How to Protect Your Wallet (and Your Finances) From Thieves and PickPockets: The Metro City Edition
Unfortunately it seems that part of the metro city lifestyle along with an increased exposure to folks from all kinds of cultures all over the world is an additional increased exposure to unsavory individuals who are looking for the opportunity to snag a free lunch (on you of course since nothing in life is truly free). In the past 2 years since I started living in a metropolitan city after having grown up in small town environments, I have faced having my wallet stolen or pickpocketed five times. I’m definitely a common target, possibly because I’m a single mom that is often preoccupied with her two little ones while we are out and about. However, not a single one of those times has anyone managed to steal anything of value from me, nor have they managed to cut me off from accessing my bank account funds, even after I cancelled my cards. Thefts happen and are to be expected: you can try to protect yourself from them, but there’s always going to be a loophole somewhere. However, you don’t have to actually be a victim to wallet pickpocketing and theft when it happens. Here’s a list of tips you can use to help protect yourself in the event of your wallet being lost, stolen, or pickpocketed:
- Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet. Most appropriate situations only call for you to know your social security number, not present the actual card. If you don’t know your social security number by now, now is the time to learn it. No one can steal a number that’s only in your head…
- Don’t carry (much) cash in your wallet. Obviously, if it gets stolen, the cash is gone forever. If you only have debit/credit cards, there’s a window of opportunity to cancel them before any damage is done to your finances (not to mention most banks will insure you against theft and restore any missing funds).
- Do not carry your cell phone with your wallet. In the case that you lose your wallet or it’s stolen, you will need your cell phone to take immediate action. You won’t have it if it’s gone with your wallet. Avoid wallets with built in cell phone cases.
- Create a plan for if you have to cancel the card associated with your bank account so you have a means to funnel funds directly from the account even if the card has been canceled. Of course, for many folks this will mean just a simple trip to their local bank, but for those of us with PayPal, prepaid debit accounts, etc. it will call for a little bit more ingenuity. This will differ depending on the bank. Some ideas though include: keeping checks at home for backup, transferring to your personal PayPal account with a PayPal debit or credit card attached to the account which you keep at home for such an emergency, transferring to a Google Wallet account with an attached Google Wallet card which you keep at home for the same reason, transferring to a prepaid GreenDot account, etc.
- Be aware of your surroundings and the location of your wallet as much as you possibly can, especially when in close proximity to crowds, at moments of high distractibility, and at night. These are the windows of opportunity thieves look for the most.
- Keep your wallet close on your body or deeply secured in your bag to make it more difficult for a pickpocket to go undetected.
If your wallet gets lost or stolen:
- Stay calm. Check your facts – the time, place, contents of the wallet, etc. The cops will want a lot of details about the loss/theft.
- Make sure you will have access to some funds using your preplanned backup method before you cancel your cards. Then cancel your cards ASAP.
- After you cancel your cards, file a report with the police immediately. The report will help reduce the costs of recovering any ID cards, and also provide a point of contact should someone recover your wallet and want to return it.
- Take steps to prevent future incidents by troubleshooting how the incident occurred and brainstorming ways you can prevent similar circumstances surrounding the loss or theft from reoccurring. This may involve changes in the way you treat your wallet or how you carry your cards/cash.