What to Do If Your Wallet is Lost or Stolen

I got an email from a woman who lost her wallet last week. I thought you might all want a heads-up on what to do if this happens to you… it takes some prep.

Time is crucial. As soon as you discover your wallet is missing, you need to contact your credit card companies, your bank, the credit bureau and the police. Since you don’t want to waste time searching for all the phone numbers you need, you need to have a file ready. Photocopy your credit cards and all your other identification, both front and back, and write the contact information you need on the photocopy. Include the phone numbers for your bank (with your bank account numbers) and your credit bureaus (all of them) in your file. Hide the file in a safe place in your home.

While the police won’t do much, it is important that your loss is on record in case credit-card companies investigate fraudulent purchases or you must prove the date of your loss.

Call your bank and notify them if you’ve lost a chequebook and/or bank card. Some people even take the extra step of transferring their banking to a new account so that if hucksters try to use the old account information, they can’t. Your bank should be able to reassure you by talking about fraud prevention steps you and they will take.

While it’s a no-brainer to cancel all your lost or stolen credit cards, most people don’t think about the other cards in their wallet – loyalty cards, their car club membership, their health club card – that can be used as ID or is linked online to personal information. How happy would you be to find out someone else was using your video membership card and never bothered to return the videos?

Don’t forget you’ll have to replace your driver’s license. Here’s a link to all the provincial ministries of transportation. And since you’ll likely need two pieces of ID to get a new provincial health card, you’ll have to make a note to do that once you’ve received replacement ID. Here’s a link to provincial ministry of health sites.

Your credit bureaus can place a fraud alert on your file that will stop thieves from using your personal information to secure a line of credit or even a mortgage. The fraud alert doesn’t stop you from obtaining credit; creditors will call the phone number you put on the alert to ensure it’s you seeking the credit. You need to call all the bureaus to be sure you’re covered. Here are the numbers again:

Monitor your credit report over the next few months to make sure there’s no stuff going down you need to know about. If you have to pay a couple of times to get your credit report, believe me, it’s worth every penny.

Everyone has days when their attention is on too many things. I know several people who have walked out of stores without their wallets, without their cards, only to have salespeople come running after them. I’ve been derelict myself. The problem is that it only takes one slip to sink your ship. Don’t leave your wallet, your handbag, your briefcase in open view in your office. Don’t leave your purse sitting in the grocery cart while you turn your back to pick out some nice fresh apples. Don’t leave your wallet or purse in your car, ever. If you’ve gotten away with it so far, you’ve been lucky. The next time, your whole financial identity could become unraveled.


Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade wants YOU! Join MyMoneyMyChoices.com to get smarter about your money and help others get smarter about theirs. Isn’t it time we eliminated financial illiteracy? Come find me on Google+ and on Twitter.

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27 Responses to “What to Do If Your Wallet is Lost or Stolen”

  1. avatar Goal "0" Debt Says:
    March 3, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Thanks for the “All in One” info, I have never lost my wallet but have known the panic when it’s not were my memory thought it was. I’m going to photo copy everything today Just in Case,

  2. avatar April W. Says:
    March 3, 2009 at 8:33 am

    i have had this happen to me twice in my lifetime. 1st time was when I was 18, and it took a long time to replace everything. I was given a piece of advice from a government employee (imagine…good advice, even!) : never carry your Social Insurance card and Birth Certificate in your wallet or purse. Instead carry only a photocopy of those and keep the originals at home in a safe place. These 2 pieces of identification will be enough, along with a current hydro or phone bill, to get all your other i.d. replaced if lost or stolen.

    I heeded her advice, and some 20-ish years later, my purse was stolen while I was enjoying drinks at a local restaurant with friends. While I could do nothing about the cash that was taken, I had my credit cards and bank cards reported stolen within the hour. In less than 14 days, I had all my other cards and i.d. replaced because I still had the other 2 pieces at home. It saved me a ton of hassle at the bank, the lisence bureau, and the Health card office.

  3. avatar Christy Z. Says:
    March 3, 2009 at 8:54 am

    I had a list like this when my Dh’s wallet got stolen 2 years ago…Having a reference made our experience so much easier. The thief apparently wanted cash only and dumped everything in a plastic bag on the ground, so we got all his i.d. back. And a lovely good Samaritan got it all back. Clearly we cancelled all the cards, but not having to replace all his ID was a miracle.

