Is My Digital Wallet Safe if I Lost My Phone?

United States By Christy Lowry Jan 27, 2023

Losing your wallet upsets your life no matter what the circumstances, and when it’s a physical wallet, you can say goodbye to cash, credit cards, IDs, licenses, and photos. But digital wallet users may have an advantage if they lose their phone versus those who still carry everything in physical wallets.

By design, digital or virtual wallets (also known as smart, mobile and e-wallets) provide a higher level of security, meaning you need to know confidential information or provide certain biometrics (fingerprint or facial scan) to access their content. Digital wallet transactions are heavily encrypted and tokenized, and there are practices you can take to optimize their built-in security features. These security aspects may be a few of the reasons the number of adults in the United States using a digital wallet in 2022 has reached 60% to 65%, according to the report, “The State of Consumer Banking and Payments,” cited by Payments Dive.


Use Built-in Protections for Digital Wallets

Safeguards built into digital wallets help prevent access to your credit cards and other stored information. However, if smart phone owners don’t use these measures, credit cards and other financial card information in a digital wallet can be stolen just like those in a physical wallet.

If you use a digital wallet, be sure to activate all the security measures available to you, such as:

  • Set up your phone to unlock with biometric authentication that recognizes a fingerprint, voice characteristics, or a retina or facial scan.
  • For backup, have your phone require passwords when your fingerprint won’t work (like when you have sunscreen lotion or a wound on your finger, for example).
  • Even better, two-factor authentication—a combination of a PIN (password) and biometric authentication—is the gold standard for everyone storing information on their phone.

Google Pay and Apple Pay require a screen lock. If you don’t comply, they remove access to your cards and digital wallet. Their goal is to encourage the set-up of security features such as facial recognition or fingerprint scanning to keep your information and assets safe.

Take Preventive Steps Against Loss

Consider these tips for phone and digital wallet safety (features available may vary depending on your phone model):

  • Research how to make your smartphone “scream” a loud sound or emit a noise if misplaced.
  • Learn to locate your smartphone from any computer with the “Find My Phone” or “Lost Phone” apps.
  • Before losing your phone, learn how to lock the phone remotely in case it’s lost so your digital wallet, information and apps are safe, or consider reverting the phone to the original factory defaults. Taking this extra precaution means no one accesses or uses it.
  • Find out how to wipe sensitive personal information and digital wallet credentials from your phone if lost.

If your phone is truly lost, you may not have to replace your credit cards as all the information is encrypted and stored on the cloud, not in your phone. Check with your manufacturer or place of purchase and credit card issuers for the best way to proceed.

What To Do If Your Device Is Lost?

Losing your phone can throw your personal and professional life completely off balance. For many of us, it’s our command center. For this reason, when you get your phone—or right now—be sure to document your carrier with the IMEI or MEID number and file it where you can access it, not on your phone. You will need this information to disable your phone in the event of a loss. Some phones display the IMEI/MEID information when you dial *#06#. These numbers can also be found beneath the phone’s battery and on the box that housed the phone.

Then, if you do lose your phone, do the following:

  1. Lock it remotely. This will prevent anyone from accessing information. Visit your phone manufacturers website and follow the information on a lost phone including how to suspend cards or delete information in the cloud. Or visit the Google page, Android page or Apple support page for instructions on how to secure or erase your lost phone. If you’re unable to lock it, contact your wireless carrier for assistance.
  2. Consider changing all your passwords for mobile payment apps and any bank and credit card accounts you’ve accessed using your smartphone. Let your financial institutions know about your lost phone and see if they want you to take any additional steps.
  3. Contact your wireless carrier. They may be able to disable your smartphone and all the digital payment apps, blocking any access to personal information and sensitive data, especially if you provide them with the IMEI or MEID number. Request written confirmation from your carrier that you reported the smartphone as missing, and that the smartphone was disabled.
  4. Report the theft to the police if you think your phone was stolen. Include the make, model, serial number, and IMEI or MEID number in your report. Some service providers require proof that the smartphone was stolen; a police report can provide that documentation.

Replacing your phone

If you need to replace a lost phone, all the information that resides in the cloud can be ported to the new device. If all goes well, the entire process may be quicker than making individual phone calls to cancel every credit and membership card in a physical wallet, applying for new ones, and waiting for them to arrive in the mail. Ask your wireless carrier about the process and how they can help you.

If you need cash after losing your phone

If you’re traveling when you lose your phone and end up short on cash without access to your digital wallet, know that friends and family can send you emergency funds to the Western Union agent location closest to you or directly to your bank account. They can send you money for cash pickup through our money transfer app, online at our website, or by calling us at 1-800-CALL-CASH® (1-800-255-5227).

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