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 your office got broken into last night. Perhaps you left it in your car when you needed to run 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. It’s estimated more than 2 million laptops are stolen each year. That’s nearly one every 53 seconds. In the lifetime of a laptop, that means there is a 1 in 10 chance it will be stolen.
And let’s face it, most of us are not prepared for it.
While there is a small chance you can get your laptop back with the use of GPS or tracking gadgets, the best thing you can do is reduce your risk of further loss and protect your identity and information stored on the device. Follow these steps immediately after you find out your laptop is missing.
Report The Theft!
1. Call the police
Report the theft to the police department immediately. They will file a report. However, don’t expect them to actively look for it. It is more likely they will provide you with resources and information to help assist in your search.
You can also register your device with a service like Immobilize. If the device is found as part of another crime or investigation in the future it could be returned to you.
But don’t stop there…
2. Contact your financial institutions
Since our devices make it 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.
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 and doesn’t appear out of the ordinary.
3. Call your computer manufacturer & insurance company
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.
Remember to call your insurance company as well. Unfortunately, laptop theft isn’t always covered and you’ll get the run-around to avoid a payout, but you might be pleasantly surprised!
Take steps to protect your information
Now, that you have made the authorities and appropriate parties aware of the theft. Write down everything you know, and even what you suspect, might be stored on the computer, then monitor your accounts to see if any unauthorized logins, or attempted purchases are made.
1. Remotely log out of all your sessions
Use another computer or cell-phone to log out of all your sessions and accounts. Google will keep you logged into different devices for convenience, but you can log out of all devices and sessions easily.
Go to Gmail, scroll to the bottom of your messages and look for “Details” in the bottom right corner, under your inbox. Click it and then select “sign out of all other web sessions” at the top. Then go here to de-authorize applications that have access you to your Google account.
Don’t forget you can logout of Facebook and other social media remotely, too!
2. 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 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.
3. 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 instantly sync with your stolen laptop. That’s why the next step is to disable syncing. In Chrome, go to Settings > Manage Sync > uncheck Sync everything. Then select “Encrypt all synced data with your own sync passphrase” in Settings. Choose a strong password that you’ve never used before. Check out our password recommendations.
Now you can start creating new logins and passwords for all your applications. Start with your primary email since a lot of sites alert you when a password has been changed.
In the future:
- Make note of all your device serial numbers. This can actually help get your stolen devices back. A lot of devices end up at pawn shops were those numbers are tracked.
- 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. Need help knowing what type of backup is best? We’ve covered back up options in another post.
- Get insured. Find a company that will cover laptop theft!
There will always be continued risk when your laptop is stolen, but you can limit the risk and protect yourself and your information in the future by knowing what data your device and browser is saving. Losing your laptop will never feel good, but you can be confident you’re protected if you follow our advice.
If you have questions about protecting your devices, we’d love to help give you peace of mind! Contact us or stop by our Omaha, NE store!