Five Things To Do Before Losing Your Wallet

Look, it’s going to happen eventually. Whether it’s pickpockets or carelessness, you’re going to lose your wallet. When you do, you’ll be glad you took these five steps to make recovery simple and painless.

1. Carry Only The Essentials: Are you really planning to use three credit cards today? How about that random gift card your aunt gave you last Christmas? Limit your loss by walking around with only the bare essentials.

2. No Social Security Cards!: Why would you walk around with your social security card? Keep it in a safe place with your other vital financial documents, far away from your wallet.

3. Copy Everything: Take everything out of your wallet and make a copy of the fronts and backs of everything. This way you’ll know exactly what to cancel when your wallet disappears. Put the copies somewhere safe—maybe where you keep your social security card?

4. Keep A Backup Card: One cabinet member always misses the State of the Union so that if the Captiol goes all Frigidaire microwave, we’ll still have a President while we wait for replacement politicians to be elected. Same principle here. New cards take time to ship. Keep a backup card in a safe place to use in the interim—maybe where you keep copies of your wallet’s contents?

5. Babies!: Go on, put a baby picture in your wallet. Science says baby photos trigger an evolutionary response that could help you recover your wallet. Seriously.

Some people—not you, obviously—don’t always take good advice. So what should, um, your friend do when they lose their wallet?

1. Immediately Notify Banks: Your wallet is gone and whoever has it could be up to no good. Federal law protects against bogus credit card charges, but for protection against debit card fraud, you have to act within days. This is where having a list of your wallet’s contents comes in real handy.

2. Call The DMV: You’re going to need a new license. Check what documents you’ll need for a replacement and check a large book out of the library—you’re going to be on line for a while.

3. Watch Your Credit Report: Didn’t we tell you take your social security card out of your wallet? Even without it, your license is still a trove of personal information for identity thieves. We would immediately freeze your credit report, but at a minimum, make sure to call the bureaus and add a fraud alert to your report. Don’t forget to pull a free annual credit report down the road to check for any unexpected surprises.

How to Recover From a Lost Wallet [Bargaineering]


Edit Your Comment

  1. maztec says:

    Sure, once you lose your wallet, it sucks, and you have to figure out how to replace everything in it. But, the immediate condition after losing your wallet is what often sucks more.

    What about a list of tips and tricks to get home, if you lost your wallet while you are out? Lost wallet implies no cash or cards – so you can’t take a cab or public transportation. If your cell phone is also lost, you are in even greater pain trying to get home.

    That, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a list of “I’ve lost my wallet, how do I get home?” Especially, if you lose your wallet when you are nowhere near your home.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      I generally keep some money in my glove compartment as well as my suitcase when I travel, so that if I lose my wallet, chances are I’ll be able to get some one of those two items (of course, if I have my car, that’s how I’m getting home).

      When I went on a long vacation last year, I had money in my wallet, money in my checked bag, and money in my carry on.

    • Thyme for an edit button says:

      That’s a good suggestion.

      One idea: always keep some cash at home. Maybe like $100 so you could pay for a cab ride once you are home and have a little cash for some necessities.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      Simple. Don’t keep cash in your wallet. Cards, ID, random pieces of paper go in the wallet. Cash goes in the front left pocket. We have a name around here for people who carry all their essentials in one place – tourists.

      • sponica says:

        i have lost more cash bc of jamming it in my pockets than anything else….maybe man pockets are more practical, but pockets on women’s pants are usually so small the cash barely fits in

      • DoubleBaconVeggieBurger says:

        To me, that method seems like a recipe to end up with a lot of laundered money, since I’m really bad at remembering to check my pockets before throwing things in the wash. Plus, not every outfit has pockets.

      • veronykah says:

        Works well if you are a man with REAL pockets. Lots of womens clothes don’t have pockets or if they do they are just for show.
        Keeping money in your pocket is also a good way to lose it, it falls out depending on the cut of the pant’s pocket.

      • jefeloco says:

        I solved this problem (it has worked for going on 11 years anyways) by keeping a smaller, slimmed down wallet in a front pocket all the time. I keep one credit and one debit card, a max of four bills, a few family photos, a MSF card and my ID in it.

