If you have never lost (or had stolen) your purse or wallet before, congratulations! You have either been super lucky or incredibly diligent in looking after your possessions. Those of you who have been through this tragedy before are more the norm. For whatever reason, the vessel that contains your ‘life’ is no longer in your possession and you are now awash in feelings of panic, fear, and anger. In my case, all of the following thoughts raced through my mind:
- How long do I keep looking for my wallet before I give up and start trying to replace items?
- What was in my wallet to begin with… debit/credit cards, driver’s license, social security card, cash, pictures, memberships, punch card at the yogurt shop?
- Who do I call regarding each item in the wallet?
- Will the credit card companies forgive any charges made by thieves?
- How long will it take before I get replacements and what do I do in the meantime?
- How was my wallet lost or stolen in the first place and what stupid actions or inactions on my part led to the event?
Once I made the determination that the wallet was indeed gone, it took a week or two before things were back to something near normal. Separate calls were made to credit card companies, the DMV, Social Security, and any places issuing membership cards. Most were sympathetic of my plight while others poked fun at or issued warnings about my liability. The calls took up my time and, in most cases, only added to my frustration and anger. I was mad at myself and vowed to make sure this never happened to me again.
Before I ventured out again with all my replacements cards, I decided to do an honest assessment of what actually needed to be in my wallet. I did need my driver’s license for obvious reasons. I did need a primary credit card or debit card, but not more than one. Did I need all the department store cards? My assessment was no. It would now be incumbent on me to remember to bring those cards if I chose to shop at JC Penney, Macy’s, Sears, etc. Add in cash, some pictures, and a few membership cards and my wallet was noticeably lighter. No longer would my ass hurt on one side from sitting on a packed wallet and I could rest easier that fewer cards were at stake in the event of loss or theft.
I thought I had come up with a pretty good plan to mitigate against another wallet misadventure, but I would soon find out all was not perfect. Remember that I chose not to carry the department store cards thinking that I would retrieve those when I made planned trips to those stores. Sure enough, I found myself in Macy’s one day without my card. I was finally going to replace all the hand-me-down cookware I inherited with a nice matching set, but how would I pay? I could have paid with cash or a credit card, but I wanted to take advantage of a discount offered to those who used their Macy’s card. I explained to the salesperson that I did not have my card with me. She said that it was no problem and she just had a few questions for me. With a crowd of shoppers around me within earshot, I had to provide information like my Social Security Number, phone number, and address. It suddenly occurred to me that this wasn’t the greatest idea anymore. If I had the card or at least my account number with me, I wouldn’t have had to share my personal information with the gaggle of strangers around me.
It seems to me that many of us are caught between a rock and a hard place on this issue. We need our account information with us to make purchases and prove identity, but if it is with us, then others have unprotected access to the same information. Even if a credit card company is able to deny an unauthorized purchase made on your card, you will still likely need to replace the card with a new one… and the vicious cycle continues.