Having your wallet lost or stolen is a bummer.
Losing your wallet or having it stolen is a fairly common occurrence – 62% of Americans say they’ve done so, according to MoneyTips.com.
Hey, accidents happen, even though losing your wallet – physical or digital – is right up there with having a root canal and cheering for the Oakland A’s on the list of “things to avoid” in 2023.
DON’T MISS:What Is a Digital Wallet and How Does it Work?
While you can’t use a time machine and keep your wallet secured, what you can do is curb or even eliminate the damage of losing your wallet, along with your cash, driver’s license, credit cards, and phone, if you use a digital wallet.
“It used to be that the biggest concern if you lost your wallet, was the money in it,” said Rob Gabriele, managing editor and home security expert at SafeHome.org. “These days, the money is probably the least of your worries.”
If someone finds your wallet, they have access to your credit cards and — just as valuable — your personal identifying information (PII) like your driver’s license number, maybe a Social Security number if you keep it there, and important phone numbers.
“In the short term, a thief could wipe out your bank account or charge thousands of dollars in your name,” Gabriele said. “In the long term, they could assume your identity, open even more accounts in your name, and run up tabs on those as well.”
“And, if you happen to misplace your digital wallet, you’ve not just given up your PII but account numbers and passwords as well,” Gabriele added.
Action Steps to Take When Your Wallet is Compromised
If you’ve lost track of your wallet or smartphone with a digital wallet inside, don’t dwell on the problem – take direct action as soon as possible to minimize the impact. These forward-moving steps should get you on the road to recovery.
Hit the “freeze” button. Your first priority should be to shut down your accounts so no one can access them.
“You may not want to cancel them right away,” Gabriele said. “Most companies these days give the option to freeze accounts so you can wait to see if you recover your wallet. Keep in mind, though, it’s not just the cards in your wallet that are vulnerable. With your PII, an identity thief might be able to access all of your accounts.”
Secure your digital documents. Ideally, you’ve taken the precaution of securing your digital phone wallet using biometrics or, at a minimum, a pin code.
“If you haven’t, contact your service provider,” Gabrielle advises. “Many telecom providers now allow you to lock your phone down with a passcode from an online site after you’ve lost it.”
Next, change all your account passwords immediately to limit the damage a thief might do.
“Then contact all the companies with which you do business and let them know what’s happening,” he added. “Ask them to freeze or cancel accounts. Then keep a close eye on those accounts for any suspicious activity.”
Know what you’ve lost, so you can protect yourself. If you lose your digital wallet on your phone, consider what is stored on it.
“There may be credit card and bank account numbers stored within a digital wallet,” said Richard Gardner, CEO at Modulus, a financial technology company that specializes in deep learning and artificial intelligence. “If it also contains your passport number or other personal data, be on the lookout for potential identity theft.”
Take preventive measures before a wallet is lost or stolen. “For best security practices to secure a physical wallet, consider a wallet chain,” Gardner advises. “For a digital phone wallet, be sure to password protect your phone, including with biometric data. Also be sure to back up the data in your digital wallet in order to make it easier to recover, in the event of a loss.”
To prevent losing a digital wallet, use a strong password and enable two-factor authentication. “Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks or sharing login credentials,” said Phillip Parker, a cost reduction specialist at CardPaymentOptions.com. “Regularly update your phone and wallet software, and use a reputable wallet provider.”
To prevent losing a smartphone, enable a lock screen password, install a tracking app, and avoid leaving your phone unattended in public places. “Regularly back up your data and encrypt sensitive files,” Parker notes. “Use a phone case with a wrist strap or lanyard, and consider purchasing phone insurance.”
The biggest mistakes that lead to lost or stolen physical wallets are not paying attention to one’s surroundings and leaving wallets unattended.
“It’s also a mistake to carry wallets in back pockets, failing to secure wallets in zipped pockets or bags, carrying unnecessary items like social security cards or birth certificates, and not regularly checking wallets for all cards and cash,” Parker added.
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This story was originally published April 29, 2023, 10:52 AM.
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