        I immediately know if it isn’t there since it is hanging against my body instead of away (as large back pockets can lead to) and most pick pockets are reluctant (to say the least) to try to make a grab at a dude’s deep, inconveniently placed front pockets.

      • sweaterhogans says:

        As much as it sucks, I wear one of those slim fanny-pack type travel belts tucked into my underpants. It has all my cash, ATM card, and a credit card and my passport. I have a small amount of cash in my wallet for easy access (and so I’m not reaching into my pants to pay a shopkeeper). And I always have copies of everything stowed away in my suitcase and I leave a copy with my parents or a friend. The travel belts are pretty uncomfortable but it sure beats being pick-pocketed and stranded. I doubt anyone is going to try to reach down the front of my pants without me noticing.

    • drmk says:

      A couple of years ago my wallet was stolen while I was on vacation. Two days later I had to get on a plane to go back home — without any identification. I went to the airport two hours early with a copy of the police report stating that my wallet had been stolen. I had to go through extra security measures, but I didn’t have any trouble getting back home.

  2. Michael Belisle says:

    I’m a big believer in #1. I don’t have a wallet; I have 7 cards and a small wad of cash in a money clip.

    • Alvis says:

      7 cards is “only the essentials”?

      Credit card
      Driver’s license
      Work ID?
      Shopper club card?
      Library card?

      • sponica says:

        health insurance card is one of the essentials I’d say.

        I have a driver’s license, debit card, credit card (bc I don’t like to buy gas with a debit card), cvs card, shaws card, library card and health insurance card. Which is 7 cards. 3 of those only exist in wallet form for the rare times I’m not driving and somehow forget my keys…

      • XianZomby says:

        1) Credit card
        2) Debit card
        3) Subway card
        4) Driver’s license
        5) Employee ID/CAC
        6) Building pass
        7) Business/travel credit card
        8) Insurance card

    • sonneillon says:

      how is losing 7 cards and a wad of cash in a money clip any different than losing 7 cards and a wad of cash in a wallet?

      • Michael Belisle says:

        It’s not, other than that I like how the money clip adds negligible thickness to its contents.

        On the downside, TSA sometimes gets shifty if you toss a wad of money in the bin.

    • dbeahn says:

      I have a small card case in which I keep my Check Card, Driver’s License, ONE credit card (in case of emergency), my student ID (discounts!) several scraps of blank paper and a half sized pen (because women seem to enjoy the old fashioned feel of “can I have your number?” on paper in an age when everyone whips out the cell phone) and that’s it. Other commonly used cards (Costco, Health Savings Account debit, gift card from aunt Edna) live in the console of my car, not too inconvenient, but not losable, either.

      Generally I’ll carry a small amount of cash (vending machines, tips, etc) in a money clip.

      I’ve lost one (the cash, once, and it was right where I dropped it when I went back an hour later) but never both.

      • Ragman says:

        If you’re a cash user, one backup credit card is enough. I use my cc as primary payment method, so I carry two credit cards. It’s not fun to have a card go on fraud alert when you are on an out of state trip after dark in a sketchy place trying to get gas. Especially when your spouse is the primary on the account, at home asleep, and not answering the phone.

  3. Trance says:

    I wish my mother would listen to number 1. Her wallet has every card she has ever opened, EVER.

    There is no reason to carry store credit cards around with you. If you know you are going to a store, take it with you. If you forget to, it is not a big deal because stores will look up the number for you (or you can just use another card).

  4. Fett101 says:

    6. Contact information! Phone number or email address written or printed on something.

    Working at a grocery store we have lost wallets rather often and 90% of them have no contact information and there’s no matching name in the white pages. The wallets then end up sitting in the Lost + Found for ages.

    • Nytmare says:

      Not even a driver’s license? If that’s there, you could mail them a post card telling them where to come pick it up. That is, if someone there likes filling out post cards in their spare time.

      • Fett101 says:

        1. I didn’t think of that.
        2. You expect much of wage slaves.
        3. I haven’t seen a post card in years.

    • pj1280 says:

      So where exactly is this grocery store? I could use a wallet & a little extra cash.

    • Beef Supreme says:

      I always leave one of my busisness cards tucked in mine for this very reason.

  5. Johnmcboston says:

    Does anyone actually have their social security card? A little bit of paper (yes paper) I got 40 years ago???

