My Stolen Wallet
by J. David Lewis
May 11, 2012 – At the end of an excellent NAPFA National Conference in Chicago, I was with six good friends headed for O’Hare by train. The gathering was impromptu. We were engaged in fun conversation. Without a leader, and different ideas about the best train station, there was confusion along the way. At the station, cash was exchanged for exact change, with more confusion. Someone saw this opportunity to get my wallet. One of my friends later wrote:
“I’m wondering if the guy who told you to go to a different lane at the train station was the culprit, because I thought that was odd as I went to that same gate and got through. (Was he even officially an employee?) I think he distracted you and that may have been when it happened. I don’t recall anyone else around us then except that guy who told you to go to another turnstile. And he would have been watching our moves as we were getting our tickets. The rest of the time, I was generally behind you.”
On the train, I sent a text home to report progress. Within 5 minutes of that my credit cards were buying $97 and $25 train passes. A few other purchases were less than $2, with $40 cash back. Standing up at O’Hare, I realized my wallet was missing. I didn’t have a photo ID for airport security.
Tips: Avoid distracting situations. Men should keep their wallet in a front pocket. I was not following either. Women should keep purses closed or carry valuables elsewhere.
My friends went into a flurry of help. There was talk of finding a hotel. Someone suggested getting my passport faxed to me. I can’t remember all the suggestions. I stepped away to call my office for help canceling cards. Bank of America had already called the office and home about possible fraud in Chicago and was told I was there. I was able to list other issuers to call. Some seemed helpful; others indicated I should be the one who called. I now believe they all blocked the cards at that time.
Tips: Although all the cards had been used by the time we notified the issuers, this is probably the most important first action. Find help to make calls. They can Google for phone numbers.
Now, airport security was the next issue. I wanted to be in the gate area before the calls I should make myself. I decided to find a TSA agent for my options without an ID. She sent me to the airline for a boarding pass; reassuring I could get it.
Tip: Concentrate on finding someone who is likely to have viable options, instead of trying to generate solutions through brainstorming.
My friends started handing me cash, for which I am extremely thankful. (More than two weeks later, I still don’t have a debit card). They must have given me about $100, based on what I remember spending. The first $25 went for a baggage fee. Airline sympathy didn’t apply. I have to buy these friends a great dinner the next time we are together. I have no idea the amounts from each.
With a boarding pass and no ID, I was in the security line with two friends. The others had done all they could. I motioned for a TSA gentleman. He told me to stay in line. That desk agent had me step aside with another agent. Then, another appeared. These two used a cell phone to relay eight to ten questions and answers about my past. I was amazed what some database knows about me and how fast they got to it. No one could have faked their way through that. The friends in line with me were pushed along. Their faces looked concerned: as though they were abandoning me.
Tips: Friends are great. Friends with resources are wonderful. Having a few around with cash in their pockets is a big help. You can get on a plane without a photo ID. You just don’t want to try it unless you are who you say you are and have no reasonable alternatives.
Questioning finished, one agent signed the paper I had filled out. A supervisor-looking agent was summoned to sign for me to proceed. My carryon X-ray and body scan were normal. Did you ever notice how people smile in the body scan machine? What was the fuss? People seem to enjoy holding their arms up for those things!
I spent almost the entire 45 minutes before boarding with a sandwich and Bank of America on the phone. Christie was on the phone with others through the time I was flying. My phone power was almost gone. I spent most of the weekend dealing with the mess – also many hours the next week. Interestingly, the first question from virtually all these people was “Have you filed a police report?” I spent at least an hour, unsuccessfully trying to contact the appropriate department with Chicago Police. Still haven’t gotten it done, but most of the fraudulent charges have been refunded.
Tips: Learn to be patient. Make the calls. Fill out the forms. Consider how many cards you really need to carry with you. If replacement cards do not arrive as expected, call back. At least two issuers failed to place the orders. I only have credit cards now and want my debit cards – May 29, 2012.
Tip: A Tennessee Drivers License can be replaced online for a fee of $8.00. Replacing Lost Licenses – TN.gov
Contact J. David Lewis directly with DLewis@ResourceAdv.com. He founded Resource Advisory Services in 1985. He is a passionate advocate for fiduciary, fee-only financial planning and has been associated with financial services since childhood in a banking family. National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) was formed only a few years before. Lewis became a NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor in 1986. 58950