Last weekend a couple of friends were ice climbing in Vermont's Smuggler's Notch near Mt. Mansfield and they were benighted. When they returned to their car their window had been smashed, and one of the climbers wallet had been stolen from the glove compartment. Any way you slice it, getting your wallet stolen sucks. But there are steps you can take pre-theft to protect yourself and make the process of dealing with it easier.
Whether your wallet is lifted from you pack, your car or your pocket...here's what to do before and after to lessen the impact:
1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put 'PHOTO ID REQUIRED.'
2. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, only put the last four numbers of your account in the "for" line. The credit card company will know the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check won't have access to the number.
3. Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box use that instead of your home address. If you don't have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your social security number printed on your checks. You can write it in if necessary.
4. Photocopy the backs and fronts of all the cards you carry in your wallet, including credit cards, insurance cards, AAA card, license, etc. That way, you'll know what you had in your wallet and you'll have the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel cards or alert agencies. Keep the photocopy in a safe place.
5. Call the police where your wallet was stolen and file a police report immediately. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is the first step toward an investigation.
7. Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and also call the Social Security fraud line number. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.
1.) Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
2.) Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
3.) Trans Union: 1-800-680 7289
4.) Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271
Don't leave your wallet in a vulnerable place. Only take what you need to the trailhead--a credit card, insurance card, license and some cash, and leave the rest home in a safe place to minimize your risk. And, if you've brought those items along, zip them into a safe pocket in a piece of clothing you won't peel during the day so they are always with you as ID and to keep them safe from sticky fingers.