Stolen keys, ID, and phone? PSSHT, I got this

May 13 |
By: ClemsonCC BY 2.0
I woke up to a phone call from my husband at 6:30 one morning and the not-so-exciting news that his keys, wallet, and phone were stolen while he was at work. His wallet, of course, had his ID and Social Security Card in it, along with a debit card and the one measly credit card we had. Since my husband works full-time as a barista and wasn't able to immediately take care of everything and I work from home, I knew I was in for an annoying morning. Luckily I mostly felt fine: our bank shuts down cards the minute you say "stol–" and we had the foresight to opt into our phone company's insurance program so I knew that would be handled as well.

It turns out that taking care of ALL of your information in the event of theft or fraud is pretty easy — I handled everything in less than two hours, in between making breakfast for my four-year-old and tweeting about the situation. Here are the steps I took to prevent identity theft and make sure anything that needed to be shut down and replaced would be:

1. Call the bank

I called our bank first. I don't know why, other than someone spending the money we do have is kind of terrifying to me. The theft happened on the first of May — right when rent is due — so I wanted to make sure whoever took everything hadn't spent any money. Luckily there were no transactions, so the bank was able to immediately close my husband's cards and send out new ones. Nice.

2. Call the police

I called our local non-emergency number after the bank, and left a message with dispatch.

3. Call the phone people

We pay for an extra security feature that can locate our phones, but I couldn't get into my husband's account to locate his so I just suspended his phone service so whoever took it couldn't do anything without replacing the SIM card. I filed a claim with the company who handles our phone insurance, and within two hours they had processed the claim.

4. Tell the FTC

Since his Social Security Card was stolen, I followed these steps:

  • Go to FTC.gov
  • Click "Consumer Protection"
  • Click "File a complaint"
  • Fill out your info

The FTC doesn't handle cases of stolen individual Social Security Cards, but they collect information that can be used in an investigation or prosecution of thieves.

5. Tell credit agencies

My next step was to visit Experian and place a fraud alert on his account. Additionally, I entered my phone number and set it up so that they have to call me if anyone tries to open a credit account with my husband's information. As a courtesy, Experian contacts the two other major credit agencies (TransUnion and Equifax) for you and the alerts are placed across the board.

6. Replace your locks

My husband also lost his keys, which had a key to our apartment, laundry room, and mail box. I emailed our landlord, and he made arrangements to come by two hours later with new keys for everything.

7. Hang out and wait

The police ended up calling me back right as I finished everything, and my husband went in person to file a report after work. They were happy that I had already taken all of the above steps — it made everyone's morning a little easier.

This took less than two hours total — from the time my husband called me (6:40AM) to the time I got off the phone with the police (around 8AM). It was slightly annoying having to make so many calls so early in the day, but overall I'm glad that it was really as easy as it was — a few phone calls, a little bit of waiting, and boom! Mischief managed.

  1. FYI: The Social Security Administration actually advises people not to carry their Social Security cards in their wallets these days. You only ever need to show it when starting a new job anyway. Most people have their number memorized, so you don't need it with you to know the number.

    27 agree
    • When I worked at a copy shop, people would ask if I could laminate their SS cards because they were getting beat up in their wallets. We weren't allowed to, and I had to (tactfully) explain to customers that they shouldn't be carrying around their cards in the first place!
      I think it was common for my parents' generation to carry around their cards, so I guess that's why a lot of people still do it.

      5 agree
      • What I ended up doing with mine during college was to put it in one of those plastic holder-sleeve-things for baseball cards. (I was working for the same company every summer, but I had to re-apply each year.) It kept it from getting all beat up and I could easily remove it when it needed to be scanned. Win-win!

    • Definitely. I keep seeing this Pinterest pin advising people to keep allll their documents in one place, in a binder – their birth certificates, SS cards, insurance papers, passports… OMG, what if someone steals that binder? Especially when you've got it labeled "Important Identification Information" or whatever, you're just making it too easy for your whole identity to get stolen, and so difficult to replace everything (try getting new ID cards when you've got alllll your other pieces of ID stolen – it's not fun). Generally, your SS card, passport, and birth certificate should live separately from your driver license/state ID, and not in an easy-to-steal location. Probably a bank safe deposit box would be best, depending on how often you need to access this stuff.

