With all the high-tech ways that hackers and identity thieves can help themselves to your money, it’s easy to forget that the “old school” methods are still a very real threat. Things like dumpster diving for your discarded credit card offers or stealing your mail from your curbside mailbox still carry the possibility of a crime.
One viable method of wreaking havoc with your identity is to have your purse or wallet go missing, either through loss or theft. If that occurs, your checkbook can provide an opportunistic thief with a short-lived but still hefty payday.
If you notice that your checkbook is missing, there are some important steps you should take:
1. Is it lost or stolen?
This can be hard to determine, but if you’re able to tell whether it was just misplaced (maybe your wallet fell off the roof of your car when you drove away) versus actively stolen, your next appropriate steps can change. If you’re certain it was just dropped or left behind somewhere, call your bank and have those check numbers invalidated. If you aren’t certain about the numbers in your checkbook, they may be able to help you trace back which numbers you’ve already spent, and go from there.
2. Placing a freeze
If you can’t figure out the numbers or if you aren’t certain this was an accident, your bank might put a freeze on your account. It’s temporary but immediate, and it can prevent a thief from spending money in your name. That’s why it’s important to contact your financial institution as soon as you know something’s wrong.
3. Closing the account
Ultimately, your bank may decide that closing the account is the best option, especially if someone got a lot of checks or your bank cards. They will usually meet with you to determine which pending transactions are valid, such as any automatic bill pay items like your power bill, and help you establish a new account.
4. Transfer those draft payments!
If you do have to open a new account, make sure you think about all of the automatic draft payments you have, such as utility bills, gym memberships, or other recurring items. You don’t want a constant reminder of this headache every time your electricity is shut off or your membership expires for non-payment.
5. Decide if a police report is warranted
If you think you might have just lost your wallet, you might not need a police report. However, it’s a good idea to contact your local law enforcement office anyway and let them determine if you need to file any paperwork. After all, the person who finds your missing wallet might not be honest and could use your identification or your cards for fraud. If you do know that it was stolen, then you definitely should alert the police and file a report.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.