6 Things to Do Right Away If Your Laptop Gets Stolen

There are an almost infinite number of places from which a laptop computer can be stolen, with some of the most common sites of laptop theft being airports, hotel rooms, cars, cafes, and offices. At the world’s 36 biggest airports, over 10,000 laptops are lost or stolen every week, and thousands more are stolen from smaller airports. Most of these are never recovered, but that’s partly because many people assume there’s no chance of getting their laptop back and don’t even bother to report it missing.

Stolen laptops don’t cause major headlines the way huge data breaches do, but it’s much easier to steal someone’s laptop than it is to hack into a bank’s database. And even with security measures in place, laptop thieves can wipe them clean and sell them in short order, so it can be a lucrative type of theft. Do what you can to prevent laptop theft of course, but if you ever find yourself the victim of laptop theft, here are 6 steps to take as soon as possible.

1. Report the Theft

If you plan on making an insurance claim for your stolen laptop, you probably have to complete a police report first anyway, so it’s a good first step even if your local law enforcement doesn’t think it will be recovered. If a work laptop is stolen from your office, immediately contact HR and IT. There may be ways to track the device, or wipe the hard drive remotely if sensitive data resides on it. If you don’t have serial or model numbers written down, contact the computer manufacturer. They may be able to provide you with this information.

2. Change Passwords and Account Numbers

Most of us do online banking and other transactions, and you certainly don’t want to cope with a stolen identity in addition to a stolen laptop. Log into your accounts from a friend’s secure connection and change all your account passwords. You might consider asking credit card issuers to change your account numbers and replace your cards with new ones as well.

3. Consider Leaving a Less Sensitive Account Open

You might consider leaving one of your less-sensitive online accounts (like a YouTube account) open and then regularly check it for signs of activity. If the thief uses the account, the information he or she leaves behind may be helpful in identifying the thief if the stolen laptop is ever located.

4. Contact Credit Bureaus

Stolen laptop

Let credit reporting bureaus know your laptop was stolen so steps can be taken to prevent identity theft.

Contact the three main credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) and report that your laptop was stolen. You can place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit cards and sign up for credit monitoring service. Having a police report will allow you to extend the length of your fraud alert longer than the short time you would normally get.

5. Understand Your Tracking Options

Windows 10 has “find my device” tracking, but it doesn’t let you remotely wipe your computer’s hard drive. Programs like Prey let you track stolen Windows, Linux, Mac, or Android devices, and premium accounts allow users to do things like lock screens, remotely wipe devices, and access geolocation data.

6. Create a Digital Fingerprint

When you create a free digital fingerprint of your stolen laptop at Stolen 911, you improve the chances of recovering it. When you post an item, it’s indexed by all major search engines so that people everywhere (including police and pawn shops) can easily determine whether property that has come to them is stolen or not.

Stolen property listed on Stolen 911 is listed and searchable for a year, and you can list it again for free if it hasn’t been located in that time. If you have any questions at all about how Stolen 911 works and how it helps people recover stolen laptops and other property, we encourage you to contact us at any time. Our goal is to reunite you with your stolen laptop, and we’re here to help.

By Marc Hinch

A retired Police Investigator specializing in auto theft and fraud, I now work as an Investigator using Stolen 911 to develop leads recovering stolen property across the US and Canada. You can reach me at @heyhinch or @stolen911 on Twitter.

October 20, 2016 9:13 am