Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Protect That Wallet!
Since it recently happened to someone in my family, I thought a post about what to do if your wallet is stolen would be in order. I guess the first bit of advice I can impart is to try and not get that wallet stolen! I don't know if it's because I was born and bred in Brooklyn, rode the subways, worked in Manhattan, traveled amongst Gypsy pick-picketers in Italy, and spent innumerable days in crowds, that I am always very aware of where my pocketbook is.
My preference is a shoulder bag that I drape diagonally across my chest. That bag will not have just a snap closing, but will be zippered, and most likely have a couple of compartments that are also zippered. The victim in this tale used a backpack-type of article as a pocketbook, which may look stylish and is convenient, but provides the worst kind of protection. It's even worse if the backpack is only closed with a type of drawstring which leaves an opening under the flap where a hand could easily be inserted. To prove my point, as we were waiting on a line, I slipped my hand into said backpack and the victim didn't even realize it. Although it was a possibility that the victim had her wallet slipped out by a stranger on an elevator in her "fancy" apartment building, this was not the case. Note: if you notice someone you don't know is standing by the front or side door of a building that needs a pass to enter, you DO NOT hold the door open for them, and then ride the elevator up with them standing behind you!
When I'm in a restaurant, I never, ever, ever drape my bag across the back of the chair. That would mean the only eyes on it would be the person who is sitting across the table from me. We're conversing, eating, and drinking so they most likely wouldn't notice if someone slipped it off the back of the chair. Also, never, ever, ever put your bag on the floor, especially not next to an open seat where someone could sit. This happened to a friend of mine many years ago while we were at a happy hour in Manhattan. We were having a good time when a woman sat down next to us and struck up a conversation. She left after about five minutes and the waitress came over to us and said we better check our bags because she thought there was something "odd" about our visitor. Sure enough, my friend's wallet was gone. As we were talking the thief dropped her napkin and retrieved it along with a stuffed wallet. I have the habit of always keeping my pocketbook on my lap. Yes, it's annoying, and drives my husband crazy, but that's what I do.
If you are at a party, or in a club, or in a bar, just like you should not leave your drink unattended, do not leave your pocketbook alone. Although it's good to be trusting of people, something I definitely am not, if you meet people and do not know them do not leave your pocketbook in a room while you go to the bathroom! This is what happened to the victim. Just because a person is an assistant manager and their girlfriend is a bartender in a local downtown restaurant and they live in your "fancy" apartment building, that doesn't mean they are on the up-and-up, and should be trusted. An invitation to "hang out" at their place might be the pre-cursor for forming a friendship, but one should be treat strangers like strangers, with a wary eye. Oh, and when you go back to your apartment and find your wallet is gone do not think for a moment that those newfound "friends" would ever admit to taking it.
So you were foolish, you were robbed, or perhaps you just lost your wallet, what do you do first? Before you call your mother, call your bank, immediately! Tell them to cancel your debit card. Ask them to tell you the last couple of charges to make sure your card hasn't already been used. Next, call your credit card companies, and alert them. If you had any cash in the wallet, especially if it was stolen and not lost, you can kiss that goodbye. Your license is gone? That really sucks. Now you not only have to go to the DMV, but you have to worry about identity theft. Since this particular victim is already a victim of identity theft, has no credit, and is in fact "deceased", or, owns a house, car, jewelry loan, all obtained by the age of 14, depending upon the credit bureau, she's already living in a nightmare. So good luck to a thief trying to be her!
So what else is in your wallet? Most likely your health insurance card. You need to call them and alert them in the chance that the thief decides to go to an emergency room that night. You don't want to be responsible for their medical bills when you can barely pay your own. Never, ever, ever carry your social security card! You're only helping the thief become you since there's no picture on it. Your library card should also be reported, although chances are the thieves aren't well read, but why take a chance? All those discount cards could probably wait until you go to the store and then let them know.
Should you let the police know? Although they will not find your wallet, I think it's a good idea in the chance that someone commits a crime or traffic infraction and uses your license which you wouldn't even know until you got pulled over for something, or began getting summonses in the mail for missed court dates. In this particular case we waited until after going to the DMV to get a replacement, which will cost $20, and you will not receive one on the spot. Since we suspected it was stolen and not lost, but didn't have definitive proof, we hemmed and hawed on what to do. I was all for going to the cops, but was vetoed down. A couple of hours later after carefully mulling it over, I insisted we go to the cops, but by that time, something miraculous happened. The victim got a call from a stranger who lived in Washington state. The woman found a wallet in the parking lot of the Bonsack Kroger. Inside she found a little slip of paper with a phone number scrawled on it which happened to be the victim's cell phone number. She called it and drove all the way downtown to return it. She was an angel indeed, and may good fortune follow her wherever she goes!
So, a couple of things...we now know the victim certainly did have her wallet stolen as she had never been to that Kroger. The thieves probably went to one far enough away so that the name wouldn't be recognized and most likely tried to use the debit card but couldn't. Since there was no cash nor credit cards in the wallet, haha!, they tossed it. Now, if it was me, I would have taken that wallet, and debit card to the precinct and had them dust for prints to see if they matched anyone in the system. In fact, I probably would go back to the "suspects" place and hand them something to get a copy of their prints to match. But the victim is not me...she doesn't have the 100% Sicilian vengeance gene. I imagine she will not approach the couple either as I would, but I hope I drilled into the victim's head to avoid them at all costs, never venture into the restaurant where they work, and never open her door if they are standing on the other side. So much for living in a "fancy", over-priced, under-secured, downtown building. No, there will be no renewal of the lease.
Had the victim not had that tiny slip of paper with her phone number on it, which she doesn't even remember putting in there, her wallet would not have been recovered and we would be fretting, wondering, what deviousness she would be encountering in the future. So, it got me thinking...most of us have cell phones and as we may be listed in a phone book via our landline, chances are you no longer even have a landline, so there is no listing to find you by name. Not everyone would take the time to mail a wallet back if found. So now I have instructed all of us in the family to put our cellphone numbers on a piece of paper with an, "if found, please call, thank you" note on one side and an "in case of emergency, please call" with my number on it. I think everyone should do that. Maybe you already do, but I never thought of it before this happened, so, for me it was a lesson learned. I hope the victim has learned lessons as well.