Ask LH: What Should I Do After Losing My Wallet?

Ask LH: What Should I Do After Losing My Wallet?

I don’t know how it happened, but when I got home today I realised I didn’t have my wallet with me. All my credit cards, IDs and club cards were in there. What do I need to do to make sure my identity isn’t stolen?


Empty Pockets

Dear EP,

Man, that stinks! Losing a wallet with all your info is no good and it’s not easy to replace everything you keep in there. If you have the time, the first thing you need to do is retrace your steps and call any stores you might have left it at. If calling fails to turn up your wallet it’s time to start the process of cancelling and replacing everything you had in there. Let’s go through a step-by-step process for what you need to do to cancel, check, and replace the contents of your wallet.

Step 1: Cancel Your Credit/Debit Cards

The first thing to do is call and cancel your credit cards. We’ve noted before that it’s a good idea to keep your credit card company’s phone number on hand, but if you didn’t do that you can visit their website to get the phone number. Explain to them your card was lost and they’ll go over the last five or six transactions with you to make sure nobody has tried to use your credit card.

Next, they’ll cancel your current cards and your bank will issue you a brand new number. When you’re calling your banks don’t forget about any department store credit cards you might have. Photo by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious.

Step 2: Call The Police

Calling the police because you lost your wallet might seem like overkill, but it’s an essential step for fraud prevention. No, the police will not actually be able to do anything about a lost wallet, but you will get a police report stating your wallet was lost and it will come in handy if someone tries to steal your identity or use your credit cards.

Step 3: Make A List Of All Your Subscription Services And Online Accounts

Automatic bill pay and subscription services are awesome until you lose a credit card and have to go through each and every one to add your new information. If you happen to lose your card at the end of the billing cycle you have to go a few days without the service.

Your only real option is to start making a list of all the sites, services and automatic billing subscriptions you use. When you get your new card and number in the mail you have to enter in your new information to ensure your service won’t be disrupted. It’s also worth thinking about any online purchases you may have made recently that haven’t gone through yet. If you pre-ordered something where your card isn’t charged until it’s shipped, you have to update your card number.

Step 4: Get A New Licence

The least fun part about losing your wallet is losing your licence. Nobody wants to spend a day at the RTA, RACV and the like. Every state and territory has a different policy for the steps you need to take, but don’t be surprised if you have to appear in person, file a police report or pay a fee.

Step 5: Make A List Of Everything Else In Your Wallet And Make Some Phone Calls

Depending on the variety of cards you had in your wallet, you may need to start making a bunch of phone calls to cancel them. Start by making a list of everything in your wallet. This means insurance cards, reward cards, retail cards, library cards and everything else. Track down a phone number for the company and let them know your wallet was stolen and you want to cancel the card with your name attached to it.

The last thing you want to get in the mail three months from now is a bill for overdue library books you didn’t check out. Image: Martijn van Exel.

It’s not a fun process, but if you take care of the above steps right away you can ensure your identity is safe and get your credit cards back quickly.



PS Ever lost your wallet (or purse) and realised you lost something that couldn’t be replaced? Share your experiences and tips in the comments.

Have a question or suggestion for Ask Lifehacker? Send it to [email protected].


  • Instead of tip 1 from the get go, I put my credit cards/debit cards on hold. At least for about a week (the wallet may turn up within then – it’s happened for a few of my friends).
    This may save you being charged by the company for issuing a new card.

  • Everyone should do step 5 BEFORE they lose their wallet.
    To expand, you should keep a list of your cards, associated account names/numbers, and contact details for the company they are from.
    That way, when you lose your wallet, you can start making the calls straight away and be sure you didn’t miss your hi-tech veterinarian (for example).

  • I just signed up for Secure Sentinel, all it takes is one call and they can cancel cards and passport and they can re-issue some cards too, plus emergency cash if you are overseas. Although Murphys Law is I’ll probably never lose my wallet now!

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