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It's every tourist's greatest fear: You reach for your wallet, and it's not in your bag, your coat or back pocket. Within a split second, the realization hits. It's gone.

When a wallet is lost (in other words "soon-to-be stolen") or stolen, every vacationer has the same panicked response. And with good reason. Losing a wallet creates all sorts of problems. Some are just annoying, others can potentially ruin you financially.

Here is a list of tips and tricks to help pickpocket victims regain their sanity (if not their collection of loyalty cards).

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It's the key that opens nearly every door on vacation. But how much cash is too much to have on you at one time? Many travelling sites suggest keeping the bare minimum on you at all times. Plan a budget for each day, carry that amount and safely stash the rest. Some experts suggest storing cash in either a money clip in a secret compartment in your luggage or in a money belt that is worn under clothes. Better yet, use travellers' cheques. Banks consider these prepaid cheques safer than cash because they are refundable if stolen. According to Visa's website, after a cheque is stolen or lost, you need to call its 24-hour line and answer questions about its serial number, when and where the cheque was purchased from, when it is believed to have been stolen and who is the issuer of the cheque. Most of this information can be found on the initial Purchase Agreement, which is why you shouldn't carry this document with the cheque. The credit card agency also suggests to make cheques even safer, travellers should not countersign them until they are ready to cash them.

Credit cards

Despite the security of cheques, credit cards are becoming more and more the norm for purchases abroad, especially in the United States. The convenience of these cards, however, comes with very serious risk: credit card fraud is increasingly common. There are two calls that should be made immediately when you realize your wallet is missing. First, call your credit card company. Next, call the local police to file a report, in case your wallet is returned, and also to avoid identity theft. As most fraudulent purchases happen within the first few hours of acquiring the card, it's important to cancel right away. Cancel your debit card as well, to prevent any cash from being withdrawn. Some travel experts suggest that travellers carry expired credit cards in a decoy wallet and keep the active cards close to your chest.

Driver's license and health cards

Both of these cards require a visit to a provincial services office, where you will have to fill out a form and show at least two pieces of ID. Most provinces don't charge you to replace your health card, but some of the Maritime provinces and Quebec require a small fee, ranging from $10 to $15. Unlike health cards, which usually aren't sent out for a few weeks after a replacement request has been fulfilled, a temporary driver's license can be issued after the forms have been processed. Like the health card process, at least two pieces of ID are required.

Cards you shouldn't have in your wallet

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Like cash, experts agree that you should only carry cards you need for the trip. Leave things like your SIN card and your birth certificate at home, if you don't have to use them as proof of citizenship. Leave your passport and/or any citizenship cards in a safe space when you're out and about. Losing these cards not only makes it harder to acquire new ones, like a replacement health card, but it also leaves you very vulnerable to identity theft. If any of these items are lost or stolen, contact the police immediately, before contacting the federal government's Service Canada to apply for new ones.

What if everything (birth certificate, SIN card, passport, etc.) has been stolen?

After filing a police report, get a new copy of your birth certificate if you were born in Canada. Most provinces allow you to do this with any piece of photo ID (make sure to keep something at home) or two pieces of non-photo ID. Once you have your birth certificate in hand, you can apply for a new copy of your passport and/or your SIN card. That will give you three pieces of ID, which will allow you get the rest of your cards. If you are a Canadian citizen, but not born in Canada, make sure you've kept a photocopy of all of your documents. You will need these to get a replacement Canadian Citizenship Card.

Tips to help ease the panic

Just 10 minutes of prep work before a trip can save any traveller a lot of panic, and more importantly time. Keeping the numbers of your bank, credit card agency, Service Canada and the local police non-emergency number on your phone will help you contact the necessary people quickly, thus cutting down the chance of fraud. Travellers heading outside of Canada should also consider making photocopies of their important documents, like passports and even credit cards. But don't take them with you. Leave them in a safe, accessible place, or with a family member.

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About the Author

Madeleine White is the Assistant National Editor for The Globe and Mail. She has been with the Globe since 2011 and previously worked in the Globe's Video and Features departments, covering topics ranging from fitness and health to real estate to indigenous education. More

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