How to Deal with Losing Your Wallet

Your wallet contains a plethora of information about you, from your cards and license, to your cash. Losing it means losing all that it contained, and that puts you in grave danger, because you run the risk of identity theft. You need to be aware what needs to be done in such a case to protect yourself from things like credit car fraud, identity theft, etc. Once you get over the initial shock of losing a wallet, it’s time to think clearly. Do not panic (easier said than done, I agree). Think of ways to amend the situation. Here’s how.

Dealing with the Loss of Your Wallet

– Once you are sure the wallet is not on you, hunt for it. Try to remember where you last used it, where you were when you last used it, what did you use it for, etc. Rake your brains and see if you recall where you put it back once you finished using it. Then look for it again in those places.
– If you are sure you have lost it, call the place you last visited with your wallet. Most public places like shopping malls have a lost-and-found center, so chances are if they have come across the wallet, it might have been deposited at some such center. You will need to identify yourself on the phone with some sort of ID.
– If you own a debit card, call your bank and report the loss immediately. A debit card in the hands of strangers is an extremely risky proposition. You must report the loss within two business days, this ensures that you will not be charged anything more than $50 for unauthorized use. If you delay it further, the liability goes up to $500. Contact the bank’s fraud department and report that the debit card has been stolen/lost.
– Call the credit card company without further delay to minimize the chances of credit card fraud. Cancel all credit cards. The maximum liability you will face is $50, even if the card is used before you have even reported that it’s stolen or missing. Bear in mind though, if you have an outstanding balance on your credit card, canceling it is not a very good idea, as it can hamper your credit score. In such a case, specifically inform the credit card company that the card is lost. Most card companies have rules and regulations in place to deal with such a scenario. You can instead request for a new account number.
– The next step you must do is file a stolen wallet report with the police. Be prepared to answer a multitude of questions. You will need to let them in on all details, from where you were at the time of loss, description of the wallet and all the items it contained, and any suspects. This step is important, it can help you in the long run, especially with identity theft and insurance claims.
– Call all the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). Report that you have lost all your cards and ask them to issue a fraud alert on your account.
– Contact the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and report the loss of your license. The rules for reissuing of a driver’s license depend on which state you reside in. Find out the exact procedures you need to follow while applying for a replacement license.
– If your wallet contained any set of house or car keys, get the locks changed without any delay. You may eventually get back your stolen keys, but you do not want to face any risk in case they have been duplicated during that time.
– Companies like Debix, LifeLock, and TrustedID offer protection and insurance against identity theft. These companies offer services at less than $10 per month, and in case you become a victim of identity theft, you can be assured your credit and identity will be restored.
– If your wallet contained blank checks, notify your bank. If you have anyway requested for a new checking account, your account will have become inoperative. But to be on the safer side, the Federal Trade Commission advises that anyone who has lost a blank check should call and confirm with the three major check verification services, namely TeleCheck, Certegy, and International Check Services, whether the check is being used to pay at any store anywhere.
– You should also cancel any department-store issued credit cards, library cards or any other membership cards your wallet contained, especially if they have your Social Security Number printed on them.
– Every now and then, go through your bank statements and report any unauthorized transfers and withdrawals to the card issuing company.

To minimize the dangers associated with losing your wallet, keep a few tips in mind. Carry only the bare essentials you need. Do not carry any sensitive information like passwords, account numbers, information related to your children in your wallet. Limit the number of credit and debit cards you keep with you. Never ever carry your Social Security card in your wallet! And at all times, know what all items your wallet contains, so if you misplace it, you know what all you have lost. As bad as it may be, remember, that losing a wallet is not the end of the world. Knowing what needs to be done and following the steps above will reduce your stress, if at all you realize your personal information is in peril and you could be a potential victim of identity theft.

