Watch Your Wallet

Watch your wallet, three of the most important words of advice you may ever hear.  You ignore them at your peril, since the consequences may be very serious in a number of different ways.

Beware Pickpockets

In many large cities, you will still see in public places signs encouraging you to watch your wallet and be wary of pickpockets.  Since professional pickpockets now may often work in teams, this is not something to be taken lightly.  One of the team may distract you while another light-fingered colleague may part you from your wallet without you ever being aware of the theft.  If by chance you only become aware of your loss some hours later, you may find you have lost not only your wallet but also your identity.

Safeguard Your Wallet And Your Identity

The problem is that so many of us carry all our chief proofs of identity with us in our wallets.  Professional thieves can easily use these to establish links with your financial services.  This may not only result in your savings being lost, but in some cases could mean that charges for other services are billed to you.  Although most financial institutions will work with you to correct these fraudulent transactions, the disruption to your life can be significant and time consuming.  As a victim of identity theft, I can assure you that whatever efforts you put in to avoid this are time very well spent.   The RCMP has very useful information on the situation in Canada with respect to Identity Theft and Identity Fraud.

A Fat Wallet Makes You Spend More

Of course you watch your wallet not only to ensure that no one steals it but also to carefully monitor what you may be spending.  It can be far too easy to make impulse purchases if your wallet allows you to do so.  As a recent article suggests, A Fat Wallet Makes You Spend More.

Here, on the posterior of many an American professional, lies one of the more unexpected twists in the evolution of personal finance. At a time when people seem increasingly reliant on their smartphones for all manner of interactions with the world, that oldest of handheld devices — the wallet — has remained a surprisingly enduring accessory. Indeed, for some people, the wallet is not only not disappearing, it’s getting fatter — with many Americans now hauling around so much stuff in their pockets that their billfolds have become, in the apt phrasing of one longtime lugger, "roving file cabinets." Even wallet makers, who have been pushing slimmer models for years, seem flummoxed by the trend: That plump bi-fold behemoth "is still our best seller," says a spokesperson for Wilsons Leather, one of the nation’s oldest wallet specialists.

The best advice, financial experts agree, is to find a free moment one Saturday afternoon, empty the entire contents of your wallet onto the living room rug and do a gentle purge. You should be targeting to cut your wallet contents by half.  Financial pros say the vast majority of consumers can get by with two or three credit cards, chosen in part according to their rewards programs (one card, for instance, that offers better mileage deals for airline tickets; another that pays more generous rebates for, say, gas, groceries or something else you purchase week to week). As for the loyalty cards, feel free to get rid of them. Most businesses have the ability to identify a customer with other information, such as their name and phone number.

If you think you are likely to lose your wallet by accident, then the article has a rather cute way of reducing the risk you will never see your wallet again:

According to a 2009 study by psychologists in Edinburgh, Scotland, a lost wallet is far more likely to be returned if it has a picture or two inside. The return rates were highest (88 percent) for wallets that included a baby photo. (Just about one in two wallets with a pic of a puppy were returned.) Those without kids, though, need not worry. Says Richard Wiseman, the author of the Edinburgh study: Get a photo of the "cutest baby you can find" and make sure it’s prominently displayed.

Lost Wallet Checklist

A cute baby picture is not the only measure you should take to cover the possibility of losing your wallet.  Service Canada has a useful checklist of the actions you should take to limit your problems if you lose your wallet.

In this event, make sure that you cancel and replace all of your important cards. Service Canada has prepared a list to help you through this process so that you replace your cards and identification in the right order:

  1. Contact Your Bank(s) or Financial Institution(s) – re your missing bank and/or credit cards.
  2. Contact Your Local Police – Report that your wallet has been lost, in case it is turned in.
  3. Cancel Other Credit Cards – immediately notify the Customer Service or Credit Department of all retail companies where you have credit cards.
  4. Replace Your Driver’s Licence
  5. Replace Your Birth Certificate – Identification is required to pick up your birth certificate. A driver’s licence is an acceptable form of identification.
  6. Replace Your Citizenship Certificate – Two pieces of personal identification are required when applying for a citizenship certificate.
  7. Replace Your Health Card – Two or more pieces of personal identification may be required to apply for your replacement health insurance card.
  8. Replace Your Passport

When you have all your replacement documentation, it is a good idea to photocopy them and keep them in a safe place. Having photocopies available will help in the replacement process should you lose any of your identification in the future

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