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Money Matters with Nimi: What’s Actually in Your Handbag?



Bola was at her friend’s father’s 80th birthday party last Saturday night. It was a huge party in the banquet hall of a major hotel. Hundreds of people were milling around, the music was far too loud and there was much food, drink and festivity.

The Master of Ceremonies announced a special dance for the celebrant’s children and their friends. Bola is usually very careful with her handbag and often even dances with it in hand. But on this occasion – perhaps it was the size of her bag and the merriment that made her let her guard down – she “discretely” placed her hand bag under the draped table by her seat, assuming that no one was watching. Her secure world changed in an instant.

What was stolen?
Bola’s handbag and all its contents were stolen including her International Passport: she had recently returned from a trip abroad and had not changed her handbag. Other items included an ostrich skin wallet with cash sums of N16,000, $610 and £400, three bank debit cards linked to her current accounts, one credit card, an iphone 6 and a blackberry, both without password protection, her Driver’s License, Vehicle Insurance Card, Tax ID Card, Car keys, house and Office Keys, a bank statement addressed to her home address, company photo ID card with the company address, mini Canon digital camera with hundreds of photos from her recent holiday, iPad mini, reading glasses, Versace sunglasses, make up bag, pocket diary and address book, and two phone chargers.

Calling for help
Bola was unable to call for help immediately as she didn’t know any family or friends’ numbers by heart. She didn’t have her bank’s help line numbers or her own account details or card numbers, so was unable to act until she got a ride home where she rifled through documents to find an appropriate helpline.

Bola had no cash at home but fortunately her friend lent her some money and the use of her phone as she began the desperate task of calling her bank and mobile phone company emergency help line numbers.

“The number you are calling does not exist” and “this number is not available” were the annoying recorded messages that kept recurring. By the time she finally got through, much damage had already been done. The banks all confirmed that they had suspended her cards, and would carry out a thorough fraud investigation.” The loss of her passport could have far reaching consequences of identity theft so it was important the she wrote a statement at the nearest police station. She also had to report her passport stolen to two embassies whose valid visas the passport was carrying.

Within 15 minutes of the theft, the experienced thieves had, with information in her diary and mobile phones already managed to decipher the PIN numbers on two of the three debit cards as well as her credit card. They had also withdrawn N80,000 in cash from one account and N100,000 from another. To help her remember all her PIN numbers, she simply used her birthdate.

After helping themselves to cash at an ATM, the thieves went on a shopping spree at a late night shopping mall and spent N38, 000 on groceries, take away meals, some electronics including a television, and some speakers.

Be prepared
If this had happened to you, would you have fared better than Bola? It is possible to be prepared for such an unpleasant incident. Should you fall prey to bag thieves, here are a dozen proactive, practical steps you can take to minimize the risk;

1. Your passwords, PINs and other sensitive information should not be stored on your mobile phone.

2. Avoid carrying around documents that have your name, address or other personal details on them.

3. Memorize the telephone numbers of a few close family members as well as people that may be in a position to help you, should you find yourself in a difficult situation.

4. Always have some emergency cash on you. How much cash do you actually need to have on you? Carry just what you need with a little extra.

5. Regularly back up all your files including contact names and numbers.

6. Have the card issuers help line numbers handy so that you can immediately report them stolen and have them suspended. They are usually posted in the ATM booths.

7. Have your mobile phone company help line numbers handy so that you can immediately call to have your line blocked.

8. How many debit and credit cards do you have? Do you need to have more than two? Avoid carrying all of them on you at the same time.

9. Keep securely photocopies of all your credit/debit cards, and any other sensitive personal and financial documents. These will come in handy when you need to cancel or suspend them quickly and get replacements.

10. Always keep your purse/wallet on you or ensure that someone is looking after it whilst you are distracted.

Handbags, purses and wallets are extremely lucrative items for thieves. Amidst the distractions of a great party, be mindful of the fact that that there may be well-dressed, uninvited guests whose primary objective is to make away with your valuables. Whilst it is impossible to secure yourself totally from thieves, by being aware, and putting some simple measures in place, you can limit the damage, should you become a victim.


For a chance to win a copy of Nimi Akinkugbe’s book ‘A-Z of Personal Finance‘, Click Here to take part in the What’s Actually in Your Bag competition.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Michael Spring

Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private wealth management. She seeks to empower people regarding their finances and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance.


  1. chy

    July 6, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    first of all my atm pin has notin to do with my birth date so anyone takin it dey waste his time.i m not a handbag kind of person and even if i carry them,na only bible and fr mbaka prayer book u go see inside to make d bag get shape and look a little bit money is more or less like my life so i dnt play with it neither do i leave any traces that will lead u to my next time she shud be careful.most importantly always lock ur fone,after my gf stole my exboyfriends number frm my fone,haba i locked it with harry potters incantation and abracadabra.

    • ShineShineShine

      July 6, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      [email protected] potters incantation and abracadabra.
      If l loose what dat lady lost, hian, na hospital get me o.

