You reach for the bill, and then realize that your wallet is missing. You mentally retrace your steps, add up how much cash was in there, and stress over whether someone will use your credit cards and try to steal your identity. Besides all the time it will take to cancel your credit cards and debit cards and get a new driver's license, how much is this fiasco going to cost you?
Says Greg Scott, IT professional and identity theft victim, "Think about replacing a driver's license, Social Security card, insurance cards, all your credit cards, your blood donor card, changing your locks so nobody can use the spare key you kept in your wallet, and everything else you found important enough to carry all the time."
In an exclusive MoneyTips survey, we asked 509 Americans in November whether they had ever lost or had stolen their wallets, purses, pocketbooks or money clips. We then asked those who were victims of missing wallets (we'll use 'wallets' from now on to represent these four accessories):
The good news: more than half of our victims reported that losing their wallet cost them $50 or less, including 27% who say it cost them nothing at all. Fourteen percent lost between $100 and $500, while 8.9% lost more than $500. A surprisingly low 3.5% didn't know how much they lost in the times their wallets disappeared. (Of those who misplaced their wallet, 36% admitted doing so multiple times.)
Muses Scott, author of the identity theft book Bullseye Breach, "I would probably be in the $50 - $100 group. I'll probably have less than $100 in cash, Minnesota will charge a fee to replace my driver's license, and I'll need to buy a new wallet. The big deal for me would be time and record-keeping to report everything else lost and replace it all."
Speaking of time, we then asked the victims:
More than 1 in 4 (26%), claimed that they only spent an hour or less undoing the damage. (Presumably, that doesn't include the time spent wallet-shopping.) Twenty-nine percent picked the most popular answer, a few hours. Sixteen percent spent a day, 16% spent a few days up to a week, and 11% spent more than a week trying to correct their mistake. And 2% are still working on it!
Women appeared to spend more time on the issue than men did. Only 22% of the men reported spending more than a day addressing the issue, as opposed to 34% of the women. That could be due to their tendency to lose their pocketbook's entire contents rather than just a wallet.
"It's time to literally clean your wallet out," suggests John Buzzard, fraud and risk expert for CO-OP Financial Services of Rancho Cucamonga, CA. "The days of requiring multiple cards at all times are over as many consumers shift their purchase behavior to mobile devices. If you need to carry plastic, narrow your choice down. I prefer to think of this as the 'Heir and a spare' mentality. Less plastic in your wallet means less items to deal with later should it be stolen or lost."
For Lost Wallet Protection and Assistance, along with credit monitoring, reports, and scores, plus $1 million identity theft insurance and full-service identity restoration, try a free MoneyTips trial.
For more of our exclusive data and insights, visit MoneyTips Missing Wallet Survey Findings.