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10 Tips for Preventing Laptop and Mobile Device Theft

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For many people, the theft or loss of even a single laptop computer, cell phone or tablet can be devastating — unless you take some common-sense measures to mitigate mobile device theft ahead of time.

It’s not just the cost of the lost device itself. If there is confidential, proprietary or personally identifiable information on the device — or readily accessible through it — you could risk seeing your identity stolen.

Here are some tips to help prevent mobile device theft.

  1. Keep it close. Don’t let strangers “borrow” your phone or computer to look up directions or send an e-mail. There are cases of criminals bolting as soon as they have possession of the device. In other cases, they may surreptitiously install malware or spyware on your device that could compromise your sensitive information.
  2. Don’t attract attention. Don’t use computer cases that look too much like computer cases. These attract the attention of thieves. Ideally, your carrying case will not attract attention to itself.
  3. Use device-tracking services. Many laptop manufacturers include optional tracing services. Alternatively, you can install or attach an external tracking device to your computer. It may not prevent theft, but you may be able to quickly recover the computer, or force the criminal to get rid of it prematurely, limiting the damage they cause. Computrace’s LoJack for Laptops, one popular solution, takes advantage of GPS technology and will give you a precise location of a missing device.
  4. Maintain situational awareness. Don’t flaunt your brand new mobile device by using it prominently and visibly in public. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 55% of all larcenies in New York City involve smartphone theft, as do 46% of all robberies.
  5. Install an irremovable tag. This includes a STOP Security Plate. These make laptops and other mobile devices difficult for criminals to resell or pawn and may help deter theft. The STOP Security Plate, impossible to remove, also instructs anyone who finds your computer to call a 1-800 number to report the device stolen. Once they do, the vendor will call you with instructions on how to recover your device.
  6. Be smart at airport security checkpoints. Don’t put your laptop on the conveyor belt until you are very next in line. Otherwise your laptop may make it through security before you do – and be vulnerable to theft on the other side of the checkpoint.
  7. Cable your laptop. Several vendors make a lightweight but very strong cable that you can use to secure your laptop to a table you are working on in public – making it nearly impossible for thieves to run away with your computer. Most thieves, seeing the cable, will move on to an easier target. You can get a basic cable and computer locking kit on Amazon for less than $35 as of this writing.
  8. Store it when traveling. Store the laptop in your hotel room safe, if possible. If there is no safe and you can’t bring your laptop with you, lock your suitcase and store it there.
  9. No strangers. Never ask a stranger to watch your computer in public. Always pack it back up to go use the restroom, get another drink, or anything else.
  10. Never leave your laptop in the car. Your car insurance may cover the cost of a stolen laptop (minus a deductible). It does not cover the cost of lost productivity or data loss mitigation.

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