We’ve all experienced it; that heart-dropping moment when you realize that your wallet, which you were confident was in your pants pocket, your car door or bag, is missing. A thousand and one thoughts will suddenly flood through your mind as you desperately try to remember where you last used it or where it could be hiding – could it have dropped out of your bag? Did you leave it at home? Could anybody have taken it while your back was turned? These days, most of us carry our lives in our wallets, so realizing that it has disappeared can leave you panic-stricken. First thing’s first; calm down. While losing your wallet can be alarming, you’re very likely to overlook obvious hiding places or forget to contact a location that you’ve been that day if you approach the task of finding your wallet in something of a daze.

Discovering your wallet is missing: searching and loss prevention

There are numerous situations that could lead you to lose your wallet, and some are more innocent than others. You may have simply forgotten to take it with you that day, it may have fallen out of your bag or pocket as you navigated the crowds, or it could have been left behind on a shop counter after you’d made a purchase. In these cases, finding a lost wallet could be as simple as retracing your steps or contacting any places that you’ve been to see if anybody has found it. It is always vital to notify the police as well, as the local precinct is often the first place somebody would think to visit if they’ve found a wallet while out and about. Does your wallet contain details of your address or a telephone number? If it has been found by an honest citizen, there is always a chance he or she will attempt to make contact with you, so don’t panic just yet.

Of course, there are also times when a wallet has been lost under more dishonest circumstances; perhaps you have been the victim of an opportunist thief or pickpocket, or even had it forcibly taken from you during a mugging. If you’re sure that your wallet has been stolen, notify the police immediately, particularly if you have been the victim of a violent crime. Any information that you can provide while it’s still fresh in your mind will be vital to detectives and may even increase your chances of being reunited with your lost belongings. Can you remember the faces of anybody acting suspiciously before your wallet went missing? Do you remember where you were? If you were mugged, what details can you provide about the assailant? Becoming the victim of a crime is always hugely upsetting, but if you’re able to keep a clear head, you may well remember significant details about the moment your wallet went missing.

Imagine that you’ve found your wallet again after a simple search; how can you make sure it doesn’t get lost again or speed up the process of finding it? There are a variety of ways to ensure that your valuables always stay on your person, and some are as simple as attaching a cord or ribbon to your bag or pocket and tying the other end to your wallet. Regardless of whether you drop your wallet or somebody tries to lift it from your bag, your wallet is safely attached. Similarly, sewing a small bell onto your wallet can be a great way to find it quickly if you lose it in the vastness of your bag, as well as frightening off would-be pickpockets. Do you need something a little more hi-tech? The market is filled with Radio Frequency and Bluetooth devices, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled apps, and many have been designed for the specific purpose of locating lost items; simply pair your smartphone’s Bluetooth or the Bluetooth device and the wallet’s receiver, or connect the Radio Frequency device to your valuables and away you go. Many are dependent upon distance, but you stand a good chance of locating your wallet if its been left in the vicinity. It is also worth thinking about the particular cards, amounts of money, or documents that you’re likely to need during any one trip. Keep your wallet as empty as possible to reduce the chances of losing vital items, should you drop your wallet or have your bag stolen.

Taking charge: what to do if your wallet is lost

The chances are, you keep a vast majority of your life in your wallet: credit and debit cards, store and reward cards, your driver’s license and social security card, a health insurance card, cash, and perhaps coupons, pictures of loved ones, and receipts from purchases you’ve made. While photographs are irreplaceable, there is luckily plenty that you can do about the rest of your wallet’s contents. For starters, notify the police; if your wallet has been lost, they can keep an eye out for it being handed in or issue a crime number if it’s been stolen, as well as issue you with an incident number should further action need to be taken. Next, you’ll need to tackle the credit and debit cards, contacting your bank to cancel anything that could be used to make fraudulent purchases; it could also be a good idea to perform a credit freeze, set up a fraud alert, and keep a close eye on your credit score. If your wallet has been stolen, there’s a good chance the perpetrator could be trying to use your identity to gain credit. Now it’s time to set about replacing your identification documents, including a visit to the DMV to report your old license as missing and receive a new one, and making calls to your health insurance company to set about replacing your healthcare card. One of the most important items to inhabit your wallet will likely be your social security card; your social security number is vital for getting a job, accessing healthcare, applying for benefits, or opening a bank account, so if you find that your wallet has been lost or stolen, you’ll need to replace your social security card immediately, as well as keep track of your security number incase anybody has tried to use it. Luckily, applying for a new card is relatively straightforward, and simply requires filling out forms and sending in original documentation. The most important thing at this point is to ensure you approach the task at hand with a clear head – write a list if you have to, just to make sure that every job is done. Have you lost your wallet abroad? Make an immediate visit to the US Embassy to report the loss or theft, and to find out what help you’re entitled to.

Losing your wallet can be one of the most stressful things you go through, leading to panic, confusion, and a multitude of tasks that need to be completed for your security and peace of mind. It’s lucky then that in this day and age, we have so many procedures in place should the worst happen; make sure to cancel your cards, replace documentation, and report the loss to the authorities, as well as retrace your steps in the hopes of stumbling across your valuables. Most importantly, try and keep calm; there’s a good chance your wallet is simply misplaced, and panicking won’t help you to think clearly. If you can, attach a cord or ribbon to your wallet so that you don’t drop it, or attach a Bluetooth or RF device so you can easily find a misplaced wallet – after all, prevention is always better than a cure.