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Nobody ever wants to think about having their wallet lost or stolen, but it happens more often than you may realize — and millions of Americans are among the victims.
According to the Nilson Report, card fraud losses worldwide reached $21.84 billion in 2015.
Read more: These are the worst store credit cards
Credit cards stolen and used minutes later
Many years ago, someone stole my credit cards out of a locked gym locker and went on a $2,000 shopping spree before my workout was over.
I remember it like it was yesterday: running to an employee at the front desk to have them call the police.
As I waited for the responding officer to take down my information, I got on the phone and started calling my credit card companies to report the stolen cards.
By that time, the thief had already used my cards at Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond and other retailers.
Just thinking about that night brings back a lot of anxiety so you can probably understand how it was difficult for me to recall the cards in my wallet off the top of my head.
My heart was beating so fast, I wasn’t quite sure if I was covering everything that was stolen.
Do you have a credit card list? Here’s why you should
Determined to never put myself in that situation ever again, I jotted down a simple list of every single credit card account in my name, which I update and keep in a safe place to this day.
The list includes the following information:
- Names of credit cards (not credit card numbers)
- Customer service phone numbers
I began my credit card list before smartphones came along, but I have since uploaded my credit card list to Google Drive for access on the go.
Because smartphones can be stolen as well, I still keep a hard copy at home.
Credit card list 2.0
The key difference is that his list includes details about the accounts you have linked to each credit card.
Let’s say your payment information is compromised in a data breach and you’re issued a new credit card with a new account number. Now you have to update all of your bills that are auto-paid.
To avoid any late fees or service interruptions, you need to address those accounts in a timely manner.
Sample credit card list:
What to do if your wallet is lost or stolen
Unless you have a bill due right away, that task can usually wait a day or two. However, here are three things Bank of America says you should do immediately if your wallet is lost or stolen:
- Call your bank and credit card issuers to cancel or put an alert on each card
- File a police report in case you become the victim of identity theft
- Contact TransUnion, Equifax or Experian to put a fraud alert on your credit report
The third step is so crucial! The Federal Trade Commission says the initial fraud alert, which is free, can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name.
Important note: You only have to call one credit reporting company — they’re required to tell the other two.
Once you’ve gotten the immediate steps out of the way, go ahead and request replacement credit cards and update account information for your automatic payments.
Limit liability by reporting unauthorized activity ASAP
Yes, having my credit cards stolen was a hassle, but it could have been much worse.
Even though the thief spent more than $2,000 using my credit cards, I was not held liable for any of the charges because I reported the incident promptly — a key reason why Clark prefers credit over debit.
Watch below: Clark explains why debit cards are inferior to credit cards
“If your credit card is lost or stolen, you can’t lose more than $50,” according to the FTC. “If someone uses your ATM or debit card without your permission, you can lose much more.”
To learn more about the differences between debit and credit, see our Common Cents guide.
In the meantime, we’ve provided a credit card list template to save yourself from future worry if your cards are ever compromised. Take 10 minutes and fill it out today!
Check out more from our Michael Saves series:
- How I paid off my $86,000 mortgage in 2 years
- 5 timeless tips from my grandmother that can save you money
- Simple budgeting trick to save 2 full paychecks in 2017