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What To Do If Your Purse is Lost or Stolen

We've all heard horror stories about the fraud that's committed using your name, address, social security number, credit cards, etc. Unfortunately, I have first hand knowledge of this horror story because my wallet was stolen last month. Within a week the thief ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information online, and more.

Here's some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know. As everyone always advises, cancel your credit cards immediately, but the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can easily find them without having to hunt for them.  You don't need the additional stress nor will your memory serve you well under stress so make it easy on yourself by having them in an easy-to-remember spot! On a personal note, I remember losing a Master Card awhile back and until I got the toll free number from information, etc. I was a wreck.

Next, file a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen. Do not wait until you get home. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).  But here's what is perhaps most important: call the 3 national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security #. I learned the hard way when a bank called to tell me an application for credit was made over the Internet in my name.

The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and has to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.  By the time I was advised to do this, almost two weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done. FYI: There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves' purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. 

Since then, no additional damage has been done. The thieves threw my wallet away a good samaritan turned it in sans credit cards and cash.

The most important thing to remember is to take immediate action. Do not wait until you get home or to the office. Use your cell phone or go to a pay phone and make these calls immediately. A lot of damage can be done in the time you wait.

Call all of these numbers to report the theft or loss of credit card:  Equifax 1-888-766-0008,  Experian (formerly TRW) 1-888-397-3742, Trans Union 1-800-888-4213; the Social Security Administration also has a fraud line at 1-800-269-0271 if you think you've been a victim of identity theft.