have Been Lost Or Stolen

In the event that you lose your wallet, the first thing to do is to start making phone calls to every credit card company alerting them of your loss and canceling each account.  Take an extra minute and make notes about each call, including the time you called and the person you spoke to (you may need this later).  If you lose a credit card, the most you can be liable for is $50 and you are not liable for any charges that take place after you report the card lost or stolen.  It is very interesting to note that this same protection does not necessarily extend to a debit card.  While a close cousin to their credit card counterpart, debit cards do not fall under the same rules.  It is very important that you get the written policy from your bank or financial institution regarding your liability for the loss of a debit card.  The loss of a debit card can be far more devastating, in this case you are not merely losing access to credit but your entire savings and/or checking account could be wiped out in a matter of a few minutes.  Debit cards should not hold you responsible for any charges or withdrawals that occur after you report the card as being stolen.  Therefore, it is critical to make such a report for both your credit and debit cards as quickly as possible (but especially more so in the case of a debit card). 

3.  Is It Time To Lighten Up Your Wallet?

I recently found that I could barely get my wallet in my back pocket.  Take a quick inventory of what you have in your wallet and ask yourself if you really need to be carrying all of this stuff around with you?  For example, how often do you need to actually produce your Social Security card?  This is a perfect example of taking on an unnecessary risk.  Why not just keep your Social Security card at home in a safe place and just retrieve it when needed. Along this same line of thinking, do you really need to carry around all of your credit cards?  Most of us only need one or two cards max, so leave the others at home.  Remember that every item you don’t keep in your wallet is one less issue you would have to deal with if the worst case scenario actually happens.

4.  Don’t Sign Your Credit Cards

On the signature line of your credit card write “Check Photo ID.”  An alert retail clerk will catch your wallet thief perhaps even before you discover it is missing.  This is a very simple security measure that combined with everything else in this article, will continue moving the odds of a favorable outcome more and more in your favor.

5.  Contact The Major Credit Bureaus And Request A Fraud Alert On Your File

If you lose your driver’s license along with your Social Security card, you may have given a criminal all they need to go out and apply for credit in your name.  You have four additional important phone calls to make (other than the calls you need to make to your credit and debit card issuers):

Equifax (800) 525–6285

Experian (888) 397–3742

Trans Union (800) 680–7289

Social Security Administration Fraud Line 1-800-269-0271

6.  Set Up Online Tracking Of Your Credit Card Transactions

A feature that is now available on many credit cards is the ability to receive real time e mail notification of your transactions.  If this is not available on your card, you should at least have the ability to set up an online account to log in from time to time to review your transactions.  If you are vigilant in monitoring your transactions, you will be in a much better position to resolve these issues rather than waiting a month for your next statement to come in the mail.

7.  Consider Joining An Identity Theft Service

I have an identity theft plan in place and have had it for years.  While I have never been the victim of identity theft, I learned on three occasions that someone had pulled credit on me without my permission and without a valid legal reason.  I don’t know what they were up to, but I put a stop to it right away.  Of course, having one of these plans in place always makes good sense, but especially if you have recently lost a wallet.  For the $10 per month or so that these plans cost, it is well worth the peace of mind.  I would be happy to e mail you a list of the identity theft firms that are reputable and worth considering.

While researching this article, I uncovered an interesting news story about a new scam that tricks people into giving out their Social Security Card Number.  Very interesting….

I am very interested in your own stories of a lost or stolen wallet or purse.  What happened and how cooperative was your bank and credit card companies in assisting you to resolve the situation?  Do you have any lessons to pass on to our other readers?  Use the comment section below.

Helping you make the most of God’s money!

James L. Paris
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