    • ben says:

      I have two social security cards — my original (or at least a really old one that my parents got for me) and then one where my middle name is spelled out, instead of just having my middle initial, that I had to get about nine years ago, because of some annoying DMV employee.

    • mr cloudy says:

      Yeah and I used to carry it around in my wallet like people did 40+ years ago :P

    • lihtox says:

      I have needed my social security card every time I’ve applied for a new job… so yes, I still have it.

    • mrscoach says:

      I currently have my card in my wallet, but is usually kept with my husband and my birth certificates in a safe place. I am job hunting and they always want to see it. My children both know to NOT carry their cards, but I cannot convince my hubby to keep his out of his wallet.*sigh*

      So, yes, I still have my card. You can’t get a job without one.

      • ChemicalFyre says:

        Yes you can. There’s a federal act that prevents employers from specifying which documents you can use to fulfill the ID requirements for the I-9 form. The details are on the form as to which sets and which types of documents can be used.

    • energynotsaved says:

      In my lock box, I have my father’s “little bit of paper.” Dad was born in 1920. I have no idea how old it is, but he faithfully kept it. I, however, lost mine years ago.

  6. Draw2much says:

    Having been in a military family my whole life, I don’t remember what my social security number even is. I only know the last 4 numbers of my husband’s social because that’s all government agencies ever want. (No one cares that I exist, unless I’m causing trouble, lol..) So when people (legitimate people, mind) ask me for my social I get really panicked. I don’t know how I’m suppose to a string of numbers I never use. D:

    The advice is good though. I think I’ll take it. Though now I have to NOT lose said cards in the house. ;)

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      You should probably take the ten minutes it would require to memorize your social security number. My fourth grade teacher made us memorize ours in a life skills class. I am a military spouse, too, so I know what you mean about the last four of your spouse ssn (I still don’t know his, but it’s right on your id); but I can’t fathom how I’d manage to get by if I didn’t know mine.

    • NewsMuncher says:

      Being a veteran, I know my SSN and my husband’s backwards, forwards and scrambled. Even as a spouse, I have to enter the whole thing for a LOT of different things. More things than the last four.
      Yet I’m still paranoid and won’t give anyone my SSN unless I can see that it’s ABSOLUTELY necessary.
      It’s amazing how just asking if it’s necessary will get you out of many instances where businesses will ask you for you SSN — like a movie rental place back in the day.

  7. Rachacha says:

    Several years ago, my wife had her wallet stolen. I immediately started calling up all the credit card companies and began canceling the cards working 2 phones simultaneously. As luck would have it, I was able to cancel all of her cards before any charges had been made, except one card, and when I called, the operator was able to see transactions being made as I was on the phone with her. I immediately called my wife who was filing a report with the police, and they were able to send an officer over to arrest the guy who had the cards! Sweet sweet justice.

  8. hegemony says:

    I maxed out my credit cards and then I reported them as lost. Hahaha,
    I later transferred all of my spouses debt to myself and my assets to her then I filed for bankruptcy! Only in America!

    • DoubleBaconVeggieBurger says:

      Pretty sure that’s not “only in America” – why don’t you go be evil somewhere else and find out?

    • Draygonia says:

      Interesting. I am sure the bank would know whether you made those purchases or not. They kidna check the local area. Also, if you don’t have a landline, it instantly holds you accountable when they call you. Unless you can prove you didnt’ make those purchases, you are screwed.

    • Marshmelly says:

      You sound like a real winner

  9. thekev says:

    Rather than make a copy of everything in my wallet, you can scan them onto your computer, or simply take a high-quality photo of them with your camera. Keep them in a protected file on your computer or a thumb drive. My thumb drive is in my safe at home.

    • Fantoche_de_Chaussette says:

      Don’t use thumb drives as permanent storage for anything important. They can and do go bad. A CD is a much more reliable medium (although they’re far from perfect — make sure you have backups).

  10. The Marionette says:

    I only keep my debit card, id and speedway card in my wallet. I never have cash on me unless I plan to use it very soon. Hell, even if I’m getting money out for someone I tend to wait until the last minute to go to the atm to withdraw. Besides random receipts those are those only things I every keep in my wallet.