      10 agree
      • I have heard this as well and hoped it included the info to put it in a safe or safe deposit box. I don't trust anyone so this is the only place I keep my info anyway.

        1 agrees
      • I have one of these binders. It's unlabeled and stashed under my desk. If someone breaks into my house I think they'd be more interested in the computer and tv than paging through the random binders of cubscout leader handbooks and goat breeding records to find my info. I did take the precaution of scanning it onto a thumb drive and stashing it at a second location, but that was more in case of tornado that break-in.

        5 agree
    • I used to carry my kids' cards in my wallet. Now I have a family documents "Grab-N-Go" folder with all the SS info, copies of our Drivers Licenses, Wedding Certificates, Birth Certificates, 3 angle mug shots, fingerprints, medical/blood type/allergy/medication info, etc. just in case we ever have to bug out due to fire, flood, or other natural disaster. The photo page I update the pics once a year so if the kids are at school and something happens, we have identifying pics to give the authorities. It all fits into a 1 inch 3-ring binder that I can grab. This really came in handy last year when I had to change the name on my SS card. I had all the proof, marriage and birth certificates at my fingertips. Got mine changed in less than an hour, and found out the name on my husband's card was incorrect (abbreviated first name, no middle name) and got his corrected right then too! I did learn that there was a lifetime cap of 8 copies of your SS card!
      I also scanned everything onto a thumb drive and stashed it at my parents' house in their lock box, just in case.

      • Name changes don't count toward your lifetime cap of replacement cards, and there are a few other exceptions:
        "Public Law 108-458 limits the number of replacement Social Security cards you may receive to 3 per calendar year and 10 in a lifetime. Cards issued to reflect changes to your legal name or changes to a work authorization legend do not count toward these limits. We may also grant exceptions to these limits if you
        provide evidence from an official source to establish that a Social Security card is required."

        (The above quote is from the instructions on the application for a social security card, which can be found here: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ss-5.pdf )

    • I don't carry mine normally… of course, the one time I got my purse stolen, I was on my way back from signing my papers for a new job and DID have it with me. No fun.

  2. I don't know if I could have been as level headed as you were. Props for keeping calm and carrying on.
    I'll definitely remember this if it ever happens to me (knock on the wood of the internet).

    8 agree
  3. Good to know! I know I panic every time it takes me longer than 10 minutes to find my keys/wallet/cellphone, so this is really helpful in that event when my stuff ever does get lost/stolen. I'm sorry that happened to you, but at least it wasn't too much of a headache!

  4. It's obviously not necessary to do immediately, but gyms, libraries and other membership organizations can sometimes have a bit of a waiting period to get new cards mailed to you–so call soon so the "four to six weeks" for them to arrive in the mail doesn't inconvenience you more than it needs to. If you need your card to get in or to check out books, give them a call to see what you should do while you're waiting to get your new card/key toggle in the mail.

    5 agree
  5. I've been through this a couple times with lost wallets. A couple tips I'd add:

    Keep a photocopy of at least one form of ID on hand at home if not an actual official document (use a file cabinet or lockbox) and write down your credit or debit card numbers when you receive them. That info can be helpful when you're updating accounts after a loss, even if it's not sufficient for legal identification or in-person transactions.

    Consider what financial obligations you'll have in the next two weeks. Groceries, gas, etc. — anything that can't wait until you get a new card in 5-7 business days. If you can, stop by a bank branch before calling your bank, and see if you can withdraw cash before your account gets frozen. (The backup ID can come in handy here, along with various security measures performed by the bank.)

    4 agree
  6. Great job getting it all taken care of with such speed. Last summer, my husband's backpack was stolen. He had to sit in front of our apartment and wait for the landlord to come change the locks (since my husband's ID with our address on it and our house keys were in the bag) so I did all of the above "legwork" from my office. In the time between when the wallet was stolen and when I got through to the bank – we're figuring it was about 45 minutes – the thieves wiped out our bank account on stereo equipment.
    My advice, check on your bank's policy concerning getting your money back if something like this happens. We got very, very lucky.

