Financial Tip of the Week from the Iowa Bankers Association:
There aren't too many things worse than the panicked feeling of a missing wallet or purse —especially when you're not sure if it's just misplaced or if it could be in the hands of a criminal. Follow these tips to help minimize the damage of a lost or stolen wallet and to give you peace of mind.
1. Limit the amount of confidential information in your wallet. Only carry the identification, checks, credit cards or debit cards you really need. The rest, including bank account numbers, personal identification numbers, passwords and—most importantly—your Social Security card, are best kept elsewhere in a safe place. Don't pre-print your Social Security number or driver's license number on your checks, because either one could help a thief apply for a loan, credit card or bank account in your name.
2. Copy everything in your wallet (except the cash). Copy or scan both sides of credit cards, insurance cards, IDs and any other important documents kept in your wallet, and store the copies in a safe place. If your wallet is lost or stolen, knowing exactly what was in it will make suspending accounts and getting replacement cards much easier. Note that the customer-service number you need to call to report a compromised card is often on the back.
3. Review your credit card bills and checking account statements as soon as they arrive. Make sure that no fraudulent activity is taking place and you're not being billed for purchases you didn't make.
4. Periodically request your credit reports. Look for signs that someone may have obtained loans or tried to commit other fraud in your name. By federal law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call (877) 322-8228 to order your free credit reports.
5. If your wallet is missing, take steps to limit your liability. Immediately call your bank and credit card companies to report lost or stolen cards.
Being proactive and taking precautionary steps to protect yourself from the damage of a lost or stolen wallet may seem like it will take a lot of time and effort—but it's nothing compared to the many hours you would spend trying to recover a stolen identity. Learn more ways to avoid identity theft online at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.
These tips are provided by the Iowa Bankers Association (IBA), representing banks and thrifts in the state. The IBA serves it members by providing legislative advocacy, training, regulatory compliance and other services designed to enhance the ability of banks to serve their communities. Learn more at www.iowabankers.com.