  4. avatar Leslie P Says:
    March 3, 2009 at 9:12 am

    I have been lurking on this site for months and taking in all the great information. Just wanted to comment on the lost wallet. My 18 year old son had his wallet stolen from the university while he was working out last April. I insisted he report it stolen to the police even though he reported it to the campus police. He lost his Drivers Licence, Birth Certificate, Health Card and SIN. (I had no idea he was carrying his SIN. The new card is now safely at home). Fast forward to last month when I received a call from the Police Department at 12:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning looking for my son. It appears that kids had used my son’s name and ID to check into a motel and then caused some damage and pulled the fire alarm. Fortunately because the police report was filed, this was cleared up quickly but not before a late night meeting with the Police to confirm his identity. Still not sure who’s using my son’s ID but it is disconcerting to think that they have been using it throughout the City, probably for months.

  5. avatar MoneyManager Says:
    March 3, 2009 at 9:31 am

    This is just the nudge that I need. I’ve left my wallet once at a grocery store and I was very lucky that a good samaritan found it and brought it back to the store. So today, I’m preparing for the worst that could happen.

  6. Don’t know about other provinces, but in Ontario you can get a marriage certificate that is similar to a birth certificate. You will need this in addition to your birth certificate esp if you have changed your last name. We keep our SIN cards, birth & marriage certificates in the safe deposit box with a photocopy hidden away at home. When travelling out of the country, we take the photocopy of our birth/marriage certificates and our passports. We also take a photocopy of our passport and keep it separate from our travel documents and leave a copy of everything with one of our adult kids.

  7. I got a great piece of, admitted unsolicited, advice from an older guy (a la my grandpa) in the grocery store. He saw me leave my purse in the cart for a few seconds to get something out of the frozen case and immediately pointed out how much safer it would be if I had “buckled” my purse in by looping the child safety band through the strap. Not foolproof but it’s not a bad deterrent either if you simply can’t keep your purse on (mine often weighs a few tons).

  8. A friend of mine had her wallet stolen out of her office last Thursday. One saving grace is that her purse was not taken (apparently it weighed a ton) and that her passport, paycheque and keys were in her purse. However, her SIN, health card and birth certificate were in her wallet. Thankfully, she called Equifax and her card holders asap to report the loss.

    I don’t understand why people carry around their SIN and birth certificate in their wallets. Why would you need them on a daily basis? I can see keeping your health card in your wallet…

  9. Anne, I was just going to give the same advice! My mom always buckles her purse into the cart, and now I do the same thing. If someone tries to take it, the whole cart goes with them and they won’t get very far before you or someone else notices. No, it’s not foolproof but it sure helps!

  10. If you’re wondering why people carry their SIN birth cert. passport etc. it’s because most likely, they don’t drive or have credit cards, and that’s what people ask for regarding ID.

    I’ve had my wallet stolen once and walking around the planet “persona non grata” was bad. My Mom had her wallet stolen from her grocery cart last year. That was even worse. (Just keep the purse on your shoulder and don’t but it in there ok???)

    Having said that, I’m going to copy all my cards after I finish typing this…..:-)

  11. Thanks Cathy. That didn’t occur to me. Here in BC, there is something called a BC ID card which is ID for people who don’t have drivers licences… but yes, I can see how they would need 2 pieces of ID. Thanks.

  12. Fortunately this has never happened to me and never will (knock on wood!), but it is a VERY timely reminder that I need to remove some items from my wallet! Also a reminder to cancel any library cards you might have as well: it’s unlikely, but possible, that the thief/thieves will check out books or DVDs or something and just keep them, leaving you with the bill for unreturned items! I know most thieves aren’t after stuff like that, but it’s just one more thing.

  13. I am so forgetful that for a long time I never carried around a wallet or purse because I would lose everything if I did. I would only bring around my bank card and keys (which I lost constantly). I know you are supposed to drive around with your licence and insurance, but it was easier for me to leave them at home and if I got a ticket (happened twice), I got a warning and brought them to the police station in 48hrs.

    Now, it is a little different…I keep all important things in a lock box at home and carry photocopy’s with me…except my sin. You only need it once in a while, and usually from home. Not having a credit card helps, and we usually owe money at the video store for forgetting to bring movies back, I don’t think a theif would pay our fine :)

  14. avatar Catherine Says:
    March 3, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Just off to photocopy everything. Checked out the links and after many transfers, here is what I’ve been told:

    Driver’s Licence: 1-800-387-3445 Press 1 for English Press 120

    Health Card: 1-888-376-5197 (this is for Ontario)

  15. It’s so easy to leak information these days.

    Today I printed out my tax form at work and immediately after ran to the printer to get it. It was gone!!

    First thing I did was to look through the print job list and looked for the person who printed his stuff right before me (I was the last one to print).

    I ran to his cubicle and sure enough, my T4 was stapled to one of his printouts… so it was an accident. Still, someone malicious could have stolen it.

