Photo: milkos via 123RF

You hope it never happens to you, that heart-pounding realization that you don’t know where your purse or wallet is. That little sachet holds all of your most important stuff, from money and credit cards to identifying documents. Losing it is frightening, but don’t panic. There are steps you can take to minimize the damage.

Try Not to Panic

This is much easier said than done. Most of us need our wallets to get by on a day-to-day basis, not to mention the amount of personal information that lives in a wallet that can be used nefariously. Unfortunately, you’re in for a long few days and weeks, with many phone calls ahead of you, so take a deep breath, grab that phone charger, and get dialing.

Let the Bank Know

Once you realize that your wallet is missing, call your various banks and let them know. This means calling every bank where you have a debit or credit card and telling them your wallet has been stolen, and you need to freeze your accounts immediately. Depending on how long it takes you to realize your wallet is missing, your bank may find out first and call you. Most banks have policies that require them to flag suspicious spending and contact the cardholder to determine if the spending was legitimate. Either way, tell them the truth and get a freeze placed on your account.

Let the Police Know

Even if you think it’s unlikely that the police will be able to help you recover your wallet once it’s been stolen, you should still file a police report. Doing so will help you fight back against identity fraud. A police report proves that you were a victim of a crime and will help you convince banks that you are not responsible for charges. In severe cases, thieves will use the information in wallets to take out a loan in your name, for which you will be responsible for repaying. The best way — and sometimes the only way — to fight back against this is with a police report verifying that you were a victim of a crime. Be specific when making the report and describe what was lost, the wallet itself, and its contents as accurately as possible. Get a copy of the case number and a hard copy of the file, as you’ll probably be referring to it.

Photo: shaffandi via 123RF

Replace Your Identification

Your driver’s license or other government-issued ID was probably in your wallet, so you’ll have trouble proving you’re you until you get a replacement. Every state has different regulations, but many require a police report to issue a replacement ID, so bring that paperwork with you when you go.

Call Your Health Insurance Company

Sure, a thief is much more likely to go on a shopping spree than head out for a root canal and charge it to your dental insurance, but you never know, and you don’t want to be on the hook for anything.

Think About Other Risks

If you carry a purse and the whole thing was stolen, think about what else a thief might have that could compromise you. For example, your phone was probably in your purse. Call your cell phone provider and have it shut off as soon as possible to keep the thief from finding out any more sensitive information about you. What about your keys? Play it safe and get your locks replaced to make sure no one’s letting themselves in with what they’ve pilfered.

Realizing that your wallet or purse has been stolen is terrifying, but with the right action, it doesn’t have to be a disaster. Place a few phone calls, be polite and diligent, and plan to keep that wallet out of reach of others once you buy a new one.