Let’s talk about a scary topic: your laptop getting stolen. Maybe it’s when you placed your bag on the floor at the airport and got up for barely a minute, or perhaps your office got broken into last night. Or perhaps you left it in your car when you needed to run just a few errands only to return to a smashed window and a missing device.
There are lots of scenarios where your laptop can end up in unintended hands, and they occur every day. In fact, it’s estimated that more than 2 million laptops are stolen each year. That’s about 1 in 10 laptops in a lifetime.
And let’s face it, most of us aren’t that prepared for it.
While there is a very small chance you could get your laptop back, the best thing you can do is to reduce your risk of further loss and protect your identity. Follow these steps immediately after you find out your laptop is missing.
1. Call for help!
While you should still report the theft to the police department, don’t expect them to actively look for it. Instead, they will provide you with resources and information to help to assist in your search.
But don’t stop there…
Call your financial institutions
Since our devices make it so easy to remember credit card numbers and bank account information, it’s important you act fast and put a hold on all accounts that may have been compromised. Tell your bank to monitor your account for fraudulent activity as well.
And don’t forget to do the same with PayPal!
But still be wary — small transactions are not always monitored by banks. Which means some online transactions might still go through if the amount is low enough.
Call your computer’s manufacturer
Seems like an odd thing to do, but it’s actually a really good idea. Why? By letting them know your computer was stolen, they can make a note of it and will not provide support if the thief calls asking for assistance.
Take stock of the situation
We’ve covered the common big ones, but don’t stop there! What personal information do you store on your laptop? Write down everything you know and even what you suspect you might have stored, then work on contacting the corresponding parties in order of priority. Most of the time social security numbers aren’t saved on your computer. But, if you did or don’t recall if you did, continuously monitor your credit reports. A new social security number can be issued, but only if you can prove identity theft.
(If you have insurance…) Call your insurance company!
Unfortunately, laptop theft isn’t always covered in a lot of insurance policies. If you don’t know for sure, definitely give them a call and find out if you are covered. Hey, you might be pleasantly surprised!
2. Remotely log out of all your sessions.
You probably have another device you can access your accounts from. If not, hopefully, you can borrow one from someone you trust. Google will keep you logged into different devices for convenience, but if you just had your laptop stolen, that’s a scary notion. Luckily, you can log out of all your other sessions, everywhere!
Go to Gmail and look for ‘Details’ at the bottom right corner, under your inbox. Click it and then hit ‘sign out of all other web sessions’ at the top. Then go here to de-authorize applications. You can also logout of Facebook remotely, too!
3. Delete ALL your passwords
This is important! You’ll need to go through and delete all saved passwords. If you are on a device that is not your own, you’ll need to login into the browser first. Then go to the password manager (in Chrome go to Settings > Advanced settings > Passwords and forms > Manage passwords). First shut off auto-sign in, then delete all of your passwords (click the three dots to the site they are saved on, and click ‘delete’.) We would also suggest deleting autofill as this usually stores personal information.
Then, we recommend signing up for LastPass, or a similar program, to wipe and uninstall any password manager that is syncing your data with the stolen device. It will also help you manage passwords in the future.
Besides setting up a new browser password, do not set up any new passwords yet.
Need help coming up with a good password? Check out our recommendations.
4. Disable browser sync
While Browser sync is usually super convenient, it’s not so fun when your laptop gets stolen, because any changes you make will be instantly synced with your stolen laptop. That’s why the next step is to disable syncing. In Chrome, you’ll go in Settings > Advanced sync settings > Choose what to sync. Make sure everything is unchecked. Then select ‘Encrypt all synced data with your own sync passphrase’. Choose a strong password that you’ve never used before.
Now you can start creating new logins and passwords (start with your primary email since a lot of sites alert you when a password has been changed).
In the future:
- Make a note of all your serial numbers. This can actually help get your stolen devices back. A lot of devices end up at pawn shops!
- Install tracking software. Tracking software allows you to see where your device is and what it’s being used for. It’s possible you’ll even be able to photograph the criminal. For Windows 10, enable ‘Find my device’ in your settings and you’ll be able to track it your Microsoft account.
- Back it up! You’ve heard it a million times, but really, back up all your data! It can make a devastating loss a little bit more bearable.
- Get insured. Find a company that will cover laptop theft!
If you have a question about protecting your device, we’d love to help give you peace of mind! Contact us here or stop by!