Lost Wallet? Here Are 10 Steps You Need to Take

Losing your wallet can be stressful and overwhelming, but our step-by-step guide walks you through what to do when your wallet has been lost or stolen.
We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Few things are more jarring than reaching into your pocket or purse where your wallet is normally found only to be met with nothing. 

If you’re missing your wallet, it’s important to act quickly. It may be inconvenient to spend time on the phone with banks and credit card companies, apply for new cards, and possibly even make a trip to the DMV, but these precautionary steps can mitigate the damages of a lost or stolen wallet (like unauthorized charges or identity theft). 

In this article, we outline all the steps you need to take if this happens to you, including how a good identity theft protection service can help you recover as well as protect you from future incidents.

In this article
Take inventory
File a police report
Call your bank
Call your credit card companies
Freeze your credit
Replace your driver’s license
Contact the Social Security Administration
Change your passwords
Update automatic payments
Invest in an identity theft protection service
Lost wallet FAQ
Bottom line

10 critical steps to take if you lose your wallet

1. Take inventory

The first step when dealing with a lost wallet is taking a thorough inventory of what was in your wallet before it disappeared. What credit or debit cards did you have in there? Were you carrying cash? Your driver's license or health insurance cards were likely in your wallet. Perhaps you had your Social Security card in your wallet — we suggest leaving that card at home next time for maximum security.

Having a list of everything that was in your wallet will help you not only in the police report, but you’ll also have a list of which banks and institutions you need to call, which is one of the first things you should do after filing a police report.

2. File a police report

When it comes to a lost wallet, you might not think of filing a police report. After all, what are the odds a local police department will find, or even care, about your missing wallet? But filing a police report is an important step in protecting your identity. A police report and/or case number are key documents to have on hand.

If someone tries to use your credit card information fraudulently, you’ll have a paper trail documenting that your wallet was lost or stolen. Some banks or credit companies may ask for a police report to help in their investigations. When you replace your driver's license and Social Security card, they may also ask for proof of a lost wallet to replace the cards. Additionally, having a police report may save you from paying fees to replace lost cards.

When you file the police report, they’ll want a description of the wallet as well as the contents inside of it. Make sure to get a copy of the police report, case number, and any contact information of the officers assisting you.

3. Call your bank

Once you’ve confirmed your wallet is lost, the most critical and time-sensitive action item on your to-do list is to contact your banks and let them know. Your bank will freeze your debit card and monitor your account to watch for suspicious activity. They will also issue new cards with new numbers.

When contacting your bank, time is of the essence. If you act quickly, there’s a smaller chance of being held liable for charges made without your consent. Under federal law, some protections help limit what you must pay for if your credit, ATM, or debit cards are stolen. But your protection depends on the card type and how quickly you report it. If you report your ATM or debit card is lost or stolen:

  • Before any unauthorized changes are made, your maximum loss is $0.
  • Within two business days of the loss or theft, your maximum loss is $50.
  • More than two business days, but within 60 calendar days from your statement being sent to you, your maximum loss is $500.
  • More than 60 calendar days from your statement, your maximum loss is everything that was taken from your account.

4. Call your credit card companies

Call your credit card companies when you get off the phone with your banks. If you act quickly and report your credit card lost or stolen before any fraudulent charges are made, you won’t be held responsible for any transactions you didn’t authorize. If you report your card’s loss after someone uses it, the maximum amount you may be responsible for is $50.

Finding the correct contact information can be tricky, so check your statement for the right phone number. Many credit card companies have designated phone numbers for reporting cards as lost. If you have an app for your credit card, you may be able to report your card as lost in the app. If possible, document your conversation or take screenshots showing you declared your card as lost.

5. Freeze your credit

Once you’ve called your banks and credit card companies, it’s time to freeze your credit. What’s a credit freeze? A credit freeze restricts you — and any other third party — from accessing your credit report. Restricted access to your credit report means you, or potential fraudsters, aren’t able to open new accounts in your name. It’s important to note that freezing your credit doesn’t affect your credit or prevent you from getting your annual credit report.

A credit freeze is free of cost and lasts until you lift it. To place a credit freeze, contact each credit bureau (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) and follow their instructions. After you lift your credit freeze, take advantage of a free credit report, as changes to your credit can be one of the easiest ways to detect fraud.

6. Replace your driver’s license

If your driver's license was in your lost wallet, you’ll need to make a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to replace it or have a new card printed and mailed to you. To ensure your replacement experience is as smooth as possible, make sure you have all the necessary documentation beforehand. The requirements for a new license vary by state, so check your state requirements. Most DMVs require at least one proof of residency in the form of a utility bill or official document. A letter from your grandma won’t cut it. You may also be asked to provide your Social Security number, birth certificate, or passport to verify your identity.

In some states, you may be able to fill out the application for a lost or stolen license online before scheduling your appointment at the DMV, which may help expedite your time spent there. If you have documentation that your license was stolen, you may also be able to avoid paying fees associated with a replacement license. Replacing a lost driver's license can be a headache, but it can be pretty quick if you have the correct information. A replacement license will be shipped to you in four to six weeks.

