A few days ago, I lost my wallet. Understandably, I was pretty bummed… but I was also grateful that I had taken some steps ahead of time to minimize the damage. So, without further ado, let me share with you some suggestions so you, too, can suffer less when you stupidly lose your wallet.
1. Don’t keep more than what’s necessary in your wallet.
This is the easiest way to avoid headaches. You may have 10 credit cards, gas cards, etc., but how many do you really need to use on a daily basis? Putting less in your wallet not only means less hassle when it’s is lost, but also less heft that you have to sit on (if you’re a guy) or carry (if you’re a woman, or a guy who doesn’t like to put his wallet somewhere other than his back pants pocket).
2. If you do keep gift cards / stored value cards on your wallet, make sure they’re registered!
Addicted to Starbucks and got a Starbucks card, for instance? Make sure it—and all your other stored value cards—are appropriately registered so that when they’re lost, you don’t lose the money on the cards.
3. Start a document or note that you can access electronically where you can put critical wallet-related info… ideally something that also syncs with your phone.
You should write down what’s in your wallet and be able to access it from nearly anywhere. You could use Google Docs or Google Notebook or even a (very, very secure, password protected) file on your Web server or file server. Here’s what I do: I have an “In my wallet” Outlook note that I update regularly. I use Plaxo to reliably sync my Outlook notes between home, work, and laptop computers, and then I use my Treo’s software to regularly place that same info on my phone. I don’t put credit card numbers or similarly private info in this note, however, since it’s possible my phone could get stolen, and I haven’t gotten around to passwording it yet. I store that more detailed info on a file on a network drive.
4. Actually update this document.
Yes, you actually have to remember to update this document (or these documents) regularly. Given how often I’m putting things in and out of my wallet (particularly since I travel internationally), this is more important than you might think.
5. Keep an emergency stash of cash at home and at work.
It’s amazing what a nice buffer of $60 will offer when you just need some cash to tide you over for dinner, or get you into a club to meet friends, etc.
6. Separately store a passport (and a photocopy of your passport). Put a scanned copy in a secure location online and tell your family/best friends how to access it.
This is particularly helpful if you find your wallet AND passport stolen sometime, especially if you’re overseas somewhere like, say, Estonia (trust me, I speak from experience on this one!)
7. Make sure the info in your wallet includes your full name and phone number.
That’s important for obvious reasons. Sure, some folks’ll say “don’t include identifying info!” but frankly, I’m more eager to get my wallet back than I am to prevent identify theft (which, IMHO, is a lot more likely via other means and from folks other than your standard pickpocket jerk).
8. Do some checks but don’t panic.
Before you start canceling all your credit cards:
– Check and recheck (and potentially call) obvious and non-obvious locations where you may have dropped, left, or otherwise abandoned your poor wallet.
– Look online right away to see if there’ve been any suspicious charges.
– If you have a debit card, I actually WOULD cancel that right away, since—as I understand it—you don’t have the same sort of protections on that kind of card as you do on regular credit cards.
– On the rest of your stuff, unless it contains info or access-rights that’d be treacherous to your well-being or others’, I’d sleep on it overnight. I think you have something like 24-72 hours to contact your credit card companies before you’re held liable for fraudulent charges. Why stress yourself out with extra work unnecessarily if you don’t have to?
Especially when, in my case, you discover your wallet inexplicably cowering under your bed and not really “lost” at all ;-).