They've Got Your Wallet: Now What?

How to Get Back Your Identity and Keep Your Sanity

I am officially "that guy."

You know, the moron who leaves his wallet in his pants in a locker at the gym for an hour and assumes nobody would touch it.

It was a dumb move. Within two hours, someone had already gone on a shopping spree at Old Navy, Target, Home Depot and filled up on gas at Mobil.

They've got my work ID. I'm hoping they'll try and steal that part of my identity too.  At least for a day, because that's how long it's going to take me to clean up this mess.

Maybe you've had your wallet or purse stolen too. Or maybe you will. I hope not. But if you do, take about 45 seconds to flip your lid, then do this:

 1.  Call the police

In my case, it was the Enfield Police. I had to admit what a fool I was, and surprisingly they didn't make fun of me. They reassured me that this happens all of the time and they get paid to find the bad guys.

What they have that you don't: access to store surveillance video and a list of people who've pulled off crimes like this before.

You'll want to get a copy of the police report, the report number and the name of the investigator.  Banks, credit companies and other agencies will need it as proof. You'll also want it in case you get pulled over and don't have your license.

2. Contact the Three Major Credit Bureaus

Chances are, you'll just have to contact one. 

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion all work together to share information once they've placed a "Fraud Alert" on your account. They often only last 90 days though, so you may need to extend it down the road.

What it will do: You'll be notified if anyone tries to open an account or existing accounts in your name are changed.

Next step: Request a free copy of your credit report from each bureau to review. If something doesn't look right, dispute it. Request it again in a few months.


  • Order Credit Report: 1-800-685-1111
  • Report Fraud: 1-800-525-6285


  • Order Credit Report: 1-888-397-3742
  • Report Fraud: 1-888-397-3742


  • Order Credit Report: 1-800-888-4213
  • Report Fraud: 1-800-680-7289

3. Close Jeopardized Accounts

  • Credit:

Alert your credit card companies that your card has been stolen. They'll cancel your card and send you a new one. Make sure they check for the most recent purchases. In my case, we were able to identify the stores the thief hit, what time he or she shopped and how much was spent. This will help police figure out where to look for surveillance video and will also help you dispute the charges before they post to your account.

  • Debit:

Cancel your ATM card. Follow the same steps as above. Make sure your bank changes your pin number when it sends a new card.

  • Check:

Call the bank. Have them cancel your checks and stop payments. 

You may also want to contact major check verification companies directly. They can warn retailers not to accept your checks.

TeleCheck: 1.800-710-9898
Certegy, Inc.: 1.800-437-5120
• SCANN (To find out if the suspect has been using your checks): 1-800-262-7771.
4. Bring Out The Big Guns

Federal Trade Commission

The representatives will take your complaint and help you figure out what happens now that your identity has been stolen. There are lots of great tips on the web site.

600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20580
1.877.IDTHEFT (438.4338)
TDD: 202-326-2502

Social Security Administration

If your social security card is stolen, you'll want to contact the SSA. They investigate allegations of identity theft. You can also request a copy of your Social Security Statement.

P.O. Box 17768
Baltimore, MD 21235

U.S. Postal Inspection Service

This is the law enforcement part of the U.S. Postal Service. They'll investigate your identity theft if it involves the mail.  If the bad guys get caught by the USPS, they'll face time for a federal crime.

U.S. Postal Inspection Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20260

Most importantly - don't wait.  Follow all of these steps as soon as you know your wallet or purse were stolen and your chances of protecting your identity are at their highest.

As for me? Hopefully I'll have someone's mugshot to post on this story soon.

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