Let's say all your personal information is lost on a NJ Transit train....

Hypothetically, let's say someone printed out ALL their tax forms at work to bring home -- birth dates, social security numbers of your whole family, address, financial info included -- and then left them on the train.

Hypothetically, aside from frantically calling NJTransit and praying some nice person found it and kept it safe, is there anything one could do to prevent or at least readily catch identify theft?


Freeze your credit immediately by reaching out to the credit bureaus.

Thank you. Doing that now and have subscribed to a credit monitoring service for the whole family.

Does anyone know if there's anything else we're missing? This is a terrible feeling.

Call NJ Transit lost and found -- and pray a lot? Surprises do happen. Good luck!

My wife lost a wallet on the train last week and was able to get it from the lost and found that evening.

I doubt a random stranger on NJT is going to have the desire to steal your identity. Not that it can't happen. Just that your average NJT rider is not a criminal.

So sorry @afa this must be an extremely frustrating and worrying time for you ... but do keep in mind that most folks that stumble on those documents will most likely return them or trash them for your safety... Identify thieves are a very special set of criminals who do not usually seek their victims on trains, etc. Like @ParticleMan said, it can happen, but most likely it will not so if I were you I would try my best not to stress about it too much, but do take the precautions everyone mentions..

We had a similar scare once. We went to the station in Dover the same night and they had what we'd lost. Apparently the conductors check for things left behind.

ParticleMan said:

I doubt a random stranger on NJT is going to have the desire to steal your identity. Not that it can't happen. Just that your average NJT rider is not a criminal.

this was my other thought. We're not talking about some lost money or a lost ipod that someone can just use. They have to find this, and then commit a major crime.

@jules867, was it just at the Dover station or did you manage to catch the train as it was turning around? I'm not sure if we should try to go to the lost and found tomorrow (it looks like there are a few locations??) or what. We don't need the forms themselves, we just want to make sure that no one else ends up with them.

I always tell my kid that there are more good people in the world than bad, so I'm hoping that there are indeed no criminals riding NJ Transit tonight and some nice person will take pity on us and keep them safe/toss them/ whatever. I'm wracking my brain, but I don't think there's much else we can do to protect ourselves other than freezing the credit (I can't freeze our kids' accounts until Monday when I can speak to a human being) and setting up a monitoring service. What makes me nervous is that even if nothing happens immediately, someone could open up accounts or something in the future if they have the info..........

If they have been turned over to or found by the conductor then they will be placed in the lost and found box at the end of the line. If it was a Dover train, for instance, then it will be placed in Dover. The problem is that the box is not checked daily, but when it is, all off the property is taken to either Hoboken or Penn lost and found where it is logged. This process can take up to a week. I suggest you try to take the very same train Monday and try to speak to the conductor. It is quite possible that he/she will hold on to them in case you come for them.

This was my experience a few years back.

Sorry you are going through this, I know from personal experience how frustrating and bothersome it can be.

The train terminated in Summit so we might try to go there today and cross our fingers.

Otherwise I'll suggest to my husband that he take the same train home on Monday and be extra nice to the conductor.

If you take the same train/ride in the same car every day and have a regular conductor who was collecting/checking tickets when you left the forms behind, it is quite possible that the conductor has your paperwork and will give it to you when you next board the train. If you tend to sit with the same seat mate on a regular basis and that person gets off the train after you do, it is possible that person picked up your papers and is holding them for you. If neither of these is a possibility, call customer service, tell the person on the line the number of the train you were on (check schedule for this) and the day you lost the paperwork and ask which lost and found would have the material you are seeking (assuming the paperwork was retrieved by train staff and turned in to lost and found). If you forms just looked like random papers, nothing special or important, it is equally possible that the cleaning crew just picked them up as litter and threw them out (no idea how you could verify that). Someone taking the time to pick-up your material, read through it, and decide to use the material for identity theft is a far more remote possibility than any of the above scenarios. I know you won't feel better until the material is recovered, assuming it is and that you will be careful to check credit reports and financial statements for signs of identity theft, hopefully this will prove to be an unnecessary precaution.

My husband just went to the Summit station and they don't have it. I'm guessing it's gone--hopefully in the trash somewhere.

My husband said he'd never seen that conductor before--he doesn't have a "regular" evening train.

Let's all hope identity theft is just too much work for the average NJ Transit customer...!

So sorry to hear this! Fingers crossed for you that you can get it back.

That said...

We sadly joined the identity theft club this year (someone else filed using our info). It's a horrible feeling, but you should immediately start the process of reporting that the information has been compromised. We had to file a local police report (you'll need the record) and place fraud alerts with the credit bureaus. A lot of damage can be done very quickly. FTC, SSA, IRS - a lot to follow up with, but don't panic. It's a pain, but manageable. Good luck!

