You reach for your wallet, and it’s not there. Your stomach gets tied up in knots and your face drains of color—the panic. Where is it? What happened to it? Take a deep breath and clear your head. Where was the last place that you saw it or used it? Retrace your steps and search in any crevice to see if it’s fallen between the seats. Sometimes, the unthinkable does happen. It’s really gone. Whether it was lost or stolen, all of your personal information and bank information is vulnerable to attack. Don’t hesitate as soon as you realize it’s gone; contact all the necessary organizations to protect yourself against identity theft.

  1. Debit and credit cards: Begin with debit cards because they generally have less fraud protection than credit cards. Call the banks to cancel the cards. They will send out replacements. Then call the credit card companies to call those as well. While you have them on the phone, ask to hear what the last few purchases were on the cards to see if you recognize them.
  2. Credit freeze: Don’t stop there. Put a freeze on your credit accounts so fraudulent spending doesn’t hurt your future credit score. Call each of the 3 major credit-reporting agencies to request the freeze. If anyone tries to make a purchase, the creditor will have to verify identity before allowing the transaction. They even have an added measure of security by calling the number you have on the account to confirm the purchase.

        Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742)

        Equifax: 1-800-525-6285

        Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289

  1. Police report: Call the police to report the lost license in case of identity theft. It’s good to have a police report on file. Ask them for a copy for your own records.
  2. Replace license: The next step is to replace the missing license. Without a valid license, you can’t drive, and it doubles as your photo ID for other circumstances. This should be one of your top priorities. Contact your DMV to see what the best method is to get a new license. Depending on your DMV, you have several different options to replace the missing license.
  3.     In person—you can always visit your local DMV during normal office hours, and complete the process there. This is a direct way to do it, but many people shy away from the DMV because of the long wait times.
  4.     Online—visit your local DMV’s website to complete the application form. You will need a valid credit card to order the new license. If all of your cards have been compromised, then you need to go in person and pay with a different method.
  5.     Mail—you can download the application off of the website to complete and mail in with a check.
  6.     Phone—some DMV’s have this option. An operator will walk you through the process, but again, you’ll need a credit card to complete the purchase.
  7.     Kiosk—this option is limited to a few states. A self-serve kiosk is located at the DMV, where you can complete your request without having to spend more time waiting to speak to a representative at a desk.

Try to think of any other important documents or information that may have been compromised, and contact the appropriate authorities. Things like work badges, medical insurance cards, computer passwords, etc. will all be important to replace, reset, or notify the property authorities.

If by chance your keys were taken as well, make sure to change the locks on all of the doors as soon as possible.

Take measures to protect yourself before something happens. Download a “Lost Wallet” app to inventory everything in your possession. It will replicate everything in your wallet and protect the information with a secure password. They even have a list of emergency contact numbers so you can quickly handle a lost wallet. There’s nothing worse than the pit in your stomach when you realize your wallet is gone. If it does happen, stay calm and start calling authorities immediately.