Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wallet Worries

One of my friends has been having an absolutely brutal time over the last couple weeks. Every time something starts looking up, she gets side swiped by something else. The poor girl just can’t catch a break right now. The most recent thing to happen? Her wallet was stolen and the thieves racked up her credit cards before she realized it was missing.

What would you do if your wallet was stolen?

Hint: Your first response should not be to go out and buy a new wallet.

It occurred to me after she mentioned it this morning that I wasn't actually sure what to do if my wallet did get stolen. I knew I had to call the banks and the credit bureaus, but that's about it. So, I did a little digging.

I wish I could dig out of debt as fast as I can dig stuff up on google.

There was a decent stack of things to filter through on there. Everyone seems to have their own order of importance for what you should do first. One site that I did find particularly interesting though was a link from Service Canada, detailing the order of events they recommend you follow. Have you ever gone into a government building to apply for something, and after half an hour of waiting in line find out you don't have the necessary ID to actually do it? Kind of a piss off, and that's what I'd expect I'd be dealing with if my wallet was stolen. Service Canada breaks down the order you should reapply for your ID, so you don't get hung up on the "You need ID to get ID" issue. Kinda handy.

They don't really go into great detail on the financial items though. They mention at the very beginning that you should contact your banking institutions and credit card companies, along with contacting the police, but that's pretty much all they say. Nowhere do they mention that you should also contact the credit bureaus. There are 3 bureaus in the US, but in Canada we only have two: Equifax and Transunion. Why the 3rd company pulled out, I don't know.

The ugly part about having your wallet stolen is that whoever is holding your wallet is basically holding your identity. They not only have (some) access to your money and credit, they also probably have enough information to open new accounts in your name. Think about some of the more common security questions: What is your date of birth? (Drivers License, Health Care Card) What is your postal code? (Driver's License) What are the first/middle/last 3 digits of your social insurance number? (SIN Card). Immediately after calling my banks to have all of the cards frozen and reissued, I'd be calling the credit bureaus. You can have them put a fraud alert flag on your account so that they know to watch for suspect activity, and prevent new accounts from being opened. If the thieves do manage to open up accounts in your name, it will be much easier to argue the charges aren't yours because you've taken a proactive approach and they're aware of the situation.

Personally, I'd work in this order:
  1. Call Banks - Have accounts frozen.
  2. Call Credit Card Companies - Have cards frozen and reissued with a new numbers.
  3. Call Credit Bureaus - Have Fraud Alert placed on account.
  4. Contact Police - Go to the station and fill out a report.
  5. Go to Bank - Get debit card reissued with a different card number and change your PIN.
  6. Go to Government Building - Start the ID replacement process, it'll take a while.
  7. Contact Utilities - Or anything else you have automatically billed to your credit card. They'll need to know what's up so that your bills don't bounce. See about getting an extension on paying the bills if you need to and let them know you'll update them with the new number as soon as you get it.
  8. Check Credit Report - Wait a while and then contact the Credit Bureaus again to make sure nothing has been opened in your name.
You may do it in a different order, but that's how I'd do it personally. Fingers crossed I never have to deal with this as an adult (my wallet was stolen as a teen).

One things I've seen recommended a lot is keeping copies of your ID at home. I'm not sure whether or not this is actually useful in this case, seeing as last I checked most places won't accept a photocopy of your ID in place of actually having it. Has anyone else had to deal with this before? Do you know if the government will accept photo copies of ID? My gut feeling is no.

Has anyone had to do this before? If you had to do it again, what would you do differently?


Morgaine said...

I like your list, I think I will keep a copy of this posted somewhere in the home with the list of corresponding phone numbers/locations of who I would need to contact.

And, if I may make I suggestion: I never carry around my SIN card. I have the number memorized if I need to use it and I will only bring it with me when I know it will be needed. Its just one less thing to worry about :)

Cassie said...

I actually have my SIN memorized as well, so I don't carry it either. Some people do though, so I figured it deserved a mention.

Hopefully you never actually have to use the list ;)

judy said...

What a great post. When I had my purse stolen a few years ago I also changed all of my checking accounts so that if anyone tried to use my old checks it would be flagged by the chex system.

Also call your health insurance company. Someone tried to use my prescription card to fill a prescription made out in my name..but my insurance company flagged it right away.


The Asian Pear said...

Good list. One thing I would mention is to NEVER EVER keep your SIN card in your wallet. Why would you ever need it anyways? If you try to be minimalistic with wallets, you run less risk of ID theft too. So my wallet is always bare bones.

Cassie said...

@Judy - It's amazing what people will try to use, isn't it? I'm glad to hear your insurance company flagged the errant prescription. Is prescription fraud common in the US?

@Asian Pear - I'm working in the minimalist wallet. It's a slow process, lol.