I write about how we need to secure our stuff online. And I guess its easy to forget, that we need to be just as diligent with the things in our pockets. Unfortunately, I had my wallet stolen in the supermarket a couple of weeks ago. Not a good feeling when I noticed it missing.
I’m usually a lot more attentive of what I do with my wallet when I go out shopping and I’m definitely very careful when I’m using my PIN. But on this day, I was in a rush and I was multi tasking. I was doing the actual transaction while I was bagging groceries and fielding questions from my 8yr old son. In the chaos, the wallet was left on the counter. My missing wallet went unnoticed until I was in my truck and about to drive away. I ran back into the store with my confused 8yr old son who was trying to figure out why I was in such a rush. I went back to the cashier line and checked for my wallet. No good, the wallet was nowhere to be seen.
I then tried to retrace my steps from the cashier line to my truck. No luck. The cashier where I had made my purchase, suggested I go to security and review the security tapes. Which is, exactly what I did. Well, after a few minutes, the security guard came over to me and confirmed the worst. The customer that had been standing behind me, picked up my wallet and put in his pocket, while I had been distracted. He made no attempt to call me back and let me know of my mistake or to drop it off at customer service.
The investigation begins
I thought that store security did a nice job. They ran a quick initial investigation and found that the customer had used his discount card. They where able to get his name, address and phone number. Security then checked the video cameras in the parking lot and where able to get his license plate number. My next step was to call the police to report my wallet stolen since store security informed me that they could only deliver the information they had to law enforcement.
I called the nearest precinct and the switchboard operator took my information. She told me that a squad car would be dispatched to meet me at my location. So here I am an hour into my wait, 95 degrees out and I have a hungry 8yr old and a truck full of groceries that will probably spoil in the heat. Luckily there was a pizzeria and I was able to get my son something to eat. OK great, one problem solved. So I then called back, and spoke with the switchboard operator at the precinct and she informed me that the police officers that were responding to me where still busy with a car accident that they had responded to earlier and that she would send someone else. At this point, I explained to her that I had my son with me and that I had a truck full of groceries. She was very nice and told me to just go and take my son and the groceries home. I could go to the precinct later in the day and file the report then. I was really thankful but it would have been nice to know that beforehand.
The credit cards
So during my one hour wait, I went ahead and called my bank and credit card companies to cancel all of my cards and have new ones reissued. It may be helpful to know that everyone seems to have a different procedure. One of my credit cards allowed me to cancel and order new cards on their app. On the other hand though my bank would only do it over the phone. Also, they had two different departments to address the credit card and the debit card.
One of the things to know is that when credit cards get stolen, the detective investigating the case will need statements showing if there are any unauthorized pending charges. When I made my way to the precinct and sat down to speak with the detective, this was one of the first things she asked me for.
Getting your hands on this information, also involves different procedures. My one credit card allowed me to take a screen shot from my phone of current pending charges and I was able to email that to the detective. Not that easy with my bank. My banks app doesn’t allow you to take a screen shot. But, I was able to go to my desktop computer, login to the website and print up any pending charges from my checking account. Dealing with the bank credit card was a little more complicated. The bank gave me a 1-800 number to give to the detective. This is a special number that only law enforcement can use. I guess the detective had to call, verify that she was indeed law enforcement and then she would be given access to the information that she was requesting.
How is the investigation?
After I was done making my statement, there was really nothing else to do but to go about my business and go home. The next day, I had to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to have my driver’s license replaced. That was pretty uneventful. An important bit of information, is to get a form from the police that states that your driver’s license was stolen. I don’t know about other jurisdictions but for New York State DMV, they will waive the fee to replace the driver’s license when you present this form when you apply for a replacement license. Any way, later that day the detective working my case called me with an update. She let me know that she had gotten the necessary credit card statements and that she had also gotten the store security information. She told me that she had viewed the video and reviewed all of his other information. The detective knew who he was and where he lived. Now this is the kicker; the person that stole my wallet actually has 10 days to return it to me or turn it in to the police. So this person steals my property and they have him on video doing so. They know who he is. He gets to disrupt another person life, but he gets a 10-day grace period to do the right thing? That doesn’t seem right.
Dealing with my job
As if things couldn’t get worse, I also had my state issued job ID and my badge in my wallet. I was informed that I would be facing formal charges for losing them. Great! My commanding officer informed me that he was being ordered by headquarters to serve me with a command discipline for losing my badge and ID. Apparently, he tried to explain to them that they had been stolen and that a police report proving it would be forwarded to them. That didn’t seem to matter much to them. So I couldn’t help to think, here I am about to lose three days pay and this guy gets a 10-day grace period. Wow.
It’s Wednesday evening, six days after my wallet had been stolen and I’m out walking my dog and just trying to get my mind off of things for a few minutes when I get a call from the detective working my case. She asks me if I’m home and I respond yes. She then proceeds to tell me that she will be stopping by my home in a few minutes to drop off my wallet. Excuse me? Did she just say she has my wallet? Yep, about ten minutes later, she shows up at my house with the wallet. She asks me to go through it and check if anything was missing. Everything was in it. I asked her how was it recovered? She told me that someone had anonymously dropped the wallet off at the precinct earlier in the afternoon and the clerk at the front desk recognized my name. I don’t know if the person had suddenly grown a conscience or if maybe he was tipped off that the police where planning to arrest him but he returned it before his ten day grace period so he was off the hook. And just like that it was over. When I informed my job that my badge and ID had been recovered, they decided to drop the command discipline. I did have to go to headquarters and produce my badge and ID for inspection. I supposed they want to make sure that they where not fakes.
So what can we all take away from my experience? Aside form the inconvenience, my situation ended well, but for a lot of people, that’s not the case. I realized early on what had happened and dealt with it right away. Obviously, things could have been worse. The potential was there for credit card fraud, identity theft, and even medical fraud. I did have my health insurance cards in the wallet. The truth is I am usually a lot more careful with my wallet but I had a momentary lapse and things went bad quickly. It can happen to anyone. Knowing what to do if it happens to you is just as important as prevention. Alerting the proper authorities. In my case that was store security and then the police. Canceling credit cards and bank cards right away. Notifying my job which as unpleasant as that was going to be, I did lose an official government ID. In the end it all worked out and I am much wiser for the experience.