With all of the attention that online identity theft, cyber crime, and corporate hacking have received lately, it’s easy to forget that one of the easiest ways to steal a lot of money from you is with simple credit card theft, often due to a lost or stolen wallet. One recent case involved a taxi driver who used the contents of a wallet one of his passengers left in his cab.

While the good news is that twenty-eight-year-old driver Conrad Moore was arrested and charged with multiple counts of theft and fraud for his brief shopping spree, the end result is that the owner of the card now faces a significant amount of paperwork and will have to wait for new credit cards to be issued while the matter is being resolved.

Should your physical card fall into the wrong hands, there are important steps and guidelines you must take. One mistake that many consumers make is failing to report the card as lost in the hopes that they’ve just misplaced it. The problem then becomes the amount of money you are legally responsible for. Depending on how long the card has been missing before you report it, and whether it was your debit card or your credit card, you may owe money for the thief’s charges.

If your wallet or individual card is ever missing, report it immediately. Yes, your issuing institution will cancel the card and leave you without it, but they will send a replacement card immediately, sometimes overnight.This brings up a very real concern: what if your credit card is stolen while you’re out of town? How will you eat, pay your hotel fare, and get back home without your credit card?

It’s always a good idea to leave copies of your ID zipped in the interior of your suitcase when you travel for just this kind of scenario, and you can also leave an additional low-limit credit card in there as well. It will give you peace of mind in case something does happen to your wallet or purse. Since the clock starts ticking from the moment someone comes in contact with your credit or debit cards, it’s a good idea to have those numbers handy. Whether you’re traveling halfway across the country or just out running errands in town, the time it takes you to get back home and retrieve your numbers is time that a thief is racking up purchases on your card.

Now that smartphones store literally hundreds of contact numbers, it’s a good idea to have the phone numbers for all of your cards in your phone, assuming that phone wasn’t taken or lost with your wallet. Do not store your account numbers in your phone, though, in case the phone itself goes missing. Simply store the toll-free phone numbers and call the customer service department. By answering a few identifying questions, they’ll be able to help you stop those cards immediately.

Remember, you can be held responsible for some fees up to a maximum amount if you fail to report your cards as missing or stolen, so be on the safe side and call it in, even if you’re not certain about where you last saw them.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.