7. Contact the Social Security Administration

It’s best practice to leave your Social Security card at home and not on your person. That said, if your Social Security card was in your lost wallet, you’ll need to replace it. A lost Social Security card is a gold mine for fraudsters since they can use your Social Security number to apply for loans or additional lines of credit in your name. Then, when they default on the loans or refuse to pay the credit card bill, instead of their credit taking the hit, your credit score is damaged.

In most instances, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will issue you a replacement card, but they may give you a new Social Security number in some circumstances. The easiest way to request a replacement card is to use your personal my Social Security account, a private online service you can use to conduct business with the SSA. If you can’t use the my Social Security account, try to fill out as much information as you can online and complete the process in a local Social Security office.

Remember to bring all documentation with you, and be sure the documents are originals or copies certified by the agency that provided them. The SSA cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. You may need documents such as proof of citizenship, a U.S. driver's license, a government-issued ID, or a passport when obtaining your replacement card. If you don’t have access to those documents, SSA offices may accept an employee or school identification card, a health insurance card, or a military ID.

Replacement Social Security cards usually take seven to 10 business days once all paperwork has been submitted.

8. Change your passwords

Many accounts are managed online, from online banking to your Amazon shopping cart. If your wallet has been compromised, it’s time to update all your passwords to ensure no more personal information is at risk. Create unique, strong passwords with a combination of numbers and letters and no phrases related to your life. Each account should have a separate password. 

Consider using a password manager to help keep your passwords straight or use an autofill option when possible. If the website or app offers two-factor authentication (2FA), enable it for an added layer of password protection.

Editorial Rating
Learn More
On NordPass's website
Password Manager
60% off + 3 months free
  • Strong encryption and security
  • User-friendly interface

9. Update automatic payments

As cards are replaced, you’ll receive new card numbers. Go through your online payments and systems, and update recurring, automatic payments with your new card numbers. Depending on how many accounts are set up on automatic payments, this process may take some time. But proactively updating account information will help ensure there are no disruptions to your services.

10. Invest in an identity theft protection service

Losing your wallet and sensitive financial information can be unsettling. Even after you’ve contacted banks and credit companies, placed credit freezes, and taken steps to help mitigate damage, you’re still at risk for identity theft. Fraudsters and thieves can use your information or your Social Security number to steal your identity. So consider an identity theft protection plan.

Identity theft protection services monitor websites for signs of your personal information like your Social Security number, bank account numbers, driver’s license number, and more. Identity theft protection services usually scan various websites and platforms, including the dark web, social media sites, and loan applications, just to name a few. They can also monitor your credit and alert you to any changes. An identity theft protection service can help remedy the situation if your information is compromised.

Looking for the best identity theft protection services? Check out Aura, which offers an extensive kit of cybersecurity features and identity protection tools. Along with data breach monitoring, identity recovery services, and data broker removal services, Aura includes antivirus to protect your devices from malware and parental controls to keep your children safe from cyberbullies and inappropriate content online.

We also like Norton LifeLock, a well-rounded identity theft protection solution. It offers extensive ID theft protection features, up to $3 million in identity theft insurance, and superb customer service with 24/7 live chat support.

Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Aura Identity Theft's website
Identity Protection
Aura Identity Theft
Up to 68% off Family Annual Plans
  • Excellent identity theft protection service
  • Includes a password manager and VPN
  • Robust tools for children’s security

Lost wallet FAQ


Can I put a tracking device in my wallet?

Yes, you can. Slim wallet trackers help you locate your missing wallet using GPS.


Do I need to report a lost wallet?

Yes, you should definitely report a lost wallet to your local police station. They may not be able to help you recover your wallet, but having a police report or a case number may help as you replace the contents of your wallet.


Is it a big deal if I lose my wallet?

While losing your wallet can be a major inconvenience, it’s nothing to panic about if you take action quickly to prevent thieves from using your money and to safeguard your personal information.

Bottom line

Losing a wallet can mean extra time spent replacing cards, a driver's license, and other personal things, but by taking the steps outlined above, losing your wallet isn’t the end of the world. If you don’t already have it, consider an identity theft protection plan to monitor your personal information.

To keep your wallet safe in the future, make sure to store your wallet in a secure place and be especially careful in crowds. Carry only the essentials; if you carry cash, make sure to carry only small amounts. Consider cleaning out your wallet every month, removing anything that isn’t completely necessary. 

Investing in identity theft protection right now is also a good idea. Having identity theft insurance and recovery assistance in place before something happens can make it much easier and less stressful to recover if your personal information falls into the wrong hands.

By taking these steps, you can be assured you’re doing everything possible to keep your personal information as safe as can be.

Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Aura Identity Theft's website
Identity Protection
Aura Identity Theft
Up to 68% off Family Annual Plans
  • Excellent identity theft protection service
  • Includes a password manager and VPN
  • Robust tools for children’s security

Author Details
Courtney Daybell brings over 15 years of experience in print journalism and holds a B.A. in Communications from Brigham Young University. Her focus has shifted to cyber security, where she specializes in topics such as identity theft protection, password managers, antivirus software, and more.