    • shopperoflife

      July 6, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      I was at NEXT Marble arch a couple of months ago and as l walked out of the door, instinctively, l looked down at my shoulder purse and the zipper was opened. Usually, once l take anything out of my purse, l zip up. Therefore, for the zipper to be opened, it meant something was amiss. I went back into the store, sat down and looked for my cards. My debit card was missing. See shaking. I was literarily shaking. I went back to the till to ask if the lady at the till had seen my card she said no. At this point, l was dancing palongo. I felt sick. My head was light. Thankfully, l fished out my bank contact details and called to cancel.

      My sister who was with me asked that l return to the till. I did and this time, met the guy who had put my transactions through. He confirmed l left my card in the machine. And they had sent it to the Manager in the basement. He called and security brought it up. I was so relieved. My kids schools fees had only been transferred into my account the day before and l was to pay that night. I called my bank again of course, my call went to the service centre in India. “Sorry, we cannot un cancel. You will get a new card in 10 days”. No cash, nada. Luckily, my credit card was yet to be maxed out.

      In this same shop a few years ago, l had walked in and there was this group of Naija babes, loud, happily chatting away. A few minutes later this shrill cry of “Yeeeeeeeeeeeeee, Mo gbe…..” filled the air. She was a weekender, who had come to buy goods. Her passport and all her cash had gone. You know as Naijas how we sabi carry cash. Apparently, in the course of chatting, she left her bag on the floor. It walked out without her.

      The feeling is not a good one o.

    • Peace Hyde

      July 6, 2015 at 4:57 pm

      Lmao….Harry porter ke?

  2. whocares

    July 6, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    You have just made me realised how unprepared I am to have my bag stolen. I am such a forgetful person as well so I need to print out these tips. Just last week I went boxing and my coach informed me that I forgot something in the changing room. I argued with him, vehemently denied his accusation “No, not me, I did not forget anything”. I walked into the changing room and there was my bra hanging in all its glory from a peg on the wall. Moral of the story, as I know the type of person I am, I maintain my lane. My wallet is mainly cosmetic as I never have cash on my person unless random £1 coins. My bag on the other hand consists of mainly a book, body spray, makeup and various receipts I always promise myself I will sort out but I never get round to. I am also disinclined to throw them away for some reason. If my bag gets stolen, at least the thief will look pretty and smell nice. I just request that they sort my receipts out also.
    That said, at some point shouldn’t Bola’s card stop working? There has to be a maximum amount you can withdraw in a day right?

  3. ada nnewi

    July 6, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    I’m shocked as to how bola did not have a heart attack….I would have had one…

  4. Ocean Beauty

    July 6, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    Bola has mind oh. Even hospital will beg me to wake up from the coma that I will slip into.
    It has happened to me before on the road before, My mum’s own was even inside the church. it is a terrible experience. That one is gist for another day
    Nowadays, inside my wallet, I have only one working ATM card, the rest ATM cards have just less than 2k Naira., on a good day it is between 5 to 30 thousand naira cash. (not really an online banking person), tampon, ID cards and licenses. In the bag, you will find tens of blue pens, maybe 5 pencils, selfie stick, sweets/candies, car key, 2 usb sticks, one toothbrush for my hair and brows, one lipgloss and one powder, kleenex, floss. comb and a sunglasses.
    If i have my phones in the bag, I am definitely not dropping it anywhere except in care of a friend or relative.
    Till date no Jupiter makes me careless with my bag.
    By the way I don’t understand why people love to move around with their International Passport.

    • The real D

      July 6, 2015 at 7:16 pm

      Not too long ago, I visited home for my paternal grandmother’s funeral. It was airport straight to villa. In an hotel, I was not leaving my passport in the hotel. I had this big bag. And while I had 1 debit card and 1 credit card (as a former travel agent I have learned to always have 1 of each on me). I also have electronic copies of the information page of my passport and Hubby’s. That I forward to my sister every time we are using them. My point is there are certain circumstances that may require you carrying or moving with your passport. All in all, we just need to be careful.

  5. mrs chidukane

    July 6, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    This article is very insightful. Thanks

  6. natu

    July 6, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    House keys, wallet, make up, perfume, phone, iPad and a journal.

  7. Ocean Beauty

    July 6, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    I just remembered that my mum was the person who made me start carrying handbags. Back in university, when I go home to collect my allowee, i will shokin the thing inside pocket. She said, when next you come for money without a handbag, i will give you nothing. Already you walk like a man, So must you live like a man???? Since then, I had no choice, it follows me everwhere I go.