    4 agree
  7. i xerox everything in my wallet, front and back, from time to time and keep it in my lockbox/emergency evac file. that way i don't have to search for account/phone numbers when things go wrong.

    3 agree
  8. I wish this were published in March when my husband lost his wallet! (With all his IDs, credit cards, and Soc. Sec. Card!)
    Most of these tips also work if you lose your wallet. Great post.

    1 agrees
  9. Well, that must've sucked big time. But I'm glad it all worked out for you in the end.

    I've made a (password protected!) word document for myself and my partner in which I wrote down every single piece of data on the bank cards, ID's and membership card we own. If a card, for example, has three sets of numbers on it, I write every set down with the corresponding indication. If your card has a barcode, write down 'barcode: 13234566' and if the card says 'customer code' write down 'customer code: ghs1572'. That way, when you are in a hurry and need to block cards, you don't have to worry about which set of numbers/data is being requested by the company.
    It's also a good idea to keep emergency numbers next to the card info.
    All in all, it took me an hour to make that list, look up the emergeny contact info and copy all the relevant info and while I hope I never need to use it, I sleep easier knowing how fast I can act.

    2 agree
  10. Awesome! It's times like this when it truly does pay to remain level headed.

    I stopped on the side of a busy road in my city to let my dogs out for a pee, was gone ten mins tops, and someone broke my car window and stoke my purse which was not in plain view)!In the middle of the day! On one of the busiest streets in my city!

    I too had all of my cards in my wallet (d'oh)! I learned a couple of very valuable things:

    My iPhone was stolen. I phoned my cellular provider AND Apple. They flagged the serial number on the phone, so even if it was taken to be started with a different SIM card at another cellular provider, the phone itself is flagged as stolen. I learned that only days before it was stolen, while phone shopping with my husband.

    You can add identity theft insurance under your home insurance policy very easily for not that much money (like, less than $100 for sure). Totally worth it when you think of how much it COULD cost you for not having it!

    Call your bank immediately, and call your credit card co immediately. I called right away and the thieves had used my visa only a moment before to get gas. The gas station was able to give the police security video showing the people and their car.

    I was fortunate that someone out geo caching found my purse, dumped in the forest, a few days later!!! Only my iPhone, visa, and glasses (???) were missing. The thieves put themselves at risk and busted my window for $80 in gas and a phone that wouldn't do anything for them. It pays to be totally on top of things when your wallet is stolen!!!

    2 agree
  11. Question for Stephanie:

    Did your landlord require you to pay for your locks to be changed? Just asking because I'm curious. My roomate had her wallet with keys attached stolen a few weeks ago and it was a nightmare for her. Our landlord did send someone out within a day, but they charged us for it. I was just wondering if that was standard or not. We currently deal with The Worst Property Management Company so, you know, it's hard to tell.

  12. Just to add an extra tip on there: if you're looking at credit cards, American Express has incredible customer service during these types of situations. An ex-boyfriend and I were vacationing in Paris when his wallet was pickpocketed. Being in a foreign country during this type of situation just adds a whole extra dimension to the nightmare.

    His bank (Bank of America) was unable to send him a replacement card at any address besides his mailing address back in the states. No one was there at the time, and we would still be out of the country for another month. He was unable to get anyone on the phone that would apply common sense to the situation and understand that "well that's not our policy" is not a helpful answer. American Express, on the other hand, told him a temporary replacement card would be waiting for him to pick up at the nearest AmEx location (which was in the same city) and he could use it immediately. They were definitely able to make a frustrating situation slightly more bearable.

  13. Several years ago, my dad has his wallet stolen at a Bath & Body Works while we were Christmas shopping. We were told by security that it was probably a mother-daughter team they'd been trying to catch all month. But my dad hadn't cleaned out his wallet in ages, so not only was info in there–but so were all his kids', from the days he had to fill out forms with our info. So we all had to have credit watches put on our SSNs and credit reports. Nothing ever came of it–as we were told, they probably just took the $300 cash & tossed the rest–but it sure shook my sense of confidence that my information could be stolen so easily… And I'd still gladly cut the digits off the person(s) who made my dad feel like he did that day (and for years after).

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