What can I do if my computer or laptop was stolen or lost?

Computer theftContact authorities

Anytime you have been a victim of a crime, that incident should be reported to the authorities. Often if you plan on claiming the stolen computer for insurance, you need to have already filed out a report. Reporting the incident immediately after the crime saves you time in the future.

Home: If your house was recently burglarized, you should immediately contact the local authorities to file a report so if in the future your computer is found it can be returned.

Office: If you believe a fellow employee has stolen your computer, immediately contact human resources or a superior. If company confidential information is on the computer, that should also be brought up.

School: If your computer has been taken while you were in school, talk to your teacher, principle, lost and found, school officer, or other employee of the school that can assist you in reporting the incident.

Other public location: If your computer was taken while at a public location, such as an airport, bus, coffee shop, gas station, library, taxi cab, etc. report the incident to a superior employee. Often you need to file an incident report with the police.

Protect yourself

Before worrying about getting the computer or laptop back, you should first protect yourself. The following steps will require you have access to a computer. So visit a friend, neighbor, relative, school, library, work, or somewhere you can get a computer with Internet access.

  1. Log into any sensitive accounts (e.g. bank accounts, online e-mail, PayPal, eBay, iTunes, IM, etc.) and change your password, just in case that information was saved on your other computer.
  2. If you have any other sensitive information on your computer that could be used by a thief, such as bank pin number, bills, credit card information, cell phone, etc., make sure to contact the company in charge of your accounts and see if the account can be changed, flagged or monitored.
  3. Contact your computer manufacturer so they can make a note in their database that the computer has been stolen, in case the thief tries calling support.
  4. Learn more about identity theft, now that the likelihood of you becoming a victim has increased.
  5. If your computer had company confidential information, government related information, or stored personal information of other people, you should notify your employer immediately.

Trying to get it back

Before getting your computer or laptop back, you need to have the serial number or model number before it can be identified. If you do not have records of this information, contact the manufacturer to see if they can provide you with this information.

  1. As mentioned above, make sure to notify the authorities, employees, lost and found, etc. with your report of a lost computer. Often if your computer is found they need to know how to contact you.
  2. Leave some not so sensitive accounts such as your Instant Messenger, distributed systems, YouTube account, Flickr account, MySpace account, etc. open and watch the pages for activities. In some situations the thief may use the account because it automatically logs into the page. This information could be used to help identify the person.
  3. Visit local pawn shops and watch the local paper want ads for a few weeks, to see if the thief is trying to pawn it off.
  4. Place an article in the want ads with your computer description and serial number, and mention a reward for returning your lost computer.
  5. Visit online sites such as http://www.stolencomputers.org/ or if you are in Europe the E.R.E.S.C. that are dedicated to listing and finding stolen computers.