Not many sinking feelings can match the one that strikes when you realize that you’ve lost your passport, your ID, or your credit cards while traveling.
If it happens to you, remember that it happens to even the most seasoned travelers. And take heart: there are contingency measures you can take in this circumstance to make sure you can still catch your next flight, drive a car, pay your hotel bills, and continue to enjoy your trip.
Let’s break it down.
First, it’s always best to prepare for this possibility before you travel abroad. You can get a replacement passport from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if it is lost or stolen, but the process is easier if you have other proofs of identity and citizenship. A good idea is to photocopy your passport and birth certificate and pack them separately from where you usually keep your passport and main identification documents. You might also leave copies with a friend or family member or store them digitally for retrieval from your cell phone.
Once you’ve overcome the shock of misplacing an essential document or having your identity stolen, the first step is to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The embassy or consulate will require proof of citizenship (hence, the importance of photocopying the passport and birth certificate) and will usually require you to have a new photo taken for your replacement passport.
Once your identity has been verified, you may apply for a replacement passport. You will be required to fill out a form explaining the circumstances under which it was lost or stolen.
Lost IDs Prior to Travel
You must have proper identification when you fly. But if you’ve lost your government-issued photo ID prior to flight in the U.S., the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will allow you to board the plane if you complete an identity verification process in the airport TSA office.
You should try to get to the airport as early as possible to leave time for this procedure, which can be lengthy. You should bring other forms of ID and explain the situation to an airline representative at the counter. If they are satisfied that you are who you say you are, they will issue a boarding pass along with a note that you don’t have an ID.
That will get you through security, at which point you will then explain the situation to a TSA agent. The agent may then take you to a room where they will conduct a security clearance.
If you lose your ID during travel abroad, the procedures could be much different, depending on the country. As with lost passports, travelers who lose their government-issued ID should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Lost Credit Cards
Lost or stolen credit cards are always a headache, but it’s worse when you are traveling. Without credit cards, how do you pay for transportation, pay for lodging, or even get your next meal?
The first step, as always, is to contact the credit-card company and place a fraud alert on the missing cards. If you’re traveling abroad, that means contacting the company’s international customer service line to report the loss. It may be difficult to get a replacement card right away, but rush service may be an option if you are stranded without any other credit cards. The company may be able to ship one to you overnight for a fee.
The Fair Credit Billing Act limits your liability for unauthorized credit-card charges to $50. But if you properly report the loss to your credit card company the right away, you may not be liable for even this much.
If you know or suspect that your credit cards were stolen, not simply lost, you should also report the theft to police. The credit-card company or bank may require a police report if a fraud investigation is needed to prove that you didn’t make the unauthorized charges. When filing a police report abroad, you may need a translator. If the local police can’t provide one, you may need to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Losing IDs and credit cards can put a serious damper on the enjoyment you anticipated. Whenever you travel, it’s always wise to plan ahead and play it safe.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
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