There's a new breed of thieves out there.
They're slick and they're crafty. They're also greedy and have no conscience. And if they're successful, you'll never know you've been robbed - until it's too late.
So what are they stealing? It's personal information about you, and it's a lot easier to obtain than you might think. What good is this information? In the wrong hands, your personal information can be used for everything from obtaining credit cards and applying for loans to renting an apartment and writing checks - all in your name.
All that's needed to steal your identity is your social security number, birth date and other identifying information, such as your address, phone number, bank account number and anything else the imposter can find out about you. With this information, the imposter is ready to begin the crime.
But how does the imposter get your information? Unfortunately, it's not that difficult. For a crafty identity thief, a lost or stolen wallet or purse is a gold mine of information. With access to your credit cards, checks, Social Security card, even health insurance cards, an identity thief has everything he or she needs to open new accounts in your name.
For that reason, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that you take several immediate steps if your wallet or purse is stolen:
File a report with law enforcement. Get a copy of the report in case your bank, credit card company or insurance company needs proof of the crime.
Cancel each credit card. Then, get new cards with new account numbers.
Contact the fraud departments at the major credit reporting agencies. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your account and add a victim's statement to your file requesting that creditors contact you before opening new accounts in your name.
Ask the credit bureaus for copies of your credit reports. Review your reports carefully to make sure no fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name and no unauthorized changes have been made to your existing accounts.
If your wallet or purse contained bank account information, such as account numbers, ATM cards or checks, report the loss to your bank. Cancel checking and savings accounts and open new ones.
Get a new ATM card with a new account number and make sure you change the personal identification number (PIN) or password.
Report your missing driver's license to the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles.
If your keys were stolen, change the locks on your home and car. Losing your wallet or purse can be agonizing. But taking a few simple actions afterwards can go a long way towards limiting your losses.