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Safety measures: Be prepared to lose your wallet

August 05, 2012

A wallet is an accessory that carries our purchasing power and identity whenever we step out. And that’s what makes losing a wallet a big hassle. Tucked away in men’s pockets and women’s purses and bags, wallets not only contain hard cash but documents such as identity card, insurance or health cards, driving license and plastic money such as debit and credit cards. When you lose your wallet, either by misplacing it or having it stolen, the immediate and certain loss is that of cash. However, things can go as bad as fraud and identity theft which one needs to guard against. This starts from first identifying the minimum information or documentation one has to carry in a wallet.

Given the security situation in our country, keeping originals is not a good idea unless in specific conditions. Second, keeping (somewhere other than the wallet) contact details of banks whose cards are in use is a must, as the first thing one needs to do after losing a wallet is to call up these banks and get the cards blocked — temporarily if there’s a hope of finding the misplaced wallet, or permanently in case of a lost or stolen wallet. It is important to get the cards blocked immediately as time is critical here. Many of the banks today offer self-service help lines as well which can be used through a telephone banking password or a PIN code — a service worth registering for.

One needs to actually know what items one has in the wallet so that remedial actions can be taken accordingly. For example, in the case of losing your original CNIC, reporting to the police and issuing authorities is advisable to prevent misuse. Here, keeping an inventory of wallet items — say on a computer — is a good option. Since these days digital cameras and smartphones are readily available, there’s no need to type out information such as card numbers. A simple scroll of images capturing all the items in the wallet is enough to pull out details of these items at a later date if required. Another measure to prepare for a wallet loss is to have a backup wallet ready with some cash to get yourself up and running.

While all these measures can reduce the risks associated with a lost wallet, what’s more important is a general security-focused outlook in lifestyle which should automatically reflect in the contents of the wallet. For example, identity documents can be kept separately from the wallet. Cash clippers can be used when carrying large amounts of cash, or keeping the cash divided in different pockets, if carrying cash cannot be avoided, is a good idea. Purchase receipts and ATM slips are another source of personal and confidential information which often reside in wallets for weeks and months, and can unnecessarily divulge a lot about the owner of the wallet. Similarly, keeping easy to guess passwords or even worse writing them down on the back of the ATM cards or on plain paper chits can be the last thing one would want to fall in wrong hands. Lastly, keeping all the debit and credit cards in one’s wallet is also asking for trouble and must be avoided.

Apart from these usual items, some people keep house or car keys in their wallets. Again, that’s not a good practice considering the cost and urgency required in case of losing these keys along with the wallet. But if that’s the case, changing the locks is the best and only option, even when the keys have been found as these could have been copied and returned intentionally.

Living in a world of unexpected events, the best way out is to be prepared for them; losing a wallet is no exception — so stay safe and stay prepared!