The three major credit reporting agencies are:

Equifax - 1-800-525-6285
Trans Union - 1-800-680-7289
Experian - 1-888-397-3742

More info here:


Summit is not one of the more frequently used lost and found offices. I would have been surprised if your lost material was there. The train your husband was on most likely had other runs berfore the end of the crew's shift. Therefore, if a conductor found your package, that material could be anywhere in the system. This is why I suggested calling customer service with the number on the train schedule for the train your husband was on that day to get a better idea of which lost and found office is most likely to have the papers left behind on the train. If your husband is able to identify the conductor assigned to his car, customer service may be able to follow up with him/her to determine if the conductor knows what happened to your package. Even the number assigned to the train on the schedule and the car your husband was in could be sufficient for this identification. It should also be noted that it can sometimes take a few days for lost material to make it to a lost and found office.

Left items don't go to the last station they go to a central Lost & Found. If it were found and turned in, that's where it will be. Call NJT and ask for the location. Sometimes it takes a few days to make its way there. What was it in? I'd say if a plastic bag, it got tossed. If a folder or some other more permanent container, try the lost & found next week.

conandrob240 said:

Left items don't go to the last station they go to a central Lost & Found. If it were found and turned in, that's where it will be. Call NJT and ask for the location. Sometimes it takes a few days to make its way there. What was it in? I'd say if a plastic bag, it got tossed. If a folder or some other more permanent container, try the lost & found next week.

That's right. There are Hoboken and NY Penn lost and founds.

Thanks, @project37, I'm so sorry you had to go through that. It's just such a gross feeling that someone could possibly have ALL that personal info, isn't it?? We placed a credit freeze with the three agencies, and signed up for an Equifax Family monitoring plan for my husband, our daughters, and myself (it monitors all three agencies) that should hopefully let us know if anything funky happens with anyone's info (we couldn't do a freeze on our girls' accounts online, have to send in a bunch of info and/or talk to a human being and of course this happened on a Friday night so there were no human beings to talk to).

The problem was that it happened on a Friday night -- my husband called EVERYONE possible, several times... NJ Transit police, lost & found, customer service, the freaking FBI to find out what course of action to take (I thought this was a bit much).... it's hard to get in touch with anyone who cares on a Friday night and of course most offices are closed. He said it was in a plain manilla envelope, not sealed (but the little metal things were closed). He's planning to check the main lost and found next week (and keep calling during business hours to hopefully speak with a human).

At the very least our tax return was not very impressive (and because of a heavy freelance load last year we OWE a ton of money), so I don't know if anyone would want to steal our particular identities anyway.

So sorry this happened to you @afa and @project37
I was just talking to a friend about the Tax ID theft. He had been told he couldn't file his return because someone else had already claimed his daughter as a dependent. The IRS wouldn't tell him who had done it but he knew - it was his ex-wife, she disregarded their divorce agreement and the IRS form she had signed that said he would claim the children as dependents.
That said, I cannot understand why the IRS won't help when a stranger steals your ID. They know where the refund was sent, right?

@afa, I had a wallet stolen once and it showed up months later in my mailbox! It was mailed to me by the police department. (I did not know that it is a somewhat common practice for pick-pockets to drop the wallet, sans money. into mailboxes.)

Perhaps someone will be kind and just mail the information back to the address listed on the documents inside.

@befmic, Something similar happened to us last year as well. When we filed an error popped up because someone had already filed a return using my husband's SS#. (The accountant thinks it might have been a typo since no other identity theft has been uncovered.) We could not file electronically as a result and had to mail in a 1" stack of papers.

THEN the IRS had to go through the papers manually. We literally got our 2014 refund just a month or two ago...

@kmk We had the same thing happen to us 2 years ago. Now the IRS sends us a special pin number to use when filing so they can confirm it is really us. Sadly, I think it is pretty common.

If I found this I'd take it home and have every intention of mailing it to you. Then I'd put it somewhere and forget and come across months later and shred it.

I'd imagine I'm not alone. Maybe the person is more together than I'd be and it will show up in the mail.

I'm with those that think your risk is REALLY low and you've mitigated it as best you can. Although I'd still be furious with the husband cheese

I've had my identity stolen (twice) and it's usually via credit card/internet.

I think that our train ended in Summit too, but for some reason (this was about 1 1/2 ago), we went to the depot in Dover and they had it there. Not sure who we talked to or how we got the info, but it worked! Maybe you could call them there and see.

@kmk that is outrageous! How could the IRS take a year to sort it out - they know where they sent the refund check!!
Maybe we should all have PIN numbers assigned to us for tax filing.

@befmic, I may be wrong but when I was reading the literature I seem to remember that citizens can request a PIN number from the IRS if they want one.

It was really insane the amount of time it took. (I kept having visions of one old man looking at every page of my return with a calculator next to piles and piles of other paper returns.)

I FINALLY blew a gasket and escalated everything only to find out that Federal Dept. A had been done with their part for months but had failed to notify Federal Dept. B that they were done. After that "phone call of discovery" I to wait another 8 weeks before the check arrived.

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