This can be a very scary situation, especially with our reliance on technology and the internet to pay our bills, and keep our finances on track. Your computer, tablet, and even your smartphone, all have vital information similar to what’s in your wallet.
What should you do if your laptop gets stolen? How can you protect yourself and your financial information?
- Change account passwords.
It’s hard to have your entire life on a computer stolen, and not freak out, but try your best not to stress. Take steps to protect yourself first (you’ll likely be angry, shaken up, and a little scared).
The calmer you are, the better you’ll be able to handle the situation and prevent any additional information being stolen. Find a trustworthy friend, neighbor, or relative who has internet access, then log into any important accounts to update your passwords.
A few of the most important ones include your email account, PayPal, eBay, bank accounts, and any other sites you might have automatically saved passwords onto your laptop. In addition, if you have any contact information, employer data, or other pertinent documents related to anyone else, contact those individuals immediately so they can take precautions too.
- Contact the police and computer manufacturer.
File a police fraud alert and get a report explaining the entire incident. Some locations may have a regular habit of this happening which could help other individuals avoid theft in the future, or increase police protection.
Next, contact your laptop’s manufacturer and let them know your computer has been stolen. They can make a note in their database in case the thief calls customer support or needs tech service.
You should also visit an online site like the Stolen Computer Registry where they can hopefully intersect the thief and help return your computer back to you safe and sound.
- Alert the credit bureaus.
Just like if your wallet or purse was stolen, you’ll want to take the same kinds of actions, and either put a fraud alert on your credit report, or freeze it. This will stop anyone who’s trying to take credit out in your name, or purchase something without your consent.
You can also consider signing up for a credit monitoring service to give you a bit more peace of mind during this time. Once everything has been sorted out, you can choose to continue the service or cancel it.
- Prevent future emergencies.
Sometimes you just can’t prevent bad things from happening, but here are a few things to do to prevent theft in the future:
- Write down the serial or model number. In order to replace your laptop, and file a claim, you’ll need the serial or model numbers before it can be identified. Just like recording all of your wallet’s information, you’ll want to record your laptop’s specifications and store it in a safe place. If you don’t have this information, you can likely call the manufacturer, or look at the receipt when you purchased it.
- Beware of your surroundings. Even in a well-trafficked coffee shop your possessions can get stolen, so be aware of who’s around you and what’s going on. If you feel uncomfortable, it’s better to disrupt your productivity, and leave, than lose your computer.
- Password protect your laptop. When using your computer in public, make sure you put a secure password on it so anyone who tries to access it won’t be able to. Even though this isn’t foolproof, you’ll ward off any amateurs who won’t be able to hack your information.
Getting your laptop stolen is a horrible experience, but if you find yourself in this situation, simply follow these steps and do what you can to protect yourself. Try to stay calm, ask friends and family for support, and stay alert.