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What to do when your wallet gets lost or stolen

August 11, 2019
Losing your wallet is never fun. And it's even worse if it gets lost or stolen while you're abroad. Here's what you need to do in case something like this happens.

Step 1: Cancel your credit cards

Don't waste any time. Unless you're confident you forgot your wallet in a safe place in your room, immediately cancel all your credit cards. Do not think you're secure because you have a PIN number (fun fact - often people have their PIN numbers written down somewhere in their wallet which renders them completely useless). In some countries and some shops, PIN number is not required when using the credit card. If you have a contactless credit card, in most places the PIN number is also not required for smaller purchases. Furthermore, if you do not have a 2-step verification, the credit card can easily be used for online payments with most merchants. Yes, getting a new credit card will cost you a couple Euros, Pounds or Dollars, but that's nothing compared to someone potentially being able to empty your bank account.

Step 2: Retrace your steps

Where were you last, where was the last place you paid for something? Did you maybe forget your wallet at Starbucks? Or at that pizza place you visited beforehand? Retrace your steps up to the point you noticed your wallet gone and maybe, just maybe you get lucky. If you do find your wallet you might not be too happy that you cancelled your credit cards before retracing your steps, but in these cases, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Step 3: Visit the nearest police station

If you do not find the wallet after retracing your steps (and you are sure you had your wallet with you after leaving your accommodation), it's time to report the wallet as lost or stolen. Especially if you had your bag in a purse or in a backpack and you noticed the bag being opened or ripped, you were most likely a victim of pickpocketing. Therefor it's time to visit the nearest police station (Google where it is or try and find a police officer - or just ask one of the employees from a nearby shop or tourist attraction, they will gladly help and direct you to where you need to go). 
At the police station, you will have to fill up a form, leave some contact info and they will then give you a crime investigation report. Flyavel team recommends you take a picture of this report. Unless this is your last day at your destination, do not visit your local embassy just yet. Occasionally wallets get found by street cleaners or by honest citizens overnight or early in the morning and they will likely report such lost property to the police straight away. If your ID, drivers license or some credit cards are inside, the police will contact you. The chances of something like this happening aren't great, but it does happen sometimes. 

Step 4: Visit the embassy & get cash

If you had your documents (ID, drivers license, etc.) inside the wallet and don't have a passport with which you could return home with you, then you need to visit the embassy. They usually have a 24/7 telephone line via which you can call them and ask for more specific instructions (you will usually get a text message with the telephone number of the embassy, location and the website address on your phone amongst a couple of messages you get on your phone when you enter the country). However, at least based on our experience, the person at the other end of the line usually isn't very forthcoming with the information. Be sure to ask things like:
  • when can I visit the embassy?
  • what do I need to bring with me? (the crime investigation report will definitely be needed)
  • how much money will it cost me?

Yes, you read the last part right. You might need to pay the embassy if you need the single-use emergency ID (and it sometimes costs even more than the regular ID). The amounts and payment methods will certainly differ based on your country of origin and the embassy itself, but sometimes they even require the payment to be done in cash in local currency (they will not even accept your home currency). We at Flyavel cannot understand the logic behind this (if somebody stole your wallet with all your documents they also likely stole all your credit cards and cash) and think this is a really disgusting way to earn money by capitalising on someone's misfortune. But alas, it is what it is. You will also likely need a document-quality photo of yourself (sometimes you can purchase these at photo booths in post offices - you will again need some cash for this). 

If you're travelling alone and have no cash on you, then you are in a bit of a pickle. Maybe you can have your relatives send you some emergency cash using services like Western Union or Moneygram, but they will usually require proof of identity (ie. your ID, drivers license, passport).. which is a problem, considering your documents got stolen. In this case, we suggest contacting the nearest Western Union or Moneygram outpost, explaining the situation and asking them for advice. If you have a scan of your ID or passport on your email and can show the scan to the employee over there, then this could solve your issue. 
Another option is an online wallet with virtual credit cards (like Revolut) - as long as you are already verified and can get deposits, your friends will be able to send you money which you will have access to via the virtual credit card. You can then visit a local convenience store or a pharmacy or maybe even a bar - whatever is nearest, politely explain your situation to the employee working there and ask them if you could give them the credit card number (as it's a virtual credit card) and if they could charge you more and give you the difference back in cash (especially in the US, "withdrawing" money at a store by means of cash-back is pretty common - if your checkout amount is $5 and you need $20, you can ask for a $20 cash-back and they will charge your credit card $25 and give you $20 in cash). 

Once you provide all the details (and pay for it), the embassy will then issue the single-use ID (which is basically just a piece of paper with your photo on it, nothing fancy) straight away and it will suffice for your flight back home. You may need to answer some questions about it at the airport (depending on the country you're visiting), but that's it.

Step 5: Insurance

Remember to keep all the receipts for the expenses you incurred due to the stolen wallet. When you get home, do take a long look at your insurance policy. Oftentimes the tourist insurance policies include wallet theft. You will also likely need the crime investigation report for the insurance claim.

Step 6: Other documents

There's quite a bit of work left once you get back home. You will need to make a new ID. Depending on what was in your wallet, you might need to eg. get a new driving license card, health insurance card (and report that the previous ones got stolen), etc. Try to remember what was in your wallet and check what needs to be done for each separate document that you had.

Step 7: Be better prepared next time

Even if you've never had your wallet stolen or lost it, it can happen at any time and if it does, here's how you should prepare yourself so things will go smoother:
  • Always have some cash in local currency hidden on you (in a secret compartment in your backpack, in a hidden wallet, in your phone case, etc.) - 50 Euro, Dollars or Pounds (or local equivalent) will suffice. That way, you won't be stuck without food and beverage and without a ride home
  • Always have an extra credit or debit card with you (it should have enough money to last until you get back home and you should safely store that card at your accommodation)
  • Always have a scan of your ID and passport on your email
  • Always have a printed version of all the e-tickets, boarding passes, etc., in case your phone gets stolen
  • Don't cary all your cash with you (only take what you need for the day, + 20% extra just in case). That way, if the worst happens, you still have some cash safely stored at your accommodation.

And above all, keep an eye on your belongings at all times.

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