I was recently in the gym and left my keys, phone and wallet together on top of my jumper. I took my eyes off of them for maybe 5 seconds, which I now know is too long, whilst I went and got some more weights.

I came back and my wallet was missing. I searched for it for maybe 30 seconds before asking some guys if they had seen anything. They said they handed it in at the front desk so I went and collected it immediately. My debit card, drivers license, and cash were all in there and nothing looked out of place.

All of this happened within 30-40 seconds and I was incredibly suspicious so when I got home I immediately contacted my bank to cancel my card and ordered a new one.

So my questions are:

  1. What can someone do with my wallet for 30-40 seconds?
  2. Is there anything that they can still do now I have cancelled my card?
  • 12
    I once had a clip with a credit card, my health insurance card, and a $20 fall out of my cycling saddlebag. I retraced and found it, out of my control for about 15 minutes. It was on my house's street. The credit card was still in it, the $20 was gone. I thought that was fair.
    – user662852
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 13:56
  • 3
    Does the gym have CCTV?
    – MrWhite
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 20:11
  • 35
    In 30-40 seconds, someone would check your wallet to find owner's information so that they can return it back to you, and when they can't find owner's info in the wallet they would hand it over to the security desk.
    – Ajeet Shah
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 5:58
  • 3
    Open-ended hypothetical questions such as your question 1 are off topic. Also list questions/questions where all answers are equally valid ("tell me 10 things I can do with a...") are off topic for most SE sites.
    – Caius Jard
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 16:13
  • @AjeetShah In the case explained to the OP I would consider it a bad decission to open the wallet even if only to get the owner's information. If you "get caught" in the act the action can easily be misinterpreted, or the owner may have information they do not want the public to see. I think it is better to deliver it immediately to security desk. If no such thing is possible, openly state to several people that you have found the wallet and, if nobody claims ownership, then open it in front of witnesses that to get the information.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 23:30

9 Answers 9


If I’m prepared and have a camera ready I can take photos of all your cards and note the security codes on the back. With that I can make payments with your card.

A stupid criminal could use that to have expensive things delivered to their home, a clever criminal would figure out how to rob you without getting caught. I could make lots of donations to good causes.

But once your card is cancelled, nothing they can do.

  • 8
    Newer cards seem to make this even simpler: the number and the security code might appear only on the back, necessitating only one picture of the card to provide all the relevant information.
    – chepner
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 12:16
  • 4
    Someone with a good memory could remember the name and numbers. Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 14:27
  • 3
    @TTT I can remember a credit card number pretty easily. It's not a very profitable talent, unfortunately.
    – Kat
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 20:25
  • 1
    This is a ridiculous answer. A group of guys at a gym took pictures of wallet contents and brought it to the front desk in 30 seconds. Come on dude.
    – blankip
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 21:18
  • 17
    @blankip The answer addresses "what could someone do in a few seconds" not "what definitely happened in this specific scenario".
    – Tashus
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 6:28

Don't be so paranoid! An ill-wisher would just have pocketed your wallet. Somebody did you a good turn by handing it in to the desk, so that nobody else would be tempted. Be thankful and stop worrying!

  • 11
    If I took the cards, the owner would block them immediately, before I can use them. If I just record the numbers, there is a good chance that I can use these numbers for some time.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 23:03
  • 10
    @gnasher729 On the other hand, the owner can't block the cash, and this wallet was handed in with its cash intact. It's an unlikely thief that would leave the cash but still commit credit card fraud.
    – JBentley
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 10:40
  • 3
    @JBentley - Ah, yes, but you see that's all part of the con! "Whoever it was left the cash, so I guess they didn't grab the card information..." :-) (Did it happen? Probably not.) Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 10:41
  • 2
    Some people might not even notice for sure if 20-50% of the cash from the wallet was gone.
    – gerrit
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 19:04
  • 3
    This is not answering his question!
    – Brondahl
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 7:25

Everything is risk vs reward.

You left your wallet on gym floor. A group of guys saw it and returned it to the front desk. I have two things to say - I managed a Golds Gym for a while and I also have worked out at a gym probably 200 days a year the past 25 years (started young).

Your example is super super frequent. It is also sometimes annoying I often would have my phone wallet keys and I am super setting, walk away for 1 min (like 20 feet away) and boom my stuff is in the front desk. There is almost zero chance - let's say .00001% that a group of guys would take your wallet, take any piece of info from it, and then return it to front desk in 30 secs. The gym would probably have them on camera. Unless these guys seemed EXTREMELY suspicious I would thank them (even though it is annoying) and move on with your life.

The other side of this is you cancel all of your cards and everything in your wallet, call up the card companies get new stuff, and then they send everything to you. There is a far far far greater chance than the .00001% that you are currently dealing with of someone getting to your new cards before they hit your house, activating, and using your cards than this good Samaritan at the gym.

So go ahead and fall for the fear tactics from some answers and put yourself more at risk.

Note: The real risk you run with your wallet laying on the floor at the gym is someone hitting it with a card reader. They might not even have to touch your wallet and there are ways it is done where you would have a hard time telling on camera.

