What to do if your personal laptop gets stolen

In a country other than Singapore, the scenario would go something like this:

Last Friday in Boston, I headed to a bar near my hotel with a couple of friends, slung my tote bag on the back of my chair, and spent a pleasant hour talking about the weather. When I got up to leave, my tote bag was gone – complete with my laptop, notebook and a copy of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens that I was only three quarters of the way through.

The shocking part was, neither my friends nor I saw my bag being taken away, and I was not confronted or assaulted by the thieves. They took everything – like thieves in the night. All that’s left of me was an empty shell of someone who once had a sense of control and security.

It was thus no coincidence when I opened Facebook on my iPhone and the first post that mocked me was:

Be careful when traveling – A laptop is stolen every 53 seconds!


So what do you do if your personal laptop gets stolen?

Here are 6 steps you can act on immediately:

1. Call the Local Police

Let’s be clear, the police won’t launch a manhunt for your laptop. However, when you file a report, depending on where you live, the hardware information will be entered into a national database. And with that, there is a slim chance that your laptop will be retrieved, since this database is typically checked by pawnshops and other dealers of used hardware.

Moreover, if you are in a foreign country, the police can help you contact any local shops that deal with used hardware, including repair and pawn shops.

2. Check the 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.

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.

Here are some ways to find your laptop using Windows 10, Mac, Gmail or Dropbox.

3. Remotely log out of all sessions

The next best thing to do is to log out of any online sessions you may have accidentally left running on your stolen device. You can log out of Google via the Gmail window (click on “Details” in the bottom right-hand corner, then on “sign out of all other web sessions”), then de-authorise your missing laptop. You can also remotely log out of Facebook, but it seems you need to change your password to remotely log out of web-based Twitter sessions.

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 websites that contain the most sensitive information about you.

So, even if you think you might have a slight 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 or Ezbuy)
  • Other sites that would reveal sensitive information about you or give a thief the ability to make major purchases with your data.

5. Wipe your Data

If you have little hope of recovering your computer, you should immediately erase your computer’s data using the “Erase” function. This is the most effective way to protect yourself from losing sensitive information to the thief.

Though this step is extreme, some experts even recommend it, even if you do happen to recover your stolen laptop. This is just a precaution step in case Malware was installed on your computer that would still allow someone access to your information remotely.

Tracking services like Prey, LoJack and LockItTight all provide a range of features that allows you to trace gadgets and secure or delete data. It’s also possible to discover the IP address of the thief if he or she tries to log in to various sites and services.

If you have an up-to-date Apple Macbook, you can switch on the Find My Mac option in the iCloud settings, then track it and delete the hard drive via your iPhone or another browser.

6. Contact Your Insurance

If you have no hope of getting back your stolen laptop, you may as well try to minimize your financial damage in the meantime. Check your insurance policies whether any of them covers stolen computer hardware. This includes your household belongings, homeowners, automobile, or company insurance, depending on where the laptop was stolen from. Get in touch with the respective insurance agent to file a claim. This is where you will probably need the police report.


How to prevent this?

Prevention comes in many forms, including setting unbreakable passwords, encrypting your data or syncing your data to the Cloud.

Unsure on how to sync your data to the Cloud? Click the green button below to find out more.