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retrieve stolen laptopLaptop 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.

retrieve stolen laptop

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.

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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.

stolen laptop recovery

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.

retrieve stolen laptop

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!

Image Credits: Serg Zastavkin, Palto, alexskopje, lavitrei

  1. Tina
    December 21, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Mike,

    please let us know in case you are able to retrieve the laptop!

  2. Rob Miller
    November 5, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    doubtful that you will ever see a stolen laptop again unless you prepare for it with proper software a head of time.. especially if you live in a  big city, there are tons of laptops stolen everyday.. my buddy just had his stolen while he was working at a restaurant.. someone walked into the back room and just walked out with it

  3. Pratik Lal
    November 4, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Informative but not practical, You can't inform all the Local dealers and Pawn shops if you live in big cities, Spreading the word won't help because so many laptops look similar to each other. 

  4. Random
    October 27, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Register your details with the laptop company when you buy your laptop. One of my friend had his laptop stolen in the college, and the thief called up the laptop company regarding some problem being faced in the laptop, giving the serial number in the process. The customer service told him that they would call back. The customer service gave a call back an hour later on my friend's cellphone(that was the number registered against the laptop serial number in the company database), telling him the solution to the problem. My friend informed the customer service of the current situation and the theft. The customer service was very co-operative and his laptop was retrieved by the police from the thief by tracking the thief through the cellphone number from which he had called customer service.

    • Tina
      October 27, 2011 at 6:36 pm

      That's another excellent tip. Thanks for sharing the story to it!

    • Aibek
      October 28, 2011 at 6:14 am

      good tip!

    • Chision2000
      November 1, 2011 at 9:00 am

      wow - a rare recovery story. well done police. 'bout time they got out of bed! I was told by cops 'we dont bother about recovery of goods less the value is over £1,000."

  5. Me
    October 25, 2011 at 11:52 am

    If it helps anyone - Take photos of your valuables and take pictures of the scratches, dents & engravings. Keep the photos stored safely somewhere accesible along with the serial numbers etc.  If you are really paranoid, when leaving valuables at home try to think up the most impractical place to find a laptop and hide it there eg behind the toliet!!!!

    • Tina
      October 25, 2011 at 5:22 pm

      Excellent advice!

  6. SEO Berkshire
    October 25, 2011 at 9:32 am

    The police are either very much hit or miss as to how interested they are to help. I would say it is best to some degree to make the most of whatever insurance you have in place.

  7. Tom Kirkham
    October 21, 2011 at 6:37 am

    Got blocked by a woman going through the TSA check coming out of Las Vegas, her partner was ahead and helped herself to my laptop that had already gone through the x-ray.  Slow down going through these checks, the TSA response was, "well, you flew safely, didn't you"  . All this in front of a row of TSA agents, then accused of not having a laptop, told to keep my voice down, then it took them 20 minutes to get a very bad picture of the perp.  Had to catch my flight, LVPD was sympathetic but did not create a file.  TSA website not accessible to Canadians, thanks for that guys... WiFi on Alaska changed passwords via my phone, that was a nice flight...

  8. Dannyfixit07
    October 21, 2011 at 12:06 am

    I had a burglary at my condo and had neighbors who got burglarized.  Police just take info and do nothing since it is usually trivial in their eyes.  You need them for your insurance claim.  However, caution on insurance because you get each claim added to your lifetime record of claims which will impact you in future claims and premiums.

    Best bet is be as secure beforehand.  Backups of data, passwords, minimize sensitive data in computers, etc are the best plan.  Then, when you lose a laptop or get one stolen, you can kick yourself for being vulnerable and then "suck it up" and just move on.  All else is a waste of time and effort.

  9. Rob
    October 20, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Has anyone heard of Prey??
    http://preyproject.com/

  10. JF
    October 20, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Why not be proactive and subscribe to the Prey Project http://preyproject.com/faq

    MUO article - http://www.makeuseof.com/dir/prey-project-track-your-stolen-laptop/

  11. Frank
    October 20, 2011 at 1:01 am

    and how are you to inform local dealers, repair shops and pawn shops?  not very practical unless maybe the police have a website they can check serial numbers, I don't see them checking a paper list or stack of phone messages ....  you would think maybe the insurance company might do something and offer an incentive to the repair shop or pawn shops to retrieve the laptops..I would check a website before I bought one off ebay or craigs list or even from a local dealer in used systems..

    • Tina
      October 20, 2011 at 6:35 am

      I totally agree that it's not practical, but it's an option. I would recommend walking in personally and chat with them. They may have more good advice about what to do in your specific area. Depending on where you live, the police may have an online database for stolen items.

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