It’s not easy to put into words that sickening feeling in your stomach when you realise your wallet is missing. It’s the ultimate nightmare for any traveller, whether experienced or not. Losing your wallet to theft, negligence or plain bad luck can set off a whole chain of events that you are forced to deal with, effectively putting a hold on your sightseeing plans.
First up, squash the immediate reaction to panic and think seriously about the fate of the wallet; when was the last time you saw or used it, is it really missing or just misplaced? If the wallet really has gone, there’s not a lot you can do about it in an unfamiliar country but there are steps you need to take to minimize the financial and emotional damage that is likely to result. First up, don’t leave home without a good travel insurance policy, and read up on what the insurer will cover in this regard.
Lost wallet: What do to
Here are four things to do straight away if you lose your wallet.
Take an inventory
Think carefully about what was in your wallet, and make a list. Knowing what you’ve lost is important, because then you can pinpoint what you have to address and/or replace. Ideally you will have a list and photocopy of all important cards that were in your wallet (so this is why it’s recommended to compile a list of photocopied documents and contact numbers to be stored in a separate place???)
Cancel all your cards
If your wallet has been stolen, then so have your bank cards, and whether you had credit, debit, or travel cards, they need to be cancelled ASAP. The person who made off with your wallet (or the person who finds it if it’s lost) can have a field day with your holiday funds if any of your cards have a wireless chip allowing anyone to use them. Either call your bank to cancel the cards, or use your bank’s app to lock the cards until they’re confirmed lost/stolen. Commonwealth Bank’s Lock, Block, Limit is a great example of what is on offer from some financial institutions.
File a police report
In many countries the local police will be less than helpful to travellers who’ve been the victim of petty theft, but it’s still worth finding the nearest police station and filing a police report. If your wallet is handed in to a police station, you’ve got no way of retrieving it if you haven’t filed a report and description of the wallet and contents. Filing a police report within 24 hours is also a requirement under some travel insurance policies, so make it a priority.
Call your travel insurer
It’s generally a good idea to lodge any insurance claims as soon as possible, to avoid any complications or issues with your claim. Most policies will state that claims should be filed ‘promptly’ or ‘as soon as possible’ – this can mean within 24 hours so make it one of your first ports of call.
|Make a list of what was in your wallet|
|Cancel/put a hold on all your cards|
|File a police report|
|Call your travel insurer|
How to avoid losing your wallet
Petty crime is a global problem but why make it easy for thieves when you can take some preventative measures beforehand, as well as on your trip? No, it won’t guarantee theft protection, but it will reduce your chances of being fleeced.
Before you leave home
Lean out your wallet. Do you really need to holiday overseas with your Medicare/health card, metro transport card, driver’s licence, various loyalty cards. If your wallet goes AWOL on the trip, all this has to be cancelled and replaced.
Think about the placement of your wallet
Many people keep their wallet in their back pocket, which is the first place thieves look and it is so easy for them to make off with it. Consider keeping your wallet in your front pocket, or even a money belt or neck wallet. These can comfortably and discreetly sit under your clothes, and won’t be easily spotted by thieves.
Invest in a decoy
If you’re feeling particularly worried about pickpockets and theft at your travel destination, buy a second wallet. You can fill it with a small amount of cash and out-of-use and expired cards but be wary of not contributing inadvertently to identification theft as well. Keep the decoy in your pocket and hide your real wallet in a more discreet place. In the unfortunate event that you are pickpocketed, or even mugged, you may lose the decoy wallet, but not anything important or valuable.
Be extra vigilant
In certain circumstances, such as crowded public areas and public transport, you need to stay alert regarding your wallet and possessions. Don’t pull out your wallet in these places, or even fidget with it in your pocket; this will show prospective thieves exactly where your wallet is, making it that much easier for them.
If you have a purse or bag carried over your shoulder, you’re at risk. Why? Because it can be snatched or the strap cut with a knife and then the bag is freed from its rightful owner. There are many instances overseas of bag straps being slashed with a knife by a motorcycle passenger in a drive-by theft. Sadly, sometimes this also results in injury to the bag carrier. So shorten the straps and always wear the bag on opposite side to the roadway. Wear the bag on the front of your body, so that it’s in your sight. If you have a backpack, do the same.
Leave your wallet at home
If it’s possible, don’t take your entire wallet with you if you’re only going for a meal or coffee with someone. Only take what’s necessary – some cash and maybe a credit card. Of course, you’ll want to make sure your wallet can’t be stolen from your room. If your room doesn’t have a safe or security measures, then taking it with you might be a better option.
|Don’t carry more in your wallet than you need|
|Carry it somewhere secure|
|Invest in a decoy|
|Be on your guard|
|If you have a bag, keep the straps short|
|Think about leaving it at home|
If you constantly lose or misplace things at home and everywhere else you go (think car keys, wallet, TV remote, your phone etc), you may want to investigate a wireless wallet tracker such as Tile or TrackR bravo. These coin-sized devices work through your mobile phone, automatically recording the last place you saw your item, so if you’ve left it somewhere, you know where to look first. Sometimes a combination of technology and common sense can be the most sensible way to nip holiday theft in the bud and ensure happy travels for you.