Stop What You’re Doing And Photocopy the Contents of Your Wallet Right Now

Stop What You’re Doing And Photocopy the Contents of Your Wallet Right Now
Because when it's lost or stolen, you'll be damn glad you did.

This past weekend, one of the most terrifying things in modern life happened: I couldn’t find my wallet. Losing a phone would certainly be expensive (but a perfect excuse to make that upgrade!), losing your keys would be a hassle, but could be remedied in an afternoon – but losing your wallet? A headache that could literally take weeks to recover from.

First and foremost your credit and debit cards need to be canceled. And even with overnight shipping you, it could be a day or two before you have access to cash or purchasing power again. That’s a frightening scenario, especially if you don’t have any other credit cards or a cash reserve laying around your place. Perhaps the most annoying thing would be replacing your driver’s license, which would not only require schlepping to the DMV, but also any wait that exists between you requesting the new license and getting the final card in the mail. That would put quite a damper on any drinks with buds or dates at bars for a few weeks, since the temporary license isn’t valid photo ID.

I had spent the night before out with some friends, bouncing around to a few places and I just couldn’t pinpoint the last time I had it. Trying to stay calm, the panic fluttered in the back of my mind. Not in my pants pockets. Not on the floor of my closet. Not on any desks or counters. Luckily, I eventually found it lodged between the seats in my car, but not before I had an important realization: I hadn’t photocopied the contents of my wallet in several years.

Not only is losing your wallet a pain, it’s a serious threat to your identity security. Take for instance, a study of victims of identity theft who knew how their information was taken, 43% reported it was from a lost purse or wallet, while only 11% blamed an online transaction. Further bad news: Another study found that only 1 in 5 lost wallets were attempted to be returned.

The Takeaway

Stop what you’re doing and make photocopies of all the cards in your wallet, front and back and file it with your other important documents. This information can be pivotal in the event your wallet is lost or stolen: You’ll immediately have access to all account numbers and the customer service phone numbers to cancel credit cards, but also other important information like health insurance ID numbers and contacts, auto club information, driver’s license number, and much more. It’ll also give you an exact register of everything that needs cancelled and replaced.

Beyond this, consider stashing one of your credit cards in a drawer so that you’ll always have access to credit should your wallet go missing. Perhaps even more important: Take out some cash and stow it away with that credit card. Start with $100, but think about more if you can manage it. That’ll keep you fed, provide some gas, and other life expenditures in the days it takes to replace cards.

And finally, if you want to improve the chances your lost wallet is returned consider this: A study found a wallet was 88% more likely to be returned if there was a photo of a baby inside, 53% with a photo of puppy, 48% with family, and 28% of an old couple. Wallets with no photos were only returned 15% of the time.

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.

  • Chris Jones

    This is actually a REALLY bad idea. You don’t want to have copies of your account numbers anywhere.

    A much MUCH better option would be to use a utility like 1password to store your information in an encrypted database.

    • Andrew

      Encrypted is definitely a smart way to go if you have digital documents, but I’m pretty confident a sheet of paper in my filing cabinet is pretty safe, barring any identity theft minded robbers who break in, but they’ll probably just want TV’s and computers. A lot of this info like account numbers, etc. will already be wherever you store your documents.

      • Chris Jones

        I don’t agree, but whatever.

        • Andrew

          That’s ok! Everyone has to figure out what works best for their situation. 🙂

    • Neil

      Or memorize the numbers. I can’t be the only one who does that. The only downside is it makes it really easy to buy stuff online when you have your credit/debit numbers memorized.

    • Dave

      Yes, because no app or database could be breached and all your information taken that way….oh wait…

      • Chris Jones

        *facepalm* You must not understand encryption.

        • fanovaohsmuts

          Encryption does not prevent security breaches, it only makes it more difficult.

          • Chris Jones

            Heh, whatever you say. I guess you’re the expert here.

          • danman

            Even if you’re an expert, what’s with the attitude? This is primer…the gents in the comments are usually happy to discuss differing opinions without all the nastiness you’ve been throwing around.

          • Chris Jones

            There was no nastiness. You were the first one to post a comment with a sarcastic tone as if I had said something silly or incorrect. Enjoy your evening.

          • Dave

            Well you obviously seem to think you are a know-it-all, when in fact you know nothing.

          • Chris Jones

            I know significantly more on the subject than you do.

          • Dave

            Really?? You know nothing about me, but of course you MUST know more than me. Typical keyboard warrior.

          • Chris Jones

            You’re the one that already suggested I know nothing.

        • Dave

          Seems YOU are the one that does not understand encryption.

          Are you going to claim that when the Playstation network was breached and thousands of members had their personal and credit card info stolen, that they didn’t have encryption?

          How about the many other places that had been breached? Did none of them have encryption either?

          Given enough time any encryption can be beaten, it is not the impenetrable fortress you seem to have been lead to believe.

          • Chris Jones

            No, I understand encryption very well.

          • Dave

            That please do explain how the app you suggested is better than having a hard-copy in a filing cabinet in your home? And how encryption actually works since none of us seem to know as much as you claim. Or are you just one of those that makes claims that you have nothing to back up with?

          • Chris Jones

            Wikipedia actually has a pretty consise and easy to understand article on AES:

            I understand and accept that the general public isn’t especially familiar or concerned with basic security, so I don’t blame you for feeling more safe using a hard copy. Heck, there are still people out there who always use cash because they don’t trust the technology.

            A database of encrypted data is only as secure as the password that is used to secure it. Most breaches are the result of an error in the way the data is entered into storage (for example, attacking memory space) or weak passwords. Of course the possibility always exists that information is stored in an unencrypted manner. This is actually more common than you might expect.

            My reaction to this article is primarily based on what I’ve spent my entire career trying to eliminate, which is people not securing their data because of their mistrust of technology, so you should be able to understand where I’m coming from when I see a reputable site such as this suggesting the very thing we as security professionals are trying to eliminate.

            You may not agree with me, and that’s fine. Like Andrew said above, everyone has their own solution for their situation. Have a great night!

          • Dave

            Anyone can regurgitate from Wikipedia.

            I could spend an hour or more going through everything that i wrong with what you say in your post, and how you generalize the reasons for why people don’t do what you think they should do. Obviously you think technology is impregnable and the pinnacle of security. Obviously it is not, but of course hard copies could be stolen too, although they would have to breach your home and specifically go for the hard copy, knowing where it is to get your info. Obviously you think your way is the right way, and that’s fine for you, but not everyone agrees with it and their reasons are not necessarily the ones you give. Good day to you.

    • MM

      My national consumer’s advice organisation considers paper copies of security information to be highly safe. Password utilities were considered safer of course, but paper copies will work for almost anyone.

  • Chris

    I had this happen to me earlier this year. Having a photocopy of my drivers license saved my life. I wouldn’t have been able to get new cards at my bank without having that photocopy. It didn’t matter that I had all the numbers or the temporary paper ID from the DMV, I had to have that copy of my ID. Without it I would have had to wait 2 weeks till my Drivers License came in the mail.

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