Most people lose something at some point in their lives. Some lose a $10 bill and others misplace car keys. Similar losses are aggravating and inconvenient.
But there are times when people lose something that can cause untold grief. Missing wallets or purses can result in individuals losing their personal identities and thousands of dollars, even when there wasn't a penny inside the items.
In a day of identity cards, widepread use of Social Security numbers, electronic access and credit cards, many Carbon County residents viritually carry their lives around in their pockets or in the bags they have slung across their shoulders.
Experts frequently advise people to take an inventory of houses with videotape or digital photos. They recommend keeping a log of material possessions in motor vehicles. They suggest everyone should have a safety deposit box to put important papers in such as wills and titles to property and vehicles.
But few experts have told people who carry their lives in their pockets what they should do to take care of their most vulnerable possessions, their wallets or purses.
It is easy for people to think they know what is in their possession. But do they really? Without looking, how many could write down everything they have in their purses or wallets on a sheet of paper?
The list should include all credit/debit cards, ID cards, library cards, checks and other valuables.
While they are at it, people should try to list all the numbers on the cards, the expiration dates and the telephone numbers consumers need to call to cancel the cards. Most people cannot complete the recommended process. Most can't even list half of the suggested information.
In the wrong hands for less than 24 hours, the contents of a purse or wallet can make life hell if the owner doesn't know what has been lost.
Here are some things that can be done to protect the contents, after the items have been lost or taken:
Make photocopies of anything that is important in wallets or purses and keep the record in a safe place.
Update the record every time a new card or ID is added.
Included in the records should be the front and the back of every card, including the phone numbers to call to cancel them.
Time is of the essence - the longer it takes to cancel a card or an ID, the more damage can be done.
File a police report as soon as possible in the area where a wallet or purse came up missing.
This proves to creditors that consumers were diligent in taking care of business and concerned about any loses they could incur. This also aids in any investigation that may take place.
One of the most important steps is to protect the consumer's identity and credit.
One way to do this is to call the three national credit reporting agencies and place a fraud alert on the consumer's name and Social Security number. That way, no one can apply for credit with the individual's name or SSN and get away with it. In many cases, this is a bigger threat than any damage a thief can do with a limited credit card.
The agencies are Equifax at 1-800-525-6285, Experian at 1-888-397-3742 and Trans Union at 1-800-680-7289.
Prompt action ensures that companies checking people's status will know the information has been stolen and they must contact the individual by phone to authorize new lines of credit.
The key to protection is to act quickly. Most people are in shock and forget about what is lost, sometimes until the bills from the credit card companies start to arrive or they start receiving bills for items they didn't purchase.
Most consumers have heard about identity theft. Losing a possession containing about every important number belonging to a person expedites a thief's ability to steal someone else's life.