5 simple steps to take when your credit card or wallet is stolen: Internet ScamBusters #122
Today's issue concisely answers the question: what do you do if your credit card or wallet is stolen?
We provide 5 simple steps that guide you through the process. Please note that the first step should be done by everyone -- now -- it will make dealing with any emergency in which your credit card is stolen or lost much simpler.
Let's get going...
What to Do if Your Credit Card or Wallet is Stolen
We've talked a lot about how to prevent credit card theft. If you haven't read our article, "Credit Card Fraud: 21 Tips to Protect Yourself," we recommend you do so now. (It's one of the most popular pages on our site.)
Today we take this a step further and show you the five steps to take -- in order -- if your credit card or wallet is stolen:
Step 1. The first step is something you should do NOW -- before anything goes wrong: Make copies of all your credit cards, ID cards and licenses -- everything in your wallet.
If you think you're immune from having your credit cards stolen, you're wrong. We hope it never happens to you, but it certainly could, and your experience will be less traumatic if you are prepared.
Make sure you photocopy both sides of all your cards, and/or list your account numbers, and the toll free phone numbers you'd need to call to report them missing. Keep this photocopy in a separate, safe place.
If you've already done this in the past, have you updated it lately? Is a copy of everything in your wallet included?
Step 2. The second thing to do is call the companies that issued your credit cards to report the theft. Do this as soon as you discover the problem. Use the toll free number -- most companies are available 24 hours a day to deal with these emergencies. Write down the name of each person you speak with.
It's a good idea to follow up each of your phone calls with a letter (you can do this after you complete Step 5 -- it's not as time critical). Summarize your phone conversation, including your name, account number, when you noticed that your card was missing, the date you first reported the loss via phone, and the name of the person you spoke with.
Alternatively, you can purchase a credit card registration service for an annual fee and register your account numbers with this service. Then, you only have to make one phone call to report all card losses (rather than calling each individual issuer). Many services also will request replacement credit cards on your behalf.
We believe these services are pricey for what they offer, but some people appreciate the service. If you go this route, compare offers since they do vary. In any event, you do need to make sure you keep your info up to date with the registration service, or it won't help you.
Step 3. Next, call the three national credit-reporting agencies to report the theft, and ask them to attach a 'fraud alert' to all your credit cards. Here are the three agencies and their numbers:
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
Step 4. If your social security card is missing, call the Social Security Administration (fraud line) at 1-800-269-0271. Also, be sure the Motor Vehicles Bureau about your drivers license, as well as any other organizations from which you lost cards.
Step 5. Next, call the police in the jurisdiction where your credit card(s) was stolen to report the theft.
We hope your credit card and/or wallet is never stolen. However, now you know exactly what to do if it is. Have a great week.