This has to be one of the worst feelings imaginable. I have never lost a wallet. And I have never had a credit card stolen. However, I have had a credit card number compromised. It's a pretty helpless feeling (aside from being a royal pain in the ass to deal with). Still, I only had a number compromised; I could not imagine having a wallet or purse stolen. I imagine it doesn't get much worse. Most stories tend to focus on what you do after you've lost your wallet or purse (and all of your credit cards). Today's story addresses the things you should do before it ever happens.
I believe, though I have no proof, that most people do not memorize all of their card numbers. Ditto the phone numbers to their credit card companies. I haven't memorized any of that information either. No matter. What I have done is taken a picture (close-ups) of each of my cards -- both front and back. I've put these pictures on a 2GB memory stick, which I have hidden in my house. Only my wife and I know where the memory stick is.
Assuming that my wallet is ever stolen, and I am not far from my house, I will be able to bolt home and pull the memory stick out of its hiding place. I will then be able to quickly call of the creditors that need to be called. Lately, I have been thinking about carrying the memory stick with me (with the hope that I could plug my memory stick into a nearby computer (at a store, for example). Since I can now encrypt the files on the memory stick, I'm not so worried about keeping it in my front pocket. To this point, though, I haven't been brave enough to try it yet. I may in the future. Until then, it remains in the house.
If I am not near my house, I carry a small piece of paper on me (at all times) with all of my creditors' phone numbers. It's very simple. Creditor name (Citibank) and phone number (800-950-5114). That's it. Nothing more. In a pinch, I can quickly call of them and notify them that my wallet has been stolen. Even if I do not have the card numbers on me, I will be able to verify myself by giving the customer-service representative personal information over the phone that will prove who I am. We can then cancel the cards.
As for the other important information in my wallet, I have recorded that stuff as well. I have a backup of everything that I carry on a daily basis. Which reminds me. Many of us are carrying far too many cards in our wallets and purses on a daily basis. Fact is, I use one or two cards a day -- tops. Why do I need to carry ten cards in my wallet? It makes more sense to simply carry a primary card and a few backups at most. The rest should stay home -- in a safe place. The practice of leaving your cards at home will mitigate any damage that would occur if your wallet or purse is lost or stolen. (Also, stop carrying your social-security cards on you. Please. I see a lot of people carrying social-security cards on them. Don't.)
In addition to recording all of my vital information, I also have a file where I keep my user names and passwords. I do not have any passwords sitting around my office. I now use Locknote to secure this text file. With Locknote, I now feel secure leaving my login information on my computer.
In the event that your credit cards are stolen, you might want to call the credit bureaus. It might be smart to put a credit freeze or fraud alert on each of your credit reports at that point. Also, be sure to watch your online accounts like a hawk.
By the way, it's true that your monetary liability is $50 for purchases that are made before you report the cards lost or stolen (and it's $0 for purchases after you've reported the card lost or stolen). But that's not the problem. The problem with lost and stolen cards is often the amount of time spent dealing with the fraudulent purchases that take place on the card. You'll have to submit fraud affidavits to your card company saying that you did not make the purchases in question. Indeed, when my BMW Visa card number got compromised in 2006, it took months of back-and-forth correspondence between me and BMW before I finally got the situation squared away. And that was just one card. Imagine if you had to deal with a half dozen! Therefore, the faster you can get your cards reported stolen or lost, the less time you'll spend later on trying to resolve issues. In other words, it's a race. By being prepared, you'll have a jump on anyone who might want to use your cards fraudulently.
In the meantime, here are some key numbers just in case you lose any of your cards.
FRAUD ALERT (AND FREEZE) NUMBERS FOR CREDIT BUREAUS
- Experian: 888-397-3742
- Equifax: 888-766-0008
- TransUnion: 800-680-7289
LOST OR STOLEN CARDS
- American Express: 800-992-3404. Outside the United States, call collect 336-393-1111.
- Bank of America: 800-732-9194. Outside the United States, call collect 302-738-5719.
- Chase: 800-432-3117. From Outside the United States, call collect 302-594-8200.
- Citibank: 800-950-5114. From Outside the United States, call collect 605-335-2222.
- Discover: 800-347-2683. From Outside the United States, call collect 801-902-3100. Also, here is the Discover card lost and stolen checklist.
- Federal Trade Commission's Lost or Stolen Information.
LOST OR STOLEN SOCIAL SECURITY CARD
Also, if your Social Security card is lost or stolen, you should request a new card here: How do I replace a lost Social Security card?.
Remember: the Social Security Administration does not take reports of lost or stolen cards. The best you can do is simply request a replacement card.
In addition to replacing your Social Security card, you should also read this information about identity theft and your Social Security card: Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number.
If I didn't list the number for your card company, be sure to get it and write it down. Anyhow, you can store all of these phone numbers in your cell phone. Do that right now while it's fresh in your mind.
Listen, I'm hoping that you'll never have your cards stolen or lost. But in case you do, be prepared. Take the necessary steps today to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible later.
Prepare and plan. If you haven't already done so, start doing it today.
Have a Plan if You Want to Keep Your Scores High
If Your Relationship Ended Today, Would you be Prepared?
- If you Don't Have a Credit Plan, You're Doing Something Wrong