Crime Abroad: What to Do if Your Wallet is Lost or Stolen

Posted on September 8, 2011


You can prepare for the worst when it comes to a stolen wallet.

Everyone can imagine that feeling of panic that sets in as you check your pockets and purse for a second or third time. Read this article for tips on how to prepare for the worst, and also for advice on what you should do so the replacement process is simpler and less stressful.

By Lisa Koehler

Speaking from experience, losing your wallet is a disaster – scary, stressful, a huge hassle! Although your first instinct may be to panic, it is vital that you stay calm and remember that the wallet and its contests can be replaced (except for cash, but even then, it’s only money).

Call the bank. If you find that your wallet is missing, immediately call the bank and report your debit and credit cards stolen. Without a report, you will be responsible for any withdrawals or overdraft charges, so the sooner you call the better.

Cancel your credit cards. Whether at home or abroad, you should always cancel your credit cards as soon as you realize your wallet is missing. At my university’s orientation, an Italian police officer told us that they often find stolen wallets thrown away with only the money missing. Even though some thieves seem to be disinterested in running up your charge, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Buy a new wallet. Although this seems like a no-brainer, it’s actually very important. Wallets keep your money and credit cards organized and ironically, prevent you from misplacing them.  Fishing in your bag or pocket for crumpled money is always a production and invites the attention of pickpockets. As they say, “Rob me once, shame on you; rob me twice, shame on me. “

Driver’s license. As long as you still have your passport, it is not vital that you get a new license immediately. However, there are some activities that will require a driver’s license, such as driving cars, motorbikes, or ATVs. While in Greece I was without my license, but I was able to ride on the back of my friend’s ATV. I was a little bummed at first, but on the bright side, while everyone was terrified driving through the hills, I was able to take in the beautiful scenery and snap a few pictures along the way.

Dealing with the US DMV is no picnic, but you might as well call and have them send a new lisence to your home while you are still abroad. If you need it, have someone at home forward it.

Money. Sorry, but that’s gone.

How to Prepare Before It Happens:

COPIES, COPIES, COPIES! One thing you should never do is leave home without making a copy of all your credit cards, bank cards, your license and passport. If your wallet goes missing, having these copies cuts the time it takes to replace everything in half because you have all of the numbers and information ready for the credit card companies, bank, and DMV. Make sure you keep these copies in an extremely safe place. Never casually travel with them; they are for emergency purposes only!

Cash Stash. Before departing for a destination, withdraw cash that will serve as your “just in case” fund, and keep it safely hidden in your hotel, apartment, or homestay. If you lose your wallet, you will lose cash and the bank card that allows you to take out more money. The last thing you want is to be completely broke while you wait for a new bank card to arrive. Having extra cash will provide you emergency funds until your new card arrives in the mail. If you do not need to use your credit card often, consider hiding it away also.

Passport. When you are not crossing borders, never carry your passport with you. Leave it hidden at home. If you are afraid you may need some documentation while you walk around town, carry a color copy along with you.

Always travel with a phone. If you are out and realize your wallet has gone missing or has been stolen, a cell phone helps to make emergency calls. What you really don’t want is to be wallet-less and unable to get in contact with anyone to help you, and remember, phone cards cost money!

Stay Alert. Don’t give a pickpocket any opportunities. Be aware of your belongings at all times. Girls, I suggest a strap bag that crosses over the front of your body and zips fully. Guys, keep your wallet in your front pocket and guard it as best you can when moving through a large crowd. If you are smart and on the lookout, there is no reason for your walled to go MIA.

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