Sunday, July 8, 2012

How to Prepare for a Stolen Purse or Wallet

You may have seen the movie When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle or You've Got Mail.  If you have, then you've enjoyed the work of Nora Ephron who passed away June 26 at the age of 71.  I just read a wonderful article about her in Entertainment Weekly and I came away with one a new favorite quote from a commencement address she gave in 1996 at Wellesley College:

"Above all, be the heroine in your life, not the victim."

At the time I read the quote I was feeling so strong.  Not at all like a victim, but it spoke to me about the choices we have and how we react to what happens to us on a daily basis.

Last night I was a victim.  

We were playing tennis just down the street from our house and it was still light out.  As we all sat down to eat dinner my phone started ringing and with the caller id of "Unknown" on the display.  Usually "Unknown" pops up when there is a doctor's office calling.  Immediately I wondered if Joey's blood work he had drawn on Friday had already come back and was so bad they were calling me at 8:12pm on a Saturday night.  I answered and it wasn't a doctor's office, but it was a police officer.  When he asked if I was Jen I immediately thought someone had died.  Why else do the police call you on your cell phone and know your name? But then he started asking me questions about my purse and what color it was and what brand it was.  I was wondering how he knew all this information about my purse if it was out in the parking lot in my back seat.  I started walking out to the parking lot while he told me that he had found my purse on the side of the road when someone saw it thrown out of a car and called the police.  As I walked up to my car I saw the rear window behind the driver's seat smashed to smithereens.

I walked up and there in Tommy's little car seat was a huge pile of safety glass shattered all over.

On the other side you could still see where the perpetrator had pressed his or her forehead up against the window to look in the car.

I thought it was safe. I had tucked it down on the floor and the back windows are all tinted.

I was wrong.  

Amazingly the police brought my purse back, but my license, credit cards, debit cards, checkbook, sunglasses (arrrgggghhhhh!!!!it is such a pain to find good sunglasses that fit!!), and cash were all stolen.

Then I saw my Buddy Walk envelope and my heart sank. The checks and cash that people had donated so far was all gone. That was when I cried.  

But-- this is why you have to be the heroine of your life and not the victim.

I hope someone else will learn from my mistakes.

I hope you will not leave your purse/wallet/computer in your car.  I have a rear compartment in my trunk space that I will use from now and lock.  

I also hope that you will do one simple step to help make this kind of situation much simpler for yourself than it was for me-- tonight or tomorrow-- make a copy of everything in your wallet and put it in a safe place in your house, so if this ever happens (and I hope it doesn't) you will be prepared to quickly cancel everything.  

In the meantime, here is a story of true courage and heroines (twins!) that will hopefully make your heart soar!

Family with twins facing incredible challenges receives gift from strangers.

Here is a great list I found at Identity Theft Laps that is also helpful if you are ever in this situation:

stolen purse or lost wallet gives an identity thief all the information and documentation they need to take advantage of your good name and credit. Criminals can sell your identification very easily, view the Dateline MSNBC video on our home page to see how quickly and easily it is done. As frustrating and scary as it is, there are many things you can do right now so that you aren’t victimized further.
If you would rather speak to a professional right now here is the number to two of the best services we have ever researched.
LifeLock can be reached at 1-800-543-3562 or from international locations at 1-480-457-4500. Mention promotion code “BestOffer” to save 10% each and every year.
TrustedID is also a great choice and can be reached at 1-800-229-9933
Here is completely what to do if your wallet is stolen.

1. Call your credit card and ATM card issuers.

Request account number changes. Be sure to understand your options here. One option is to call and completely cancel all your cards. This is almost never the right choice. Canceling credit cards that have an outstanding balance, or canceling a whole set of credit cards can have a negative impact on your credit score.
Also, if you simply cancel cards, this may incite banks to maximize the interest rate on any outstanding balance. It is best to contact customer service for each debit or credit card by phone and clearly explain that your card has been lost or stolen. Most banks have plans in place to address this situation.
  • Your hard copy or electronic statements contain the Phone numbers, or call toll free assistance 800-555-1212.
  • Insist on new account numbers, and request transfer of any mileage or other card benefits. Same credit limits (important for maintaining credit score), same or better terms.

2. Open a report with local Police or Sheriff

  • Do not skip this step as it will be an essential piece of information if you do become an identity theft victim.
  • Keep a copy of this police report for your records.
  • Likely questions during the report filing process:
    • When did you first notice your wallet was lost
    • Where do you think your purse was stolen or lost
    • What items were in your wallet or purse at the time
    • Description of the stolen wallet or lost purse
    • Any suspects? Do you have a description?

3. Call all three major credit reporting agencies and request a fraud alert be put on your account.

  • Experian PO Box 9595, Allen, TX 75013-9595 Tel: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
  • Equifax PO Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 Tel: 800-525-6285
  • Trans Union PO Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022 Tel: 800-680-7289
  • This fraud alert will require creditors to verify your identity before approving any credit
  • Verification is often done by calling your phone number which will be placed in your credit file when you place a fraud alert.

4. Contact your bank or credit union’s fraud department and report the event.

  • You may be able to combine this with step 1 above, especially regarding ATM (debit) cards.