  • A card reader does not help, you cannot "clone" a credit card. You could make three one-off payments up to the limit (3x50 EUR = 150 EUR, and then the owner will get immediately reimbursed when complaining, by EU law). They could create a virtual card on their phone, but there are safeguards (see for instance medium.com/@esmund/cloning-nfc-payment-on-mobile-aa9a71106ba5)
    – WoJ
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 6:37
  • 1
    The way I read the question, wallet, keys, and cell phone are left alone in a pile for a short time, but someone took only the wallet and brought it to the front desk, and left the keys and cell phone there. Why would someone do that if they didn't intend to do something with the wallet?
    – TTT
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 13:09
  • @ttt: the phone is locked, and can possibly be tracked even if it is off, of little value. Car keys give you the car, but it’s grand theft auto and unless you know a chop shop, it’s not a great risk vs reward. Wallet has cash, a 4 year old could get your cash and benefit from it, a 2 year old could get it and throw it in a trash can, the phone could be found, the keys replaced. The wallet is the most vulnerable thing there.
    – jmoreno
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 15:50
  • 1
    @jmoreno hehe. I think you misunderstood my point. This answer suggests that it's normal for a wallet to be returned to the front desk and you shouldn't worry about it. I ask why would someone select just a wallet from the pile and return only that to the front desk if they were just being a good samaritan? In other words, I believe the person had an ulterior motive besides trying to be nice.
    – TTT
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 16:19
  • 1
    @TTT: no, I understood your point. I was pointing out reasons why someone might think that a wallet should be turned in, but consider the other items fine. I would worry little about misplacing a personal device, I would expect it to be either where I left it or at the front desk. I would be much more worried about a bundle of cash worth the same amount. I would expext it to be untraceably gone. If I saw a bundle of cash, I would be somewhat concerned about turning it in to the lost and found. Cash is totally stealable.
    – jmoreno
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 18:07

In addition to the issue with your credit/debit cards, you may be subject to future targeted phishing or identity theft attacks, depending on what's in your wallet. Addresses, pictures, loyalty cards, personal information and such may be used against you to lower your security awareness and/or attempt guesses at passwords and "verification" questions.

  • 3
    This is unlikely: a targeted phishing attack requires considerable preparation. Someone who has 30 seconds with your wallet is far more likely to engage in a crime of opportunity: take the cash, memorize the credit cards, and dump the wallet.
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 20:44

Someone COULD have read data from your credit cards. Either superficially, by reading the numbers, or by scanning the magnetic strip or the chip.

As you immediately notified your bank, you won't directly lose money, even if the details should be used before the cancellation had got through the system.

You might have 'lost' personal information that would be useful in an identity theft.

You might have notified someone that a new credit card would soon be arriving in your post, also a separate letter with the new code. Post can be stolen.

  • haha, yes, if the wallet offers your home address, someone could steal a card, not use it them steal your replacement card.
    – Jasen
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 3:07

Here is a minor addition to the other good answers, something that could happen but you probably don't have to worry about.

Here in the Netherlands, our debit cards support contactless payment which, up to a certain amount, doesn't require a PIN code. That amount used to be € 25, but they've increased it to € 50 because of the Covid-19 pandemic (as to reduce the number of times people have to touch the payment terminal). Wikipedia says the United Kingdom has this system too, but I don't know the limits; anyway, I imagine them to be rather low.

In theory, 30 seconds is enough to grab a few snacks or drinks from a vending machine in the same building, but the damage would be very limited in this case (not worth the hassle of replacing your card).

  • Here in the UK the limit used to be £30 but, as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic, they have also upped our limit to £45.
    – Jsk
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 13:36

If the thief is prepared, they can easily get the info for each card in your wallet very quickly with a smartphone that has NFC, it would take someone less than 30 seconds to get the info of every card in your wallet.

That's if you have multiple cards in your wallet, if you have a single card the wallet doesn't need to be opened to get the info (which comes with the bonus of appearing to be innocent if the owner is nearby).

The above only applies for a targeted attack, plus if you have an RFID-blocking wallet this attack vector is defeated.

In reality, this comes down to how much you trust people, in my local community when someone loses a wallet, the people that find them will often post in local community groups on social media in an attempt to locate the owner, often with a (censored) photo of one of their cards or IDs that show their name.

If someone wanted your money, they would've just pocketed your wallet without handing it to anyone or saying anything.


Contactless card skimming is a thing. Your contactless card can be scanned using any NFC-capable device, such as a smartphone, and then the adversary can use that device to impersonate the card until the contactless limit is reached; usually around 10 transactions before the limit kicks in (the specific number is random each time), with a maximum £45 per transaction. After this, any further attempted transactions will require you to physically insert your card and enter your PIN to reset the limit.

Theoretically, the adversary could just wait for you to make a legitimate transaction and enter your PIN, allowing them to take more money from you, but someone would have noticed by that time: either you would have probably noticed the fraudulent activity by then (e.g. through bank alerts, checking your balance, or discovering that you're overdrawn and a payment won't go through), or your bank almost certainly will have (e.g. due to atypical spending activity and/or transactions occurring near in time but distant in location) and thus suspended your card and/or contacted you.


It is fun to think about scenarios. These are extremely unlikely but possible.

  1. A prepared thief could have replaced your credit cards with counterfeit cards. You probably called the number on the card to report it lost/stolen. The counterfeit cards have a number where the thief's confederate pretends to work for the credit card. He or she may fish for other useful information from you. You think your card is cancelled, but the thief is now busy using it.
  2. Someone could slip a tracking device into your wallet. Maybe they have a listening device that they can sneak into your wallet. From now on they know where you are and can listen to your conversations.
  3. Someone could have put an envelope of COVID-19 into your wallet. When you find it, you will get COVID-19.
  4. Someone could have replaced your cash with counterfeit bills. They obtain the value of your cash and if you try to spend your money you may be subject to arrest.

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