  16. avatar Annabelle Says:
    March 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Re the suggestions to buckle your purse into the cart…typically whole purses aren’t stolen from carts – the thieves reach in and take the wallet out of it and go, leaving the purse itself in the cart. You don’t realize that anything is gone until you get up to the cashier and means that in many cases your thief has a big head start. Simple solution – take your purse with you!

    Do not leave your wallet/purse (men too!) in your car when you’re not in it. If someone gets into your car (maybe overnight in the driveway), they’ll check the “typical” hiding places and find the wallet you diligently hid.

  17. avatar Natasha Says:
    March 3, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    I’m 21 and no license. I live in Ontario and I have an Age of Majority card (aka ID from the LCBO) that now allows me not to have to cart my passport around. You should NEVER carry your passport, birth certificate and especially not your SIN card on you (SIN cards can’t be used for ID anyways). And you’re SUPPOSED to have your health card on you at all times (including your donor card if you have one – in case you, you know, die).

  18. avatar Cynthia Says:
    March 3, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    When I am out shopping and I am in town and know that I will be picking up many items, I take only my bank card, some cash for a cab and my cellphone, everything else stays at home. My SIN and birth certificate are not in my wallet, ever. I’ve told my mother to take hers out and leave it at home. We have a small safe so that’s where I hope she’s put it!

    For the person who printed out your tax information at work. Wow, that’s pretty risky business, period. Most companies don’t allow personal printing, and some cases you can be repriminded for that: written or dismissal. Depends on where you work.

  19. avatar Melaniesd Says:
    March 3, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Like Annabelle said, PLEASE don’t leave your wallet or purse in your car.
    It’s amazing the amount of people I talk to (I work for a bank) who ask me to hold because they need to get their wallet/purse from the car OR are caling to report their cards stolen – with all their ID in it.

    People just don’t take identity theft seriously enough. It’s a HUGE problem in Canada. I notice more and more of it in Ontario & Alberta.
    Be sure to pay attention to your mail too.

  20. Good points from all posters. I have a similar tip to share, particularly for anyone doing craft sales/trade shows that was shared with me years ago. I use a metal money box to hold change when I go to a craft sale, BUT I never latch the clasp. It is way too easy for some shady character to reach over and grab an unwatched money box when a booth gets crowded and busy. If the latch is loose, the money goes flying in all directions, creating quite a kerfuffle and racket. Granted, you will have a lot of picking up to do, but the potential thief is usually running for the nearest exit – empty handed!!

  21. avatar Susanne Says:
    March 4, 2009 at 9:13 am

    In my early twenties, I had my wallet stolen in the Saskatoon airport during a storm blackout. I had only about thirty minutes left before I needed to pass through security, so not enough time to leave the airport to report things, access cash, etc. I did not have a credit card at the time, so no need to worry there, but I did have many other cards, including a telephone calling card (very common at the time) for which I’d memorized the number (fortunately!). I was able to call my parents using the card number, and then get them to immediately cancel all the cards I was carrying (including the phone card), and to report the stolen wallet to the police. Sadly, I lost much-needed cash, but otherwise was able to cancel the cards quite easily, thanks only to a good memory. About a year later, my wallet was sent to me in the mail by the Saskatoon police, after it had been located on a sidewalk in a town about an hour away. I wondered why my wallet would still be floating around, cashless and with useless cards, a year later?? The whole experience really opened my eyes to the possibilities of identity theft.

    After that experience, I learned immediately to make a copy of everything I carry in my wallet for each trip I make. I leave the copy in a safe at home, where my husband can access it. I also leave a copy with my parents, in the event that my husband and I are travelling together. More importantly, however, I’ve learned to travel with ONLY the cards I might need. I know I will never need my library card or various points cards when travelling in many countries, for example, so I take only what I need with me. In fact, we are very organized and rarely carry any “extra” cards with us unless we know for certain that we will be using them that day. If I’m going to a store that requires a specific card, I only carry the card that day, and afterwards return it to a safe spot. The unintended bonus: this has curbed any “impulse” purchasing, because we always have to think twice about whether or not it’s worth returning home to pick up a card!

  22. Another tip:
    Don’t carry all your cash on a single spot on you. Split it amongst different pocket. If you get robbed, you might have something left.

