Friday, March 29, 2013

Lost or Stolen Credit Cards, Debit Cards and Identification

I stopped using checks last year and now I use a debit card exclusively. I know I am behind the curve as that is so several years ago! But, I was impressed with myself for being so current and I like the convenience as opposed to using checks. Well last week I was filling up the car at a gas station when I took a call on my phone. I finished up and jumped in the car and realized 30 minutes later at the grocery store that I had left the card at the pump. I flew back to the gas station and some Good Samaritan had taken the card into the office where it was awaiting me. I can’t tell you how panicked I was and how nerve wracking that trip back to the gas station was.


After the emergency was over it occurred to me how unprepared I was if I lost my wallet with my identification, debit cards, credit cards even my social security card. When you lose confidential items like credit cards, keys, and other personal documents, you also run the risk of becoming the victim of a further crime.


Whoever has these items might use them to steal further from you – perhaps your money, items from your home or car, or even your identity.


You can minimize the risk of this happening by taking prompt action. Contact the police, of course. Then you must notify the issuers of all missing credit and debit cards, check books and travelers checks.


This task is considerably easier if you either have a separate list (not in your wallet!) or the emergency numbers for these issuers and banks (you'll find them on the cards and other documents) or subscribe to a card security service that you contact via a single number and they will look after the rest. I of course had not done any of these things so it would have been much harder to recall what I had and who to call.


These cards and other documents will normally be cancelled straightaway. The notification process also usually (but not always) covers you against subsequent fraudulent use of the items – so speed really is essential.


You then need to contact the issuers of any other items (like Social Security, health insurers, state department of motor vehicles, and even your library) so that they are not fraudulently used, and let your insurance agent know.


New cards can be issued and replacement checks can be provided quickly, though replacement Social Security cards generally are not issued.


If it's possible you may become the victim of identity theft, you need to notify the credit reporting agencies and get a fraud alert placed on your records. It is possible to freeze your credit so no one can open an account in your name. For more information see my blog post from 08/10/2012 on “Protect Yourself from ID Theft”.

You know what Grandma always said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Now I am prepared and hopefully will never need to use it!

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