There's nothing worse for parents then when they have a child living in another country and something goes wrong—like losing their wallet. It's difficult to know how to make things better from so far away, but here are some very helpful things for parents to do in this specific situation.
So, a volunteer's wallet got lost? Or stolen? International Language Programs has been around for almost 30 years. We've sent thousands of volunteers to serve in countries around the world, and as you can imagine, we've had quite a few lost wallets. While this can usually be prevented by volunteers being very alert and aware of their surroundings, this is not always the case. And of course it's stressful for parents too when something like this happens. But don't panic!
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While being so far away will limit what you can do for your volunteer, there are absolutely things you can do BEFORE your volunteer leaves to prepare them for a situation like this. Plus, there are a few things you can do to help them out after their wallet is lost or stolen.
Things To Do Before They Leave
Teach Them How To Travel With Money
Before they leave for an international trip, talk to them about how to carry their money. While we do recommend they have at least two debit/credit cards with them (so they have an alternative option if their primary card is lost or stops working), it's never a good idea for them to have all of their cards and cash in one wallet.
They should carry only one card and a small amount of cash sufficient for what they're doing that day. Leaving other cards and cash in a secure place inside their apartment or at their host family's house is definitely recommended. This way, if their wallet disappears, they still have other options and only one card to worry about canceling.
Know What's In Their Wallet
Having a list of all the cards they took with them (debit, credit, social security, driver's license, etc.) can be very valuable in case their wallet disappears. This way you'll quickly know exactly what needs to be canceled and replaced.
Make a simple list and tape it to the front of their journal (or something they will keep with them throughout their whole trip). Keep another copy for yourself. We recommend making photocopies of the fronts and backs of their cards too. Also, write down the contact number of your bank in case you or your volunteer need to call them.
Have Your Name On The Account
Make sure your volunteer has access to multiple bank accounts, and that you also have access to all of them. This way, if one of their cards gets lost, you'll be able to easily transfer their money to the other account. Having access to all of their accounts is also a good idea in case you need to contact the bank for them.
Make Sure You Have A Way To Contact Them Quickly
We strongly recommend that volunteers stay in contact with their parents regularly! And in case of an emergency, it is essential for parents to have a reliable way to quickly get in touch with their volunteer. Check out this post for some awesome tips!
Ways To Help If Their Wallet Is Lost Or Stolen
Keep Them Calm
One of the most important roles you will play in this entire situation is helping your volunteer to stay calm. As overwhelming and stressful as it may seem to you as a parent, it's even worse for your volunteer. When you get the phone call about a lost wallet, reassure your volunteer that it's not the end of the world, and you'll get everything figured out. If they stay calm, the entire process will go so much smoother.
Cancel Lost Cards And Order New Ones
The first step is to cancel all debit and credit cards that were in the stolen wallet. This is why it's helpful to know exactly what's inside of your volunteer's wallet ahead of time. It can be very difficult for volunteers to contact a bank while they're traveling outside of the country, especially when dealing with a drastic time difference. Because of this, it will probably be so much easier for you to contact the bank yourself and cancel the stolen card.
Here are the phone numbers for some of the bigger banks:
- Bank of America: 1-800-432-1000
- Chase: 1-800-935-9935
- Citibank: 1-800-950-5114
- Wells Fargo: 1-800-869-3557
Don't forget to also order a new card for your volunteer! Once you get the new card, you will want to send it to them ASAP. Get the best receiving address from your volunteer, then go to the post office and mail it out. Their new card should get to them within 1-3 weeks.
You can also contact the ILP office to see if one of our directors is visiting your volunteer's country for mid-semester visits in the near future and can take the card to your volunteer. If a director has room in their suitcase, they're usually happy to help with this. If so, you'll just need to make sure the new card gets to the ILP office before the director's departure and that our receptionist knows to keep an eye out for it.
Watch Their Bank Accounts
This step is important, just for your own peace of mind. If you see any suspicious charges, talk to your volunteer to make sure it wasn't their purchase and then report it immediately to your bank. Again, this will probably be easier for you to do for your volunteer, which is why it's important for your name to be on their account.
Venmo (If Necessary)
If your volunteer somehow loses all of their cards and it will be several weeks before you're able to get them a replacement, you can always use Venmo.
It's very likely that a fellow volunteer or head teacher in their ILP group will have Venmo and a debit card of their own that they can use to pull cash out of an ATM. If needed, you can Venmo your volunteer's friend and have them pull money out for them. Just keep in mind that there will probably be international withdrawal fees (sometimes $10+) that you don't want their friend to have to pay for. Calculate this extra expense into what you send to their Venmo. While this situation isn't ideal, it works well in a pinch. Yet another reason we love the added security of traveling in groups!
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