Losing your wallet or misplacing your credit card is probably one of the scariest things that can happen to you in your home country, let alone if you are currently traveling. With your credit card, thieves and criminals may be able to access the spending power of your credit limit. You may be panicking at this point, but that's okay. Here are 7 steps to follow in order if this happens to you.
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Step 1: Calm Down and Logically Think About Where You Left It Last
Before you grab your phone and cancel everything, calm down and seriously think about the last place you remember seeing your credit cards. More than likely, it was in your wallet or when you used it at a retail store. Slowly and methodically, check your bags, pockets, desks, and anywhere you have been recently. Nevertheless, it is important to note that you should check for it as soon as you realize it is missing. Don’t wait until you get home in a few hours to see if you left it there. It may be too late by that time. Remember, time is of the essence in this situation.
Step 2: Cancel Your Credit Cards
If you can’t find it on your person, it is time to contact your card issuer to cancel all the cards that are missing. Even if you don’t think it has been stolen and only misplaced, it is possible for your credit card to easily fall into the wrong hands. Canceling your card and getting it reissued is a fast and simple process, which your bank is happy to do. You can call them any time of the day 24/7 and your bank will be able to block all future unauthorized transactions from that point on. Remember, they would rather send you a new credit card than have thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges to investigate and settle. Furthermore, you would want to prevent and avoid having to dispute any charges on your credit card. The dispute process takes a long period of time, requires a bit more legwork providing proof and constantly following up, and always leaves me with feeling uneasy.
You may need to reread your terms and conditions. Some card issuers charge for a card replacement. It is usually inexpensive and costs approximately S$5. A word of advice is to record the name of the customer service representative that helped you cancel and replace your credit cards. Also, record the time and date of your call. This information may come in handy in case there is any dispute about whether the fraudulent charges came from you or if you did not notify them in time.
Step 3: Contact the Credit Bureau
Many people forget this step in the process because they think they are safe after canceling all their credit cards. However, if your wallet has been stolen or has gone missing, you were probably targeted. In this case, with your wallet, the criminal now has access to your personal information and your identity. They may have the ability to open new credit card accounts in your name and run up the bill. In this scenario, you may not even know it. Therefore, notifying the credit bureau is essential so that they are aware and can possibly prevent any new accounts from being opened.
Similarly, in the case that a fraudulent charge has already gone through before you have canceled your cards, your credit score may suffer. However, if the credit bureau is aware of the situation, you have another ally on your side.
Step 4: Consider Filing a Police Report
If you believe your credit cards have been stolen, you should file a police report. Head to the nearest police station or you can also do it online. Some card issuers require a police report number to dispute the fraudulent charges. The bank wants to see that you have done everything you can to prevent and report the incident. A police report goes a long way to make sure that you will only be liable up to S$100 of the fraudulent transactions. Additionally, some insurance companies also require a police report for the loss of personal possessions claims to be covered. This may seem like a little petty crime, but it could be part of a larger more organized criminal activity. Besides, it is just a good idea to do your part to prevent this from happening to others or even to you again.
Step 5: Contact Your Insurance Company
If you have an insurance policy that covers the loss of personal items, such as with your travel insurance if you were traveling, you may want to contact your insurer as soon as possible to make a claim. As stated above, you may be required to provide a police report number before they process your claim. Hopefully, you will be reimbursed for the total cost of all your lost or stolen items up to the coverage maximum.
Step 6: Scrutinize Your Bank Statements
Now is the time to check your transaction history and pending charges to see if someone has made any unauthorized charges on your credit card. If you see any fraudulent transactions, contact your bank. Normally, you are responsible for any charges made in your name. However, if you have followed these steps, you will not be held liable for those charges. Nonetheless, it is always wise to follow up with your bank and give them a few days to refund you the amount.
Step 7: Destroy Old Records and Update Your Information
Once you have contacted your bank to cancel your credit cards, those credit card numbers are now useless. You will want to update all your records with the new card number when you get it. This is especially relevant if your bills are enrolled in auto payment. You would not want the bill to bounce back and then incur late penalty fees because your old credit card number is no longer valid.
What to Do if You Find Your Credit Cards
If you have found your lost or stolen credit card, you should inform the bank and credit bureau. They will then be able to lift any credit freezes or limits on your account. Subsequently, you will then be able to use your new card freely. It is ill-advised to use the old card again. Your credit card number has probably already been changed and that old number has been reported stolen.
Once the initial panic of losing your wallet or credit cards has passed, take the proper steps to protect yourself, your finances, and your credit score. It is true that you will be on the phone for quite some time and checking your bank statements long after you get off those phone calls. However, if you act quickly after you realize what has happened, you will have a better chance of avoiding being stuck with a huge credit card bill and significant damage to your credit rating.