Lessons Learned from Purse Theft

Lessons Learned from Purse Theft

I never really think about what I'm putting in my purse.  It seems I always use it for everything from a filing cabinet to a safe deposit box or a medicine cabinet.  But the morning of July 4, 2013, changed that habit forever when I decided to take the 5k walk around Prospect Park.

broken car window

Credit Image: r3v || cls on Flickr

I was so excited about the walk, I just grabbed my purse from where I had left it the day before and headed out the door.  I didn't do my usual and just carried my wallet, neither did I put my purse in the trunk of my car before I drove off.  These are two simple decisions I would soon come to regret.

I got to the park at approximately 7:12 am that morning and proceeded absent-mindedly to open my car trunk, plunk my purse in and slam the trunk shut. I skipped across the park oblivious to the grave mistake I had just made.

About an hour later, I walked up to my car dumbfounded as I stared at the shards of glass littered all over the sidewalk next to it.  I stared at the now windowless back door and thought to myself that I must had forgotten where I parked my car.  However, I knew my gray Toyota Camry and no amount of wishful thinking was going to change the violent scene before me.  My heart sank. My knees shook.

My emotions zigzagged between shock and anger as I slowly realized what I had just lost.  You see, not only did I have almost $800 in cash in my purse, I had my driver’s licenses, three debit cards, two credit cards, my work phone and ID, my checkbook, prescriptions and a host of personal papers I had amassed between work and home.  I had every intention of filing those papers "one day" but could never get around to it.  I know, I know.  I also discovered later to my chagrin that I had left my journal in my purse, as well.

I had a friend examine my car after the police left and he concluded that the thief had backed into it first to see if I had an alarm system.  He or she had then proceeded to smash the glass, pull the back seat down (he obviously knew my type of car), and pull my purse from the trunk.  He/she left no print or fiber -- no clue as to whom had done this horrible deed.  I yelled at God. I cursed the thief, but the truth is I had not exercised any of my usual common sense that morning.  The thief had watched me put my purse in the trunk -- it was like taking candy from a baby.  However, the pain of my loss was not tempered by accepting the blame.

The most valuable lesson I learned from this harrowing experience is that you never put any valuables in your car, or for that matter anywhere while in public.  I also learned:

  • Take only what you need. I only really needed my driver's license, a few dollars and my phone that morning.  The few dollars only because I had planned to stop at Trader Joe's after I was finished my walk.
  • No neighborhood is safe.  Don't assume that your car won't be broken into just because it is presumably parked in a "good" neighborhood.  I had subconsciously made this assumption and paid dearly for it.
  • Keep your eyes open at all times.  I was in a good mood that day and had definitely taken leave of my (common) sense.
  • Notify EVERYONE immediately. I had the phone numbers to all my cards in my personal phone which I had brought with me on my walk.  While I waited for the police to arrive, I called all my banks to cancel my credit and debit cards. I also called the security office at my job (to cancel my Blackberry and ID).
  • Follow up.  During the days following July 4, I put a fraud alert on my credit report.  This can be done quickly by going online or by calling any one of the three credit reporting agencies.  Once you place the alert with one agency, a 90-day block is automatically applied to all three major credit reporting agencies.  In addition, I filed Form 14039Identity Theft Affidavit, with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This form can be filed with the IRS if you suspect your identity was stolen and may be used for employment or to file a fraudulent tax return.  I'm not sure what made me do this one but I realized I did not even remember half the stuff I was carrying in my purse. Which brings me to my final point.
  • Review the contents of your purse regularly: discard trash, file important papers and remove unnecessary items.  I mean I really had too much in my purse.  Way too much.

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