What to do when your computer or smart device is stolen

Quey and the Cat Burglar 3
In the past month or so we’ve seen a rash of break-ins in Lawrence, and we’ve also had reports of clients losing technology with some of these break-ins. Here’s some things you can do to before and after a break-in to reduce the sting.

Before the theft

1) Record serial numbers and other information

I wrote about this for GigaOM, and while this was for Apple gear it applies to anything you buy. It only takes a minute to write this stuff down or you can be lazy and take a picture with your smartphone. Just be sure to print it out at some point because the digital photo won’t do much good.

2) Schedule the item with insurance

Contact your insurance agent because often electronics can be insured separately and for a cheaper deductible. This will cover if it’s lost, dropped, stolen, etc. Typically deductibles are $50 or $100 and won’t count against your homeowners or auto policy. BONUS: they’ll keep track of the serial numbers for you

3) Track your stolen gear

Apple has the “Find my iPhone” and “Find my Mac” capabilities on most of their newer devices. For privacy reason, they are generally off by default. If you need help turning it on or configuring it, we’ll do it for free at our office. Just give us a call and make an appointment.

One of the online backup services we recommend, Backblaze, also has theft tracking built in. Free and third party programs exist to track your gear too.

Once you discover your gear is stolen

What a terrible feeling! Here are some steps to minimize further frustrations

1) Change your passwords

Passwords to email, bank accounts and online shopping are often saved on computers. Since email is usually a gateway to most of these items, I’d immediately change the passwords to important email accounts as well as your iTunes/Apple ID.

If you have time, go down the list of any accounts you can remember and try to change those passwords. You don’t want a thief to start shipping items to their location on your dime.

2) Track your items

If you enabled tracking earlier, now is the time to start tracking and informing law enforcement of where your items are located. Many clients have had success with this, but it’s important to do it sooner rather than later.

3) Don’t immediately shut off services

Your first instinct when your phone or tablet is stolen is to cancel the account. Check with law enforcement first because if the account is disabled, valuable tracking information could be lost.

4) Look for someone selling it

Thieves want to get rid of your stuff quickly. Look for local ads on Craiglist, eBay, and Facebook for an item matching your description. Let friends know your stuff was stolen so they can keep an eye out as well

5) Let the manufacturer know it’s stolen

Apple as well as other companies have policies regarding stolen equipment and can enter it into a database in case the item comes in for service.

While you’ll have to talk to a security expert about preventing break-ins, these before and after tips will help minimize damage and possibly get some items back

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