  8. perrified

    July 6, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    I think what would hurt me the most is the loss of all my ID cards (Tax clearance, HMO, my kids HMO cards, drivers license) cos I have only 1 ATM card but the money disappears soon after payday so good luck to the thief if he gets it on the right day. Much as all would hurt, i am glad that everything in my handbag is replaceable. So as long as I dont get stabbed, Satan be gone with all your troubles

  9. Angel

    July 6, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    Hia! Who keeps all that in a handbag and ladies be complaining of back pain here & there. I don’t do big handbags unless I really need to, that’s like if I have to go with my laptop or iPad. Clutch bags or wallets are better, that way less stress on the shoulder & back. I have two phones but I only go out with one, anybody wanna reach me, if u call me on one line I don’t pick, u call the other line simple! ain’t nobody got time to be carrying two phones around all the time. I don’t carry makeup, debit cards, heck even money sometimes, my bag content depends on my activity/errands for the day. if I have to carry documents, most times they are kept in some separate case or file tucked away in my car & not in my handbag. As for leaving phones unlocked, are you for real? My phones infact all my gadgets are always locked biko, I have personal stuf & important materials I wouldn’t want just anybody getting their hands on. So on a good day, if you check my handbag, u most likely gonna find a pen, sun glasses & probably some cash that’s all, I kinda have the habit of always holding my phone, so you won’t find that too in my handbag.

  10. let the truth be told

    July 6, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    Lawd….i swear this piece was written about me….

    Dec. 2006, Muson Center, Onikan Lagos. I was in town for my sister’s wedding. I was my sister’s maid of honor, so saying I had my hands full is an understatement….between balancing the bride’s bouquet, mine, holding a hand fan, pulling and picking up the damn dress that that was longer than river nile, oh and making sure my purse and hers was intact…you would have thought i was a bloody octopus.

    Anywayz, i was doing fine till we got to the reception. The couple’s first dance was what did me in. I left my purse on my table for literally 2 minutes, to help the bride with her gown when the dance commenced. When i returned to my seat, my purse had vanished. I was stunned….

    In my purse was $1500 in cash, I was a student then and was only in the country for two weeks, besides i relied on my pops for money i would be spending during my stay, so i was yet to change my $$$ to naija currency. My Dad had given me some money days prior for my sister’s second shower in Lagos, and i think i had about N17k left of that money after settling vendors. That money was also in the bag as well as my camera (i really could care about the camera, yes it was pricey but it was the pictures i had on the memory card detailing the birth of niece and some family pictures that really had me upset), my razr phone (was the craze back then) and my blackberry phone which i use whenever in naija. But what really hurt me the most was the heirloom my mom had given me a day prior at my sister’s engagement. The jewelry piece has been in the family for generations. The design has been changed to a more modern style. but it was still my great grandmother’s. I should have given it back after the event Friday, but it was so beautiful, i planned on wearing it at the after party following the reception. ….so stupid of me!

    I balled my eyes out at the reception…..eventually, i came to terms with it, and enjoyed what was left of the party…..

    About a month later, the videographer delivered the video from the event. I really didn’t go looking to see if the perpetrator of the crime was captured on camera, i mean, i was already back in the states for God sake! But lo and behold! It was right in front of me in HD, the head caterer, some stupid guy who was directing the other catering staff (btw, the good for nothing SOB was the main one consoling me when i was distraught)….. he was assigned to the high table, along with one male wait staff. The video showed him first seating on my seat after i got up, (the best man who shared the table with me had his back turned and was talking to some other guy, so he had no idea what was going on behind him. ) Next thing i saw was this asshole passing my bag to the waiter who immediately disappeared with it.

    My mom confronted the catering woman whose business she hired with the tape and the woman claimed that staff was not one of hers……like vehemently denying what was in black and white. We later found out the head waiter who orchestrated the whole thing was her brother. So of course she had to cover up for him

    Long story short, i learnt my lesson the hard way! Never in my life will i ever leave my bag unattended to for a second in Naija….too many hungry, greedy, entitled, thieving assholes in that country. I go to functions here in the states, leave my purse on the table, and let loose on the dance floor, and guess what i come back and my purse is intact. Never heard of a wait staff making away with a guest’s purse…..well then again, i guess that just shows the level of dishonesty and moral decay in Nigeria.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      July 6, 2015 at 11:27 pm

      The caterer’s brother…???? And his equally criminal sister lied to your mother’s face??! See ehn, this is good grounds (in my own opinion) for spreading the news throughout Lagos and beyond about her extremely unprofessional service and ensuring nobody uses her again to even supply toothpick to bukas. Ahn ahn!! In fact, if not for rays of hope like the MMA cleaner who returned money she found on a plane, I’d be sorely tempted to agree that hungry, greedy, entitled, thieving arses just seem to litter the whole nation. Those bloody thieves make it so darn difficult for everyone else.

  11. Hmmmmm

    July 6, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    Let those USB sticks with no or the minimum amount of personal or professional information.
    A driver at my office once found a USB stick that belong to a major TV station. I have no idea how that happened. The thing was literally found on the road maybe lost by some assistant or something. No kidding.
    In Nigeria, where intellect property laws seem non-existent, imagine selling their ideas to another media house!!!!

  12. Tunmi

    July 7, 2015 at 3:36 am

    Always have s lock.on your phones.

  13. Kuddy

    July 12, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Very Insightful!!!

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