What To Do If Your Laptop Is Stolen (And How To Prepare For & Prevent It)

You’re sitting in your favorite coffee shop, working away on your laptop. You get up to go the restroom and, out of convenience, you decide to leave your laptop sitting at your table. There’s no way someone could steal it in the time you are away, right? Wrong. Laptop thieves are quick, stealthy, and rampant. You don’t want to come back to an empty table, your laptop long gone. The first step in preventing laptop prevention is to never leave your laptop unattended in public. In this blog, we will discuss a) how to prepare for possible laptop loss, b) how to prevent your laptop from being stolen and c) the steps to take if your laptop is stolen.

How to prepare for the day your laptop gets stolen

You never know when it might happen but it certainly won’t hurt if you are already prepared. First of all, password protect your laptop. Though some skilled hackers could bypass your password, many people won’t be able to. It’s your first line of defense in protecting your information. Also, don’t store a list of passwords in a word document on your website. It is best to keep them handwritten in a place no where near your laptop.

But a great password won’t stop a thief from removing your hard drive and putting it in another laptop. If they do this, they will be able to see everything. That is why you should encrypt your hard drive data. You can use a program like TrueCrypt to easily encrypt sensitive data.

Store the least amount possible on your laptop. Instead, save less-used documents and files to an external hard drive that is kept separate from your laptop, like at home. This way, if your laptop is stolen, loss will be greatly minimized.

Install a tracking application to your laptop. Here are few different tracking apps to choose from.

We can’t say it enough: backup your files regularly (daily is best) to an external drive or to a cloud backup service like Carbonite. Preparation for the day your laptop is stolen is all about minimizing loss and preventing thieves from accessing things they shouldn’t.

How to prevent your laptop from being stolen

It mainly takes common sense to prevent laptop theft. Use a cable lock when using your laptop in public. Most laptops come equipped with a small slot for one of these locks. All you have to do is loop the cable around an immovable object and you’re good to go. If you must store your laptop in your car, keep it out of plain sight. Always keep your laptop bag on your person or touching you when in public. There are plenty of cases of thieves stealing laptops that are sitting a couple of feet away from the owner. Most of all, be vigilant and don’t let it out of your site.

What to do when your laptop gets stolen

So it finally happened – your laptop was stolen. The first thing to do is to notify authorities (whether that’s the police or your employer). However, don’t expect them to pursue the case. Laptop theft is so common that police rarely locate a stolen device. Having a police report may help you if you want to claim the stolen laptop on your insurance.

Next, remotely log out of any account you can think of or change the passwords to sensitive accounts like PayPal, e-mail, and bank accounts. Call the companies of your sensitive accounts and see if they can monitor your account for suspicious activity. If you have completed the preparation steps above, you will be at less of a risk for identity theft.

Finally, you can try to get your laptop back. If you have installed a tracking program, you should be good to go. If not, you have other options. Your main goal is to obtain the IP address of the laptop. According to Trend Blog, you can do this using Facebook or Gmail.

In Facebook, go to settings, then security, then “where you’re logged in.” You will be able to a list of devices that are logged in to your account and when the session was last active. You can even see the city of the session. If you hover over the city name with your cursor, you will be given the IP address.

In Gmail, go to your inbox and click “details” under “last account activity” in the bottom right corner. You will be able to see the last ten sessions along with IP addresses.

Now that you have an IP address, what in the world do you do with it? Contact the police! With an IP address in hand, you’re much more likely to get a search warrant. The police will be able to find the exact physical location to the IP address and will able to handle it from there. Whatever you do, don’t go searching for the laptop yourself.