What Should I Do If My Wallet or Purse is Lost or Stolen?


Just discovered that your wallet or purse is missing? Don't panic. Here are steps you can take to protect yourself from becoming an identity theft victim, adapted in part from the FTC article Getting Purse-onal.

Make a list of the contents.

Which of the following was in it? What else?

  • Credit and charge cards
  • ATM/Debit card
  • Checkbook and/or savings account information
  • Drivers license
  • Social Security Card
  • Video or other Rental Cards
  • Medical Insurance Card
  • Keys - car and house

File a report with the police.

Keep a copy of the report. You may need it to show proof of crime.

What to do about the contents.

Take the following steps for each item you may have been carrying in your wallet or purse:

Credit Cards

Under federal law your maximum liability for unauthorized use of your credit card is $50. For some cards your liability is $0.

  • Report the loss to the card issuers immediately. Many issuers have toll-free numbers and 24-hour service to deal with emergencies.
  • Cancel every card.
  • Request a new card with a new account number.


Your maximum liability under federal law is determined by how quickly you report the loss. If you report it missing before it's used for any unauthorized transfers, then you can't be held responsible for them. If unauthorized transfers occur before you report it, your liability is determined by how quickly you report the loss. See the FTC article Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM and Debit Cards for more detailed information.

  • Get a new card with a new account number
  • If your PIN wasn't in the wallet or purse, you probably don't need to change it.

Checkbook and/or savings account information

Notify your credit union(s) and bank(s). Close checking and savings accounts. Open new ones. Put stop payments on outstanding checks.

Drivers License

Report your drivers license as missing to your state's department of motor vehicles (DMV). Also get a replacement license. The appropriate DMV web site can be helpful. Locate your DMV using this page from the USA.gov web site.

Social Security Card

Call or visit your local Social Security office to get a replacement card (Look in the white pages under Social Security Administration or US Government). You will not be issued a new SSN if your card was lost or stolen if there is no evidence that your number is being used by someone. For further information about your Social Security Card read Your Social Security Number and Card from the Social Security Administration.

Keys – Car and House

Change the locks on your house and your car. Thieves don't need access to more of your stuff.

Medical Insurance Card

Check with your insurance company or, if your insurance is provided through your job, check with your human resources or personnel department.

Video or Other Rental Cards

Unlike credit cards, these cards have no federal liability protection. Notify the appropriate companies. Many of these require notification in writing. If you don't notify them, you may end up liable for changes for videos (or other items) that are rented and never returned.

Credit Reporting Agencies/Bureaus

Call the fraud departments of the major credit reporting agencies. Ask them to put a "fraud alert" on your account and to add a "victim's statement" to your file requesting that creditors contact you before opening new accounts in your name.

Ask for copies of your credit reports. You can also get your credit reports from annualcreditreport.com. Review the reports very carefully to make sure that no fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name and no unauthorized changes have been made to existing accounts. In a few months get copies of your credit reports again. Review the reports to make sure that the changes you requested previously have been made. Also review the reports to make sure no fraudulent activity has occurred.

How can you be prepared in case it happens?

  • Make a list of your credit card numbers and contact information & emergency procedures for each.
  • Add to the list any other account numbers and contact information.
  • Keep the list up to date.
  • Keep it in a safe place at home preferably where you will remember you have it.
  • Some people prefer to use a credit card registration service. For a fee, you register all of your cards with the service and then you make one phone call to the service and they notify all of the credit card companies for you. Some will even request replacement cards. Note that this is not the same as credit card protection. Check out Credit Card Loss Protection from the FTC. If you decide to use a registration service, shop around and compare offers. Read the contract very carefully. You aren't required to have a service so don't sign up if you aren't comfortable.

Useful Links

USA.gov is a starting point to find Federal and State information.

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