    This guy at our theater lost his one night and he knocked on there door to get back in (it was after-hours) and was bitching a bitch because his social security card was in there, for some damn reason his birth certificate. He claims those are in there because he constantly has to keep making copies of them so he just carries them around. Not to mention he had his credit card in there, he may as well just had gave some scammer his info if he was going to keep all of that with him.

  11. mulch says:

    If you’re on Medicare, your Medicare card has your social security number on it. So does a Military ID. Kind of hard for me to get health care without those.

  12. denros says:

    I try to take a more preemptive approach:

    No wallet is “un-loseable” but this one’s pretty damn close. Even had someone attempt to pickpocket me in NYC a couple weeks ago, and because of the clip they didn’t manage to get anything. I actually laughed at the poor guy.

  13. Mackinstyle1 says:

    Number 4 made me laugh. I think the Consumerist writers need to find every opportunity to use recent articles as examples.

  14. awer25 says:

    Losing your wallet is not inevitable.

  15. ogsoleysol says:

    “Check what documents you’ll need for a replacement and check a large book out of the library—you’re going to be on line for a while.”

    With what library card? I keep that in my wallet…

    • Norvy says:

      Yeah, you may want to let the library know your card is stolen too, before some ne’er do well uses it to check out something like Monica Lewinsky’s biography on your behalf?

    • ajlei says:

      My library has self-checkout kiosks, and you can key in your library card number.

      I’ve had the same library card since I was eleven, so I have that memorized…

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Our library card comes with a little tag you put on your keyring, like a shopper card tag. I haven’t used my actual card in a long time.

  16. Salty Johnson says:

    Keeping backup cards is a fine idea… except for the fact that when your non-backup cards are stolen and you call your bank to cancel them, your backup cards will become invalid too. I’m not sure I want to maintain a credit card that I never use simply so that I have a backup in case my wallet is stolen.

  17. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I’m sooo pissed. I went to the flea market today, and before going, I got money out of the ATM. I keep my ATM card in one of my business card holders, so I didn’t put the money in my wallet, but next to it in my pocket. Well, while paying for something using the money in my wallet, I dropped over $50. So from now on I will be putting all my money into my wallet as soon as I can.

  18. Suisei says:

    Never happened to me, I have a titanium chain linked in my wallet.

  19. Cantras says:

    I have my SS card in my wallet. :x I know it’s naughty, I cringe when I see other peoples’ in theirs — but at least mine’s tucked into an awkward pocket. I can SEE theirs, people keep them in the pocket window D:

    My SS card is in my wallet because I keep losing it otherwise.. >.

  20. crazydavythe1st says:

    For the love of God, don’t put your SS card in your wallet. That’s the express lane to serious identity theft, and not just the “oh no, they charged something on my credit card – no biggie” identity theft. I used to bank with Washington Mutual, and you were allowed to withdrawal from your account with just your social security number and driver’s license number.

  21. dreamfish says:

    As well as the baby picture, apparently a note saying ‘reward if returned’ also works – though I have the feeling it would have to say ‘reward if return complete’ so they don’t steal one of the cards but return the rest.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      “Keep $20 for your honesty and my thanks, and please return wallet and the rest. I and baby XXXX thank you”.

  22. energynotsaved says:

    Since I carry my wallet in my pants, I tend to keep the number of items down to a manageable level. However, I thought your article was timely and I needed to react. I removed my IDs, credit cards, etc and copied them as directed. I also scanned them into my computer and mailed the info to me. I’ll move the email to a designated email folder. That way, when my wallet does disappear, I will be able to get to the data once I get to a computer. It isn’t perfect, but it is the best I can make workable. (I did this after Katrina, too. At that time, I had insurance policies, etc. I think I’ll add that to my data, too. There are far worse things than a lost wallet.)

  23. PixDawg says:

    “Losing your wallet is not inevitable”

    Agreed. I have been carrying one for 40 years and have yet to lose one. Misplaced, sure. Lost, never. I really only keep one credit card, one debit card, medical insurance and emergency info, and drivers and pilot’s license in there so not much to deal with.

  24. inpixels says:

    If you “copy everything” and do so at a *public* copy machine (include your office copy machine realize that a copy is now stored in that machine hard drive (copy machines have hard drives) and you are now more likely to become a victim of identity theft.

