If Your Wallet Disappears

December 10, 2010
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A recent article in the AARP Bulletin highlighted the effects of the loss or theft of one’s wallet or purse. During the holiday season, it is even more important to keep these valuable items secured; they are easy targets in the hustle and bustle at the local mall.
You can protect yourself by making a photocopy of everything you keep in your wallet. This includes your driver’s license and other forms of identification, credit cards, insurance cards, and video and library cards. You may want to keep copies of these documents both at home and in the hotel room safe when traveling. The backs of your credit cards contain valuable information such as security codes and contact information in case your card is lost or stolen. If you are an American Express card member, you may want to consider using the American Express Credit Card Registry for your card information.
If your wallet does become lost or stolen, there are several important steps to take:

  • Call your credit card companies immediately. Do not request to “cancel” your account; instead ask for an “account number change.” Cancelling your account can affect your credit score and cause problems if you have an outstanding balance. Let the credit card company know that you do not want anything on your credit card report showing “cancelled by consumer.” This advice comes from Linda Foley of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
  • Change your passwords so your accounts cannot be opened by someone else. Passwords should include letters, numbers, and symbols, and should not be common words such as your mother’s maiden name or the names of children or pets.
  • You should file a report with the police not only in the area in which your wallet disappeared, but also in your hometown. Keep copies of the reports for later use.
  • Contact the three major credit reporting agencies and ask them to put a fraud alert on your account. You can contact them at the following numbers and websites: Experian, 888-397-3742 (www.experian.com); TransUnion, 800-680-7289 (www.transunion.com); Equifax, 800-525-6285 (www.equifax.com). If you have a fraud alert on your account, creditors are required to verify your identity before issuing new credit in your name.
  • Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles and ask it to put a flag on your license file. This will make it more difficult for a thief to have a new driver’s license issued in your name. You will likely have to replace your license in person, and in the process have to prove your identity by means of a birth certificate, passport or Social Security card. (By the way, you should not carry your Social Security card in your wallet.)
  • Notify your bank that your wallet is missing. You will need a new ATM or debit card and perhaps even a new checking account.
  • Approximately two weeks after your wallet disappears, check your credit history. You can visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877-322-8228 to obtain your free reports. You can look under the section labelled “Inquiries” to see if any new credit applications have been made in your name. The two-week time period would be enough time for thieves to apply for credit, but not enough time for cards to be issued. You should recheck your credit report two to three months after the first review.

The attorneys at Oast & Hook can assist clients with their estate, financial, insurance, life care, long-term care, veterans’ benefits and special needs planning issues.

Ask Allie

O&H: Allie, we’ve heard that veterinarians have ten things they want pet families to know. Please tell us the first five.
Allie: Sure! A recent article in HealthyPet magazine described several things that veterinarians want families to know, but that they may not tell you. First, talk with your vet and let your vet know your expectations for your pet’s care. Your vet needs to know the level of care that you expect for your pet, as well as your own emotional and financial limitations, so your vet can provide the best care. Next, write things down, so that when you visit with your vet, you have a list of problems, concerns and questions, and so you don’t forget to mention anything. Third, make that call to your vet and ask if you have concerns about your pet’s behavior. It may be nothing to worry about, or it may indicate a serious problem. Next, be proactive, and don’t wait too long to consult your vet about an issue involving your pet. Several problems in pets may double in seriousness every 24 hours. Fast action and early treatment can make all the difference by saving your pet from suffering and help ensure a better outcome. Fifth, ask your vet questions if you don’t understand what your vet is telling you. You can request handouts and other reference materials so you can learn more about what is happening with your pet. You can also ask for a referral to a specialist if you don’t think you are getting satisfactory results. I’ll cover the other five things your vet wants you to know in next week’s issue. Time to see if there are some holiday decorations that I want to play with today. See you next week!

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