There is something truly terrifying about the thought of losing your passport. It brings to mind being mugged in a third world country and unable to get home. More often, the situation is nothing as exotic, but it can be very stressful nonetheless. A lost or stolen passport is a very serious situation, even when you don’t need it to re-enter the United States. The reality is that a lost or stolen passport can mean more than the pain and expense of getting a new document. It can also lead to serious cases of identity theft. So if you find yourself with a lost or stolen passport, you want to be sure that you handle the situation appropriately and quickly.

Luckily, the state department, which handles passport transactions, has made it somewhat simple to be sure that your passport will not be used for identity theft. Here are the steps you want to take if your passport is lost or stolen:

1)   Call the State Department’s office at 877.487.2778.  They have representatives that can help you from 8am to 10pm Eastern Time, Monday-Friday. A specialist will take a report over the phone and your passport will immediately be deactivated. This is incredibly important to do as soon as possible after discovery of theft or loss in order to avoid the use of your passport for illegal activities. The specialist will ask you a series of questions and then provide you with a confirmation number. Your passport will then become permanently disabled and will never be able to be used again.

Needless to say, if you have misplaced your passport you will want to be sure you have looked very hard for it before calling the state department and having them deactivate it. You can also perform this action via mail, though for time’s sake we recommend you call. For directions on mailing in the paperwork, visit the State Department’s website.

2)   If the passport was stolen, file a police report. Even if you believe that there is no chance of getting the passport back, you should file a police report. A crime has taken place and should be reported to the police. Also, you never know when you may need proof that the document was stolen. In most places, you can file a police report for a non-emergency online. If the passport went missing from a home burglary or a stolen purse, make sure to specify that the passport is among the things missing.

3)   Once the old passport has been taken care of, you will probably want to obtain a new one. When your passport has not expired but was lost or stolen, the process is a bit different than if you are able to surrender an expired document. You will need to fill out the normal application form (Form DS-11). You can fill this out online and print and sign it or print it out and fill it out by hand. You will also need to fill out (Form DS-64) to provide to the passport office. When you go to get your new passport you will also need to bring proof that you are a United States Citizen and a government issued photo ID. You can also bring a passport size photograph or have it taken at the passport issuing location.

Losing a passport or having one stolen can be scary. However, if you follow the above steps you will be back to your jet-setting ways in no time… or 2-4 weeks. More importantly, you have taken steps to protect yourself against the chance of identity theft.

Anyone who believes their identity has been stolen or their personal data has been compromised is invited to connect with the ITRC through our toll-free call center at (888) 400-5530 or on-the-go with the new IDTheftHelp app for iOS and Android.