  25. Ragman says:

    My wife and I carry the same Discover cc as our primary card, but we each carry a MC/VISA from separate accounts as backups for two reasons. First was due to places that didn’t take Discover, but that’s become less relevant now. Second is due to the topic at hand: if one of us lost our wallet, we could immediately cancel the cards and the other would still have a card to use for gas and other things until the new cards came in. We also keep a fourth card in the safe that we don’t carry around at all as an additional backup.

    We have a fifth cc account that we use only for secure numbers. That’s b/c when our card number got jacked by the TJMaxx thief, we had to go back and change autopay info at all the places we had set up with the card. That card also sits in the safe and I didn’t call to activate the plastic, nor do I use the actual number itself. Ironically, I’d would have thought that having your CC number attached to your name & address b/c you were in a store’s buyer’s club wouldn’t be a good idea, but that turned out to be the only way DSW Shoes was able to let us know about the theft.

    We didn’t set out to get all the accounts as backups, it just worked out that way over the years. The accounts have big credit limits, so keeping them also gives us a

  26. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    program the numbers for your banks/credit card providers into your cell phone or write them down. when your wallet gets stolen so do the only copies of the banks phone numbers that most people have – on the cards themselves.
    there’s a long shopping strip area at disney that i used to work at. one person shopping there who had a wallet stolen called the bank within minutes, the bank put an alert on the card. the cashier 4 stores down called the bank on the alert when the thief attempted to use the card. the thief got caught and the person got their wallet back. minutes can matter, people who steal wallets often know that if they don’t use the card right away, it will be cancelled before they can.

  27. Ragman says:

    For my health/dental insurance cards, I actually carry the photocopy around instead. Takes up less room in my wallet. I also carry a card I made at with all of my buyer club barcodes on it.

    I keep multiple (encrypted) softcopy backups, but for my home inventory, financial accounts, login/passwords, I also keep a printed copy in the safe deposit box.

    “Losing your wallet is not inevitable”
    I agree as well, but I also believe in not taunting Murphy.

  28. aintgotone says:

    I only started reading this article cause of George Costanza’s picture.

  29. EyeintheLAsky says:

    What imbeciles.

    ” If your cell phone is also lost, you are in even greater pain trying to get home.”
    – Maztec, just stay home. Problem solved.

    “I don’t have a wallet; I have 7 cards and a small wad of cash in a money clip.”
    – Michael, if i’m going to mug you, i don’t care that you don’t carry a wallet. i’ll pistol-whip the side of your head until you give me what i want…or you wind up unconscious. THEN i’ll just take what i think is valuable.

    “Rather than make a copy of everything in my wallet, you can scan them onto your computer, or simply take a high-quality photo of them with your camera.”
    – Well, thekev, that IS basically the definition of COPYING everything in your wallet. Nice try…thanks for playing.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      Maztec, just stay home. Problem solved.

      No…not unless you’re suggesting that wherever you lose your wallet has to become your new home. I don’t think you can just stop paying the rent/mortgage on your real home just because you lost your wallet.

  30. cmhbob says:

    No Social Security Card? In Ohio, I either carry the card with me, or put the number on my driver license. Can’t win.

  31. Con Seanne-BZZZZZZZZZZZZ says:

    I got my pocket picked the night before I was supposed to fly home. Stuck 2 states away from home, no money, no ID.

  32. madanthony says:

    I don’t have any baby pictures. Can I use a picture of a baby kitteh instead?

  33. arenindenver says:

    I’ve put all of the “lost card” phone numbers for my credit cards in my cell phone. I only carry my debit card and an Amex. I thought that if I were to lose my wallet I’d be able to call the numbers and hopefully minimize any damage.

  34. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Copy Everything: Take everything out of your wallet and make a copy of the fronts and backs of everything.

    Also: New copies every time you get new cards.

  35. HungryGal says:

    My big tip: its under the passenger seat of your car. Try from the back seat and from the passenger door perspective before you report anything missing. 50% of the time, it’s there.

    I’ve also successfully recovered my wallet from an art gallery/performance space. So definitely retrace your steps, as well.

  36. Mr Fife says:

    Cabinet members are not in the line of succession. Please, repeat Civics 101.

  37. Mecharine says:

    My wallet came with a baby picture, is that good enough?