December 17th. It was around 10pm, I was getting off the bus carrying a box of ensaymada in my right hand and using my left hand to make my way down the crowded aisle despite the speed and turbulence of the bus ride. As I alighted off the bus, I felt movement in my left pants pocket, where my wallet was. As soon as my left hand was free I checked to find my wallet missing and looked back accusingly at the mass of unfamiliar faces crowded along the door of the bus. One man whose face I couldn’t see extended an arm and pointed out into the crowd. There’s a man running, he said, that’s who you’re looking for. I look around like an idiot, and the bus goes on its way. There was no running man, my wallet was lost.
I later learned from a couple of other people that it was a known modus operandi. Simply, a group of around ten guys rides a crowded bus and they all stand around near the exit, waiting for victims, ones who look distracted and are thus easy prey. This sort of thing seems to happen a lot around Christmas season.
Despite my anger at myself for being so easily distracted, as soon as I got home I took stock of the wallet contents and took the necessary measures:
Cash: I had around 1.6kphp in my wallet at the time. Can’t really do anything about that. Luckily I seldom carry cash larger than that.
Credit Cards: I had 2 credit cards in the wallet, one was the card I used regularly, and one was a new card a bank sent me unsolicited and I had never used (but I put it in my wallet anyway). I called up the banks to have both cards blocked and to get a replacement card for the one I was using. Damage: 400php replacement fee.
ATM Cards: Originally I was thinking the ATM card wouldn’t be of much use to the thieves because of the PIN, but I was convinced to go ahead and cancel it anyway. It turned out to be a good choice as I found out later my bank’s ATM card was also a debit card. Damage: 150php replacement fee for the ATM card.
IDs: My company ID was in the wallet, I would have to get it replaced. Damage: 200php for replacement and getting new ID pictures.
Insurance Card: My health care insurance card was there also. Damage: 150php replacement fee.
Receipts: I had a couple of reimbursable (with my company) dinner receipts in the wallet, damage: 400php in lost reimbursements.
Other papers: I also realized my most recent payslip was in the wallet, which would contain my bank account number. This was dangerous, since given the bank account number, my signature (from the company ID, credit cards) and sufficiently gullible bank personnel, an over-the-counter withdrawal from my bank account might be possible. The next day I spent two hours at the bank opening a new savings account, transferring the remaining balance and asking my company to have the payroll go into the new account. Damage: Two hours of time.
So, the total losses were around 2.9k, plus a few hours of hassle. It’s not as bad as the last time I was the victim of petty theft, so I’m mostly just annoyed at how I let it happen.
Future Prevention and Mitigation Activities:
- When I know I’m going to be taking any form of mass transit or going to crowded places, I’ll carry my wallet and cellphone in my belt bag instead of my pockets. The belt bag is much harder to steal and it’s bulkier so it’s a lot harder to hide.
- Take pictures of each ID/credit card (front and back) and store those pictures in a safe place, encrypted behind a secure password (i.e. not on Flickr). Having the images makes it easier to have those cards blocked and also makes it easier to remember what stuff you had in the wallet.
- Don’t store receipts and payslips in my wallet, especially anything with bank account numbers. I’ll probably find a place to store them at work or inside a more secure container in my bag.
- Get additional IDs. I don’t have a driver’s license yet, but I’ll look to get one next year. Having more IDs makes it easier to establish your identity when you need to apply for new accounts or block existing ones.
Hopefully the above story, information and tips help someone avoid any other such misfortune in the future.