Saturday, May 14, 2011

Your wallet is stolen - now what?

An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of hassles when it comes to safeguarding sensitive personal information and cards. But sometimes you can't prevent your wallet or purse from getting lost or stolen. If that happens, you can probably kiss off the cash you carried, but here are some tips for minimizing collateral damage.

- Russ Wiles

- What to do: Cancel credit and debit cards quickly

- Why do it: On credit cards, you're on the hook for up to $50 in unauthorized transactions, but there's no similar limit with debit cards. You could be liable for $50 in charges if you report a missing debit card within two days. That rises to $500 if you call after two but within 60 days. After that, you could lose all that's stolen. Act promptly, and don't carry around more than one or two cards.

- What to do: Notify credit bureaus

- Why do it: Place a fraud alert with Equifax (1-800-525-6285), Experian (1-888-397-3742) or TransUnion (1-800-680-7289). Notifying one firm automatically alerts the others. Alerts require lenders and other third parties to make reasonable efforts to verify your identity before allowing crooks, or you, to open accounts in your name. Alternatively, you might want a credit freeze, which thwarts most attempts to open credit in your name by blocking third-party access to your records. You can temporarily lift a freeze as needed for a modest fee.

- What to do: Monitor credit reports

- Why do it: Monitor your credit reports and check for unauthorized activity after a theft. You can get one free report yearly from each of the three credit bureaus at Pull your reports periodically even if you're not a victim.

- What to do: Stop stolen checks

- Why do it: Request stop payments on all stolen checks. You might want to close your checking account and start over with a new account and account number.

- What to do: Contact insurers

- Why do it: Contact insurers with whom you have health, auto or other policies. Request new policy numbers to protect against unauthorized claims filed in your name, suggests

- What to do: Contact everyone else

- Why do it: If you had other ID cards stolen - for libraries, video stores, gyms or whatever - contact those entities for replacement cards and new account numbers. Once new accounts are set up, change your passwords.

- What to do: Contact authorities

- Why do it: Consider filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on the agency's website ( or hotline (1-877-438-4338). Doing so helps authorities pinpoint common problems, and you can print a copy of your complaint to include with any report filed with local police. An FTC complaint with a police report can create an "ID-theft report" that can be used to block fraudulent data from your credit reports, ensure that debts don't reappear on your credit reports, prevent firms from continuing to try collecting debts resulting from ID theft and offer other protections.

- What to do: Beware Social Security changes

- Why do it: You might convince the Social Security Administration to issue you a new Social Security number if your card is lost or stolen, but the FTC recommends against it since this might not solve your theft problems and can create new hassles. Don't let your Social Security card get stolen or lost in the first place - never carry it around.

by Russ Wiles Arizona Republic May 13, 2011

Your wallet is stolen - now what?

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