Have you ever experienced that sinking feeling when you reach in your pants or purse for your wallet, and it's gone? You're not alone. According to an exclusive MoneyTips survey, 62% of respondents have had their wallets lost or stolen. More than 1 in 3 had suffered both from wallet loss and theft, while 36% of those admitting misplacing their wallet did so repeatedly!
"These numbers remind me to limit the credit cards and cash I carry, and to make sure I know how to contact every credit card issuer in my wallet," says Greg Scott, an IT professional and identity theft victim. "I should probably also keep a copy of my driver's license, insurance cards, and other 'wallet stuff' somewhere safe. Just in case."
In an exclusive MoneyTips Survey conducted in November of 2018, we asked:
Of the 509 respondents, 316 (62%) admitted losing their money holder (we'll use 'wallet' from now on to represent these four accessories) or having it stolen, while 193 (38%) said they hadn't. It appears the fatter it was, the more likely it would disappear; 73% of those with annual salaries of $150,000 or higher had their wallets vanish, as opposed to just 63% of those earning less.
We then asked people to explain how their wallets disappeared and were relieved to find out that misplacement was much more prevalent than theft.
Of the 316 who couldn't locate their wallet, 293 (93%) admitted losing it at least once. Of those forgetful people, 187 (64%) reported losing it just a single time, while a whopping 36% of them didn't learn from their mistakes and lost their wallet repeatedly. More than 1 in 5 (21%) of the wallet-losers went through the harrowing experience twice. Rounding out the forgetful field, 7.8% of the absent-minded admitted losing it three times, 2.4% four times, and 4.8% more than 4 times!
"Since I'm part of the 64 percent, these numbers don't surprise me," says Scott, author of the identity theft book Bullseye Breach. "There are lots of reasons for losing a wallet. Since most of us carry a wallet for our entire adult lives, it's not hard to imagine at least one careless moment over all those years."
We were surprised when we looked at age as a factor.
We expected to find older people admitting losing (misplacing) their wallet more than younger people as they had much more opportunity (not to mention "senior moments"), but the youngest group, 18-29-year-olds, admitted losing their wallets more than any other group. It's true that among the wallet-losers, those who lost it exactly once did increase with age. But the percentage who admitted losing their wallet more than once dropped from a high of 39% (ages 18-29) to 38% (ages 30-44) to 36% (ages 45-60) to 31% for the eldest (ages >60).
Scott, who examined the MoneyTips data, admits, "This is a surprise. I expected people older than 60 to report more instances, not fewer, because we're exposed for more years."
But Professor Steve Weisman, who teaches White Collar Crime at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, was not surprised by the data. "The Federal Trade Commission has found that millennials are actually more likely than the elderly to become the victims of identity theft or scams. We don't have definitive evidence as to why this is so, but it may relate to millennials not appreciating how at risk they are in regard to identity theft."
Finally, we examined the people who reported having their wallet stolen.
Of the 316 who couldn't locate their wallet, 196 (62%) reported having it stolen at least once. Of those victims, the vast majority (71%) said it was stolen exactly once, 21% said it was stolen twice, and 5.1% believed it was taken three times. Although only 0.5% reported it taken four times, 2.6% reported having their wallet stolen more often than that! Of those who couldn't locate their wallet, 66% of the women surveyed reported having their wallet stolen, compared to "only" 57% of the men.
Overall, only 38% managed to hang on to their money holder. 58% misplaced their wallets, 39% had them stolen, while 62% (nearly 2 in 3) either lost or had it stolen. More than 1 in 3 surveyed (35%) suffered from both wallet loss and theft. While nearly 1 in 4 (22%) had lost their wallet but not had it taken, less than 5% had it taken but had never lost their wallet.
Says Michael Zey, Ph.D., Professor of Management at Montclair State University's Feliciano School of Business, "The survey's finding that four in ten respondents have had their wallets stolen shows how vulnerable the public has become to criminal behavior. Many of these thefts are caused by people's everyday carelessness, such as leaving unattended personal belongings like coats and handbags in shopping carts, restaurants, libraries, airports, movie theaters and a host of other venues. And too many people pay more attention to their smart devices rather than their surroundings, including people around them. Such behavior is an open invitation to individuals only too willing to unburden them of their most valued possessions, especially their wallets. Personal safety requires eternal vigilance and caution."
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.