How Long Should You Keep Receipts and Bills

Receipts and bills are commonly issued by service and utility providers as an acknowledgement towards payment of dues and charges by you. Some recurring bills and receipts go on piling up in heaps every month. Many people are actually confused with how long they need to keep these bills and receipts and so, they go on retaining them for years together. Suddenly they realize that, the receipt pile is occupying a major part of their drawer or filing cabinet. This space could have otherwise been used for storing other documents. Well, my article will help you deal with this very problem. Read on…

Valid Duration of Receipts and Bills

Gas and Electricity Bills
These documents make for a good proof of payment as well as proof of address. If there are any kinds of disputes pertaining to these bills, they ideally get solved in less than a year’s time. However, I suggest that these bills should be retained by you for not more than 2 years at a time.

Credit Card Bills
Credit card payment bills and receipts can usually be disposed off within a period of 50 days to 3 years time. These bills are important if you can expect a rebate on the bills from your organization in the next few years. Make sure to keep a copy of the payment check along with the receipt.

Bills for Purchases
There are numerous number of purchases that you make throughout the year. E.g. jewelry, home appliances, cars, etc. As far as vehicles are concerned, these receipts clearly state the purchase value and therefore can be of use at the time of depreciating the asset. For items like jewelry, such bills are crucially important in case your jewelry gets stolen. They are essential for submitting jewelry valuation report to insurance companies. I suggest that you retain these bills along with the guarantee or warranty cards for as long as you hold these assets in your possession.

Insurance Premium Payment Receipts
These receipts are one of the most crucial documents of your investment portfolio. Ideally, you need to keep these receipts and copies of payment checks permanently. On rare occasions, when your policy lapses or expires, retain the papers for another couple of years just in case you can revive the policy.

Rent Receipts and Home Purchase Documents
All payment receipts received by you when purchasing a new house should be retained permanently. These documents act as proof of payment and ownership of your house. If however, you happen to have a rented apartment, you need to maintain the rent receipts along with your rental agreement for maximum of 6 years. Maintain your purchase or sale agreements and apartment rental agreements permanently.

IRA Receipts
IRA stands for Individual Retirement Accounts. Any receipt pertaining to these contributions should be maintained by you permanently.

Tax Receipts
The Internal Revenue Services (IRS) usually hold audits for short tax payments within a span of three years from the actual payment year. Similarly, the IRS authorities might check your tax returns filing within a span of five to six years on suspected underreporting of your annual income. In such a case, it is ideal to maintain your tax payment receipts along with a copy of your tax returns for a period of at least 6 years.

Home Loan Receipts
These receipts are ideally to be maintained permanently along with your bank loan confirmation document and house purchase agreement.

Simplifying the Maintenance Process

Most of you realize the importance of these receipts and bills and yet view their maintenance as time-consuming and boring activity. Here are few simple ways to keep your filing cabinet in order.

– Yes! Reserving a cabinet or a specific drawer for filing purpose is essential. It helps you to keep a track of your important files all the time. In case of any emergencies like a fire, you might run to this cabinet and just pick up all the files and folders in one shot and carry them away to a safe place.
– If you have never done this maintenance ever before, then segregate your pile of receipts and bills as per their nature. E.g. all credit card receipts should be stacked together and same goes for other receipts too. Now segregate these receipts chronologically. Pin up receipts for a particular year along with copies of every payment check.
– Buy some piano-styled folders with multiple compartments that go for different types of bills. Now place the segregated bills in separate sections as per their nature and tag the compartments appropriately. E.g. in a folder earmarked for year 2010, use one compartment just for credit card bills and the compartment next to it for utility bills.
– Make separate files for major assets like houses or vehicles. Place all documents pertaining to their purchases and consequent payment like rent receipts in their chronological order.
– Try to retain soft copies of certain important documents like tax return receipts and payment checks before you destroy them.

The above suggestions will not only help you put your documents in order, but will also help you recover them when they are wanted urgently. You might have to take time off from your schedule once in a while to place fresh receipts in these files whenever you get them. Also, make sure to check and clear your files annually for those documents which are not required to be maintained anymore. Sounds easy isn’t it?