5. Order and begin a vigilant review of your credit reports

  • Order from Annual Credit Report the only government mandated free service.
  • Look for and investigate any suspicious activity.

6. Report a missing driver’s license to your state’s department of motor vehicles.

  • Re-issue of driver’s Licenses varies by state, ask about your state’s process when visiting with DMV

7. If your keys are missing (Auto or Home) change the locks on your home and car.

  • This important step is often neglected. If your purse was stolen, you have to remember that even if keys and other items are recovered, they may have been duplicated prior to recovery.

8. Begin a written list (inventory) of every item in the stolen wallet or lost purse

  • List everything, credit cards, Blockbuster cards, retail shopping cards, gift cards, cash estimate, lipstick, children’s information, etc. Keep the list with you and add to it, in a day or two you will have remembered nearly every item you had in your wallet or purse. This complete inventory will be very useful in detecting fraud and speeding your recovery.
  • Questions to ask yourself:
    • Were there any blank checks in my purse when it was stolen
    • You didn’t have any account numbers or passwords in your wallet, did you?
    • Did you have any of those little plastic car or house keys?
    • ID cards for daycare or Sunday School pickup?
    • Cards or slips of paper with padlock, mailbox, or safe deposit box combinations

9. Enroll with a reputable Identity Theft Protection Service

This is a recommendation, but we believe in it strongly, and you will sleep much better! Consider enrolling with TrustedIDDebix, or LifeLock. These services are very affordable at $9 or less per month or $99 or less per year, plus, if you do become a victim, you will have an identity protection company to help you restore your credit and good name.
Trust us, you don’t want to go through this experience. It is far more frustrating and stressful dealing with all the red tape and bureaucracy than the loss of your wallet or purse. You also won’t have to worry about when the attack will be initiated, identity thieves may wait anywhere from a few months to a few years. Enrolling will also give youidentity theft insurance or a service guarantee that covers you up to 1 million dollars. If you wait till after an identity theft attack you will not be able to get insurance from anyone.
See our article titled Identity Protection Do I Really Need It? It is packed full of useful information and reveals many truths about identity theft that most people are unaware of.

10. Have a detailed discussion with your bank

According to the Federal Trade Commission, no federal law limits your losses should someone obtain your checks and forge your signature. State laws usually hold the bank responsible in this case, but the Catch-22 comes when they also require you to “take reasonable care” of your account. Stay in the law’s good graces by closing your current checking account and reopening a new one, especially if you lost checks. The bank will notify its internal processors about the now defunct account, but the FTC recommends you call these check verification services to stop someone from using one of your checks at a merchant’s cash register:
  • TeleCheck 1-800-710-9898 or 927-0188
  • Certegy Inc. 1-800-770-3792
  • International Check Services 1-800-631-9656
This is a stressful situation and can leave one feeling violated and angry but knowingwhat to do when your purse is stolen is half the battle. If you act quickly using the guidelines above you can keep it from taking your stress to a whole new level and from becoming a major financial disaster or identity theft situation.
If you have not lost your wallet or had your purse stolen, great! By reading the information above you can easily see why identity theft prevention is the key here! Taking a few simple precautions now can save you time and money if your personal information is ever compromised.
Here’s a few tips that may save you a lot of time, money and stress:
  • Carry only what you need in your wallet or purse. Store all non-essential information in a safe place.
  • Make a detailed list of the items you do carry with you.
  • Never carry your Social Security number in your wallet or purse
  • Never carry account numbers or passwords in your purse or wallet
  • Keep the contact numbers and information for all your financial and personal information in a secure place so they will be available easily if needed
  • Purchase identity theft protection.
  • Choose a service like LifeLock that has WalletLock or a similar benefit. With WalletLock you make one call to 24/7 customer service team if you wallet is stolen or your purse is lost and they do all the work to replace your ID.
  • Remember, its not just the fraud detection or the removal from pre-approved credit cards etc. Its the identity theft insurance or service guarantee that protects you and your money up to 1 million dollars. It’s the credit restoration and protection of your good name. Its the time saving, stress reduction of having someone else on your side in the event you need them. It is the peace of mind knowing someone has your back.
  • If you are unfamiliar with these identity protection plans you can read our Lifelock ReviewTrustedID Review or our Debix Review to learn more about the services from each of these identity protection companies.
  • Also, please read through this website and learn about identity theft. You will find some great tips and hopefully you will come to the understanding that times have changed and that it’s in your best interest to protect yourself from this potentially devastating crime. How you do it is up to you, we just implore you to do something before it is too late. Please stay safe.


  1. Yikes! What an absolute nightmare. I can just imagine everything that was going through your head when you discovered it was the police officer on your phone. I have had credit card numbers stole, but nothing like the entire purse/wallet. I am so sorry that this happened to you, Jennifer. Thank you for educating all of us because I would have been clueless

  2. Oh man! That stinks. So sorry. This is a good reminder to be more careful. Thanks.

  3. Oh, Jennifer! I cris reading this because I had my purse stolen at the gym a few years ago. I remember the feelings. Hope you were able to get all your phone calls made and everyone on alert! Thanks for educating the rest of us!

  4. Man I'm so sorry this happened to you. People who steal money going to charity stink! Thank you for the info. I did save a copy of everything but its old guess its time to update


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