What to Do if You’re the Victim of a Stolen Laptop or Stolen Phone
If you find yourself reading this article for any reason other than having had your laptop stolen, do yourself a huge favor and read this article about preventative steps for keeping your laptop (and the data on it) safe from theft.
It’s always good to take steps that can help you avoid stress and anxiety. And a stolen laptop would cause that.
But if you reading this because you are indeed a victim of a stolen laptop or phone, we feel for you.
Even if you escaped being physically harmed, there is a degree of violation that comes along with having such personal property stolen.
Here are six steps to act on as soon as possible in order to prevent even greater losses.
1. GPS Location
If you haven’t already, immediately check the built-in tracking system on your device to see the location of your device. Use whatever device you haven’t lost to search for the other, or if you’re stranded without a device at all, you might want to borrow a laptop from someone you trust.
In the off chance you just left it behind, you can at least go check the area. (Of course, for your own safety, do not try to take matters into your own hands if it actually has been stolen and you find the culprit).
There are typically a few options that come with the built-in tracking systems: Sound, Lock and Erase. Once you have used GPS to track your device, you can click any one of these options and it will perform the chosen function.
If you’re in an area where the sound of the device could help you find it, try pressing “Sound” and listen for your laptop or phone to be making noise in the area it is located.
A “Lock” function is helpful if you invested in a higher level of tracking–something such as LoJack for Laptops or a higher-level security device. There is an encouraging success rate from those who have invested in tracking software, so make sure to lock down your information immediately through that function and contact the company so they can begin their search.
2. Wipe Your Data
If you have little hope of recovering your computer, immediately using the “Erase” function to erase your computer’s data will be the most effective way to protect yourself from losing sensitive information to the thief.
Some experts even recommend this extreme step—even if you happen to recover your laptop—just in case malware was installed on your computer that would still allow someone access to your information remotely.
If you have LoJack for Laptops, there is a function that allows you to erase specific sensitive documents…but sadly, there is no option to recover these later.
3. Call Your Banks
As soon as you realize your computer or phone is gone, contact your banks immediately to put freezes on your various credit and debit cards. Although access to your online accounts by the person who stole your computer isn’t automatically an outcome, you certainly don’t want to make any changes with your money or investments.
More than that, you could have credit card information saved or on autofill on some of your favorite online shopping sites. If that’s the case, your payment source could be drained.
Your banks and other financial companies will be more than willing to help you through the process of getting your new cards and monitoring your accounts.
4. Change Your Passwords
If your computer has an autofill function when it comes to your passwords, a thief who knows or cracks your general computer password will now have access to the websites that have the most sensitive information about you.
Even if you think you might have a chance of recovering your computer, you will want to immediately log in to your accounts on a safe device and change your most sensitive passwords (without updating autofill on all your devices, of course).
These may include:
- banking sites
- major shopping sites that you have an account with (like Amazon
- other sites that would reveal sensitive information about you or give a thief the ability to make major purchases with your data.
5. Alert the Authorities
Though the police won’t launch a manhunt to track down the person who has your stolen laptop or phone, having a record of the theft and hopefully a serial number or IMEI (if you took it down before having the device stolen) will certainly help the police return any recovered property to the rightful owner.
6. Do follow up investigations.
If your laptop is stolen, it will be important to monitor your credit and see if there is any suspicious activity. You can also keep tabs on local pawnshops or places like craigslist to see if anyone is selling a device that looks similar to yours.
Again, without a serial number it is hard to prove anything, so do what you can to track down that number of your device.
Having personal property stolen is never easy. If you end up having to replace your laptop or phone, read our preventive measures articles to make sure it doesn’t happen to you again.
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