You reach into your pocket or your purse and realize: I lost my wallet. You set it on the table … or in your car … or on the restaurant table. And now it’s gone.

When you have a lost wallet or handbag, your first instinct is to panic. Before you do, take a deep breath and remember these tips listed below to make sure losing your wallet is just a hassle, not a tragedy.

What Should I Do if I Lost My Wallet?

Call Your Bank

Your debit card gives a thief direct access to your bank account. That means a thief can make purchases that drain your account — leaving you unable to pay bills and cover critical costs. If your debit card was stolen, you need to report it quickly. If you notify your bank within two business days of losing a debit card, your loss is limited to $50. But you can lose as much as $500 if you don’t report the lost card within two days — and more if you wait more than 60 days. The sooner your card is canceled, the safer your account will be.

Notify Credit Card Companies

Fortunately, credit cards pose less risk than debit cards — your loss tops out at $50 if someone starts making fraudulent charges with your card. But don’t wait to cancel your card. You’ll avoid the headache of disputing fraudulent charges if you cancel your credit cards before a thief has the opportunity to use them. If you're having trouble remembering which cards were in your wallet when it was lost or stolen, you can access a list of all your active credit cards by checking your credit report.

File a Lost Wallet Police Report

It may seem drastic, but establishing a police report (and therefore a timeline and pertinent details) could be very important later on. For example, if your identity is stolen and you need to dispute charges, having a police report on file could be vital to helping you back up your claims. Be prepared to provide details on how and where your wallet or purse went missing, and its contents.

Call Your Health Insurance Company

If you keep a health insurance card in your wallet — and most of us do — you’ll want to report this. Medical identity theft is on the rise, with thieves using stolen information to purchase prescriptions and medical services and leaving someone else with the bill. Check with your insurance company to see if it can provide you with a temporary ID card until a replacement arrives in the mail, just in case you have a medical emergency.

Contact a Credit Bureau to Set Up a Fraud Alert

Contact one of the three big credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) to place a fraud alert on file. Why only call one? They’re legally obligated to contact the other bureaus if a fraud alert is placed on your account. A fraud alert requires a credit bureau to contact you if someone tries to set up a new account under your name. Once set, a fraud alert will stay in place for 90 days.

Take Inventory of Missing Items

If your wallet isn’t recovered, you’ll need to replace all of the items it contained. Make a list of the items you need to replace (such as a driver’s license) and which organizations you need to contact to make the process of replacing those items as easy as possible.

How to Find a Lost Wallet

A missing wallet isn’t always a stolen wallet. Is it possible that you dropped it or left it somewhere by mistake? If you’re able to recover a missing wallet, you’ll save yourself the headache of replacing critical items. Here’s how to find a lost wallet.

1. Create a timeline. When was the last time you remember having your wallet in your possession? Once you identify that moment, you can determine where you need to look first.

2. Re-trace your steps. If you think you misplaced it at a business, call or stop by to see if anyone has turned it in. Even if it hasn’t been recovered, leave your name and phone number and ask that someone contact you if it’s found.

3. Take action. Once you’ve determined that your purse or wallet is actually gone, act fast to reduce financial risk.

Stay Protected

There are a few preventive measures you can take to minimize the impact of losing your wallet, like not carrying a lot of cash, and never carrying around your Social Security card. You might also want to consider identity theft protection to protect your credit and your reputation — ask your local Farm Bureau agent for details.

Want to learn more?

Contact a local FBFS agent or advisor for answers personalized to you.