  23. avatar Liz in Singapore Says:
    March 6, 2009 at 10:27 am

    I have had my wallet stolen twice in my lifetime and the first time was a lil tricky cuz I had to think of what were the zillion things I had to do to ensure that the thief didn’t get his/her hands on my money. But the second time was easier and let’s hope it ends there. I was more irritated by the inconvenience of having to cancel the cards and get everything replaced. It wasn’t so much about the money cuz I hardly carry alot of cash on me anyways. But what was funny (not so funny when it happened but looking back, I can laugh at it now) the second time was how my bf with me was all upset, angry and panicking on my behalf. I found him a distraction so what I did was moved away to a corner with a pen and paper, and sat down to focus and list what were the things that were stolen (it wasn’t just my wallet but a whole bag!). No point getting all panicky cuz I wouldn’t be able to think and focus. After I had my list, it was easier for me to make the calls and cancel the items one by one. And it only took a minute of peace and quiet to come up with the list. My poor bf was trying to help but ultimately he calmed down when he realised that I had everything under control. AFTER I did all that I had to do, THEN I started cursing and swearing at the thief! And it felt good. Did I get my bag back? Nope. But life is too short to be dwelling on that. Lesson learnt and life goes on….

  24. avatar Barb Mantle Says:
    May 29, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    I happened on this blog while desperately searching for assistance with this very issue. I personally lost my ID once, many years ago-I was maybe 18. I have kept photocopies of every piece of ID ever since and never bring my ID out with me unless I know I need it. I leave photocopies with my travel agent, as well as at home whenever I travel. I advise all my friends to leave a copy with their travel agent (if they know them well enough) or a friend who will be reachable, whenever they travel, as well as copies safely tucked away at home just in case they lose their ID.
    Unfortunately both my sons have lost their ID-my eldest a couple years ago-my youngest just a few weeks ago. I photocopied all of their ID right after applying for it and I also kept copies of the original photocopies that were signed by our family doctor to verify they were accurate copies of the originals-then used to apply for the next piece of identification. I also insisted that my sons not carry all of their ID with them. My advice fell on deaf ears though (I think it was more an act of rebellion), and on several occasions I removed ID from their wallets, put it back in the drawer where it should have been left and again warned them of the dangers of carrying all of their ID on them together in the same place.
    I am currently extremely frustrated with the government application process. My youngest son (he’s 19) lost all of his ID recently and to make matters worse he needs a passport immediately, as he has been granted a scholarship at an academy in Korea and was suppose to have left almost a month ago. I have replaced his birth certificate (it was ridiculously easy actually) and I have all the signed copies of his previously issued ID. I have been trying to get his passport for a few weeks now. I swear every time I call I am told something completely different. Today my son went to get his driver’s license (learner’s permit/G1) after studying for it over the last week. We were told that this would be the fastest route to go (by someone in the passport office). Someone at the location where he went to take the test told us that he would need his birth certificate and school photo ID. So he went to his school and because he has graduated they could not do an ID for him but instead helped us out by providing him with a student record, which included his picture, pertinent information and had the schools official embossed stamp to prove it was an original and legitimate. So he shows up there today with both pieces of ID in hand as well as photocopies of all his original ID, signed by his doctor and he also had his new credit card, bank card, bank statements confirming his address, old student ID, school transcripts, hospital cards and even the paperwork that accompanied his original SIN card from the government. They turned him away!! We also found out that they no longer give you the learner’s license right away, and that will take several weeks to arrive-if of course we can come up with the magical ID combo to grant him a driver’s license.
    The passport office says he needs government issued ID that has his signature on it to get his passport. Turns out if he worked at a hospital or government office they would except his employee card! How is that fair or reasonable??
    So, I did all the right stuff, as they advise us all to do-photocopied everything and now they tell me the photocopies are useless!
    I got the same kind of story to tell about the health card application process to…. And this is the short version. I have spent so much time on the Government websites and the phone, they have had us running all over compiling all sorts of information, jumping through hoops and its all useless.
    We are desperate to get him to Korea before they withdraw the scholarship opportunity. Anyone have any advice?

  25. I have had my bag, which had my wallet in it, stolen in a cafe 2 days ago. It has all my IDs and cards and I could replace them, but there’s a few years’ worth of sentimental stuff in that wallet that I can never get back. There was no money in that wallet at all, just a toonie and some change. I had my phone with me so I’m glad about that. I canceled all my cards and reported to the police right away so the theft can’t use them but I’m worried that he would be an identity theft. I’m a first year university student in a new city far from where my home is. I hope that makes it hard for the theft to use my identity. There were just useless stuff like shoes, lotion, floss and photo papers in that bag, nothing that worth anything significant but I’m so pissed that I lost the sentimental stuff in the wallet. I really wish some good Samaritan finds it and gets it back to me. Would people who got their stolen wallet returned to them tell their stories? I need hope.

  26. […] What to Do If Your Wallet is Lost or Stolen « gailvazoxlade.com […]

  27. avatar donna Bode Says:
    August 28, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    After holding for 15 minutes I found your info error….very frustrating….don’t publish if it’s not accurate. Don’t waste our time.

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