My wallet was stolen from me recently. I was pickpocketed in the plain of day in the middle of crowds in an urban transit station. I didn’t hear, feel or notice a thing. Suffice it to say, this identity theft can obviously happen to anyone.
Luckily, I’d previously heeded the good advice of not keeping all your cards in your wallet. Even still, it’s an incredible, debilitating, demoralizing hassle to lose all the cards that you use on an everyday basis (and more!). I was left in the middle of an urban centre with no way of getting home or even buying a coffee so that I could sit down and think. But I did have my cell phone on me. And the transit personnel allowed me a free ride back home.
I thought I should share with you some of my lessons – all quickly learned (and relearned?) within an intense 24-hour period. What helped most of all was my emergency envelope at home. It could have been better, though. Here’s what would have been really nice to have.
Must-Have Items In Emergency Envelope
You can keep all of this in one envelope or box or tin if you like, or perhaps you’d feel more comfortable separating these items. But I’d consider all of these things to be your “SOL” stash – if your bag/purse or wallet is stolen or you’re mugged, at least you’ll have this.
Enough cash for a week.
It’s going to take 7-10 business days to receive your new cards in the mail (unless you can walk into a branch right away and get a new temporary one – you’ll need some other ID, though). Plus, a week is a good chunk of time to ensure that you’ll be able to tide yourself over until things get back to normal. Perhaps 7 days is on the excessive side – you can decide. But I’d like to know that I had at least enough money to tide me over not only for the basic groceries and supplies, but also other unexpected contingencies and/or bills that come up during that week you have to live without your identity cards.
An extra transit card, bus pass or set of keys to your car.
This is especially important if you live alone and rely on public transit. You’ll need a way to get around again. In my case, I had left my transit card in my wallet, so I had no way of getting back home. And once I was home, I had no way of getting around again to get to a Western Union for an emergency money transfer. I’d imagine the same is true for car owners – a second set of keys can obviously be very important.
The credit card you don’t use, but keep for emergencies.
A really important point about keeping your extra credit card: keep the expiry date valid! Make a note of the expiry date and write it on the front of the envelope if that helps. There’s no use finding yourself in a situation where you think you can rely on this card, only to find that you let it expire three months ago!
A secondary form of photo ID.
This will be especially helpful if you need to get to Western Union or some other PayDay agency for cashing a check. It could also help in establishing and getting your other forms of ID reissued wherever there is doubt.
A debit/ATM card from a different financial institution.
If there was ever a good reason to keep two different bank accounts, this is it. Keep your main, active one in your wallet, but keep a separate emergency checking or savings account at a second institution. This could be a lifesaver if your wallet is stolen. If you live and work in two different countries, this can also save you because someone at home can deposit money into your secondary account and you can still receive it instantly through the international debit networks (Cirrus, Plus systems).
These aren’t the only steps that you’ll need to take to get your ID back on track and protect your credit, etc., but these are a must-have foundation for getting back on your feet. They can save you time and a lot of stress.
It can be surprisingly traumatic to have one’s personal property stolen or to feel one has been a victim of a crime without one’s knowing it. Save yourself added stress by taking these precautions in advance. You can’t predict or ever fully prevent becoming a victim of theft, but you can control your ability to respond to it.
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