Laptop theft accounts for millions of dollars of losses per year in the US alone. These figures not only include the physical value of the device, but also the associated costs when company information and private data are lost and measures must be taken to contain the damage. The consequences can be painful.
While it’s important to address potential damage immediately, for example by changing passwords stored on the computer or securing your backups, there are also steps you can take to potentially get your stolen laptop back. The effort you put into trying to retrieve your laptop in case of theft, depends on how valuable the laptop and the data stored on it are to you.
Contact the Police
Let’s be clear, the police won’t go out hunting 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 pawn shops and other dealers of used hardware.
More importantly, the police should be able to help you with the steps listed below, for example by telling you where to search for your laptop, which people to contact, and how to go about in general.
Inform Local Dealers, Repair and Pawn Shops
Contact any local shops that deal with used hardware, including repair and pawn shops. Give them a good description of identifiable physical features of your laptop, for example scratches, worn paint, cracks, or custom addons, such as engravings, stickers, or paint jobs. If possible, also give them your laptop’s serial number.
Contact Your Insurance
If you cannot retrieve your laptop, you may at least be able to minimize the financial damage. 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.
Spread the Word
Post the news that your laptop was lost or stolen on your online social networks and add a photo of the device if you have one. Think of other local online markets where the thief could try to sell the laptop, for example Craigslist, kjiji, eBay classifieds, Blocket (Sweden) etc. and post notices there. You can also post a WANTED poster around where you live or advertise in the local newspaper. Offer a reward that equals the value the laptop and the data has for you or if that’s too much, offer what you can afford.
Keep an Eye On Potential Sales Markets
With the above actions you have done all you can to alert people around you. Now you have to put in your share of searching for the laptop. Screen online markets commonly used in your area, for example Craigslist or eBay. Check the classifieds of local papers and local bulletin boards. If you see your laptop turn up anywhere, put the police on the case or at least ask what they recommend you to do.
Have you ever had a laptop stolen and were you able to retrieve it? What helped you in tracking it down or finding the thief? Please share your experience with us!