Limbo of the Lost

| April 11, 2005

When faced with a misplaced or stolen wallet, a quick response is everything.

It’s a story we’ve all heard in one form or another.

“I went to my footlocker and found the wallet and some other items were missing,” says TJ Graf of Phoenix, Ariz. “The first thing I did was notify security. The first thing after that, I notified the banks via the Internet.”

“It was extremely easy,” Graf says. “I went to their website and clicked on customer service.”

Graf’s situation is probably unique because he drives in Iraq for KBR Construction, a division of Haliburton. But his rapid response to the theft of his wallet saved him from financial loss and the Federal Trade Commission’s top-ranked fraud-related complaint: identity theft. “They sent new cards Federal Express to Iraq,” he says. “I received them in seven days, which isn’t bad for a war zone.” And the thief, says Graf, was a co-worker who was “caught, fired and sent back to the states.”

But Graf was lucky. For truckers, a lost or stolen wallet is a crisis that can be expensinve and cause headaches.

“I remember the time I left my company credit card at a fuel desk,” says Smith Motor Express company driver Stephen Meyer of Lake City, Fla. “It was a truckstop on I-40 in New Mexico. They forgot to give it back, and I forgot to ask for it.”

The problem was compounded because he was far away by the time he noticed the card was gone. “They wouldn’t mail it,” he says. “They said somebody with a picture ID would have to come and pick it up.” Meyer says his employer just cancelled the card. “It was a pain because I had to get advances for fuel until I got home and got the new card.”

Another issue for truckers is that the places they frequent – truckstops, borders and rest areas – are favorite haunts for any manner of career criminal vagabonds: expert thieves who know how and what to steal, and how to put the stolen goods to maximum destructive use.

Have a plan
But the right response can minimize or eliminate the damage.

Smart drivers should plan a thorough, decisive course of action to handle a lost or stolen wallet. The plan should cover all the bases, primarily credit or debit cards, checkbooks, CDLs and Social Security numbers. The planned response is activated immediately after the missing wallet is determined irretrievable.

Step one is to realize the worst could happen, but there’s a chance it has not. Act quickly, but don’t panic. Stories of truckers who’ve lost their wallets and then found them or had them returned, all contents intact, are not uncommon.

“Yep, I lost my wallet once,” Meyer says. He tells the story of how he’d left his wallet on the counter of the TA Truck Stop outside of Portland, Ore., and didn’t realize it was missing until noon the next day. Fortunately, he had a couple of days off and was staying in town. “I immediately got dressed and went looking, with no luck,” he says. He asked at the fuel desk and talked with the truckstop manager, all for naught.

“I had to make a couple of phone calls because my credit cards and CDL were in there, and the company fuel card, too,” Meyer says. “Then I had to make a police report.” He says when the police showed up, he was paged. “Lo and behold, the manager was standing there with my wallet in his hand.” He says a truckstop worker had found the wallet the previous evening and turned it in, but it was put in the wrong place. “No one knew it was there until the manager looked around and found it.”

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