5 Steps to Surviving a Stolen Laptop

5 Steps to Survive a Stolen Laptop

You go to your car and when you open the trunk you realize your briefcase isn’t there.

Someone stole your laptop.

Unfortunately, you’ve become the victim of a crime and chances are you’re not getting your laptop back. As the shock wears off and you find yourself in the middle of this “oh $#!+” moment, there are a few things you need to make sure you do to protect and help yourself.

5 Things to Do Before Your Laptop is Stolen!

Before we get into the steps to take if your computer is ever stolen, let’s start with what you should do now to help yourself out.

Backup - Stolen Laptop

1. Back Up Your Work!

I cannot stress this enough. You need to back up your work. Forget about getting your computer stolen, what if it breaks and you lose years of work and pictures. You can go the traditional route of buying an external hard drive or you can keep everything in the cloud using options like iCloud or Dropbox. I actually recommend you do both just in case.

2. Enable Tracking Software on Your Computer.

For Mac users, your computer already has the find my mac software. Don’t be lazy, go ahead and take the thirty seconds needed to activate it. It will also let you swipe your computer clean remotely if the need arises. For PC users, there are several options for tracking software, one such example is Prey. Prey will even help you in backing up some of your files.

3. Be Vigilant!

Unfortunately, most theft occurs when we are least expecting it. The best thing you can do to prepare for this is to decrease the likelihood of it happening. This means you do not want to leave your computer in your car. Believe me from personal experience, a locked trunk doesn’t mean a thing. Keep your computer in sight always, an hour of inconvenience is worth the hours you will spend on trying to right the situation.

Serial Numbers - Stolen Laptop

4. Write Down Serial Numbers!

When you purchase your computer keep your original receipt and write down your serial number. Store this in a place that is safe and will be accessible if you need it. You’ll need the serial number for the police report and the original receipt for your insurance claim.

5. Check Your Insurance Plan!

Make sure you have an insurance plan that will help you out. Most homeowners insurance won’t cover items that are stolen outside of your house and there are generally special clauses around the amount of money an insurance company is willing to reimburse you for electronics.

Keep in mind how much it will take you to replace your computer and consider changing your insurance plan.

5 Things to Do After Your Laptop is Stolen

Your computer has already been stolen — and you’re sure because you’ve double and triple checked. At this point you’re so overwhelmed that you don’t know what to do next.

Police Report - Stolen Laptop

1. File a Police Report For a Stolen Laptop.

This is an arduous and annoying process, but it’s necessary. If you have your serial number, it’s time to get it out because the police will ask for this along with the details of what happened.

If you’re a Mac user and you purchased from an Apple store, you can contact support and get your serial number, while you wait for the police. After you file the report you’ll want to request a copy of it, and the officer you speak to should tell you how to go about doing this.

2. Change All of Your Passwords.

After you’ve finished with the police, it’s time to find the closest computer you can.

If it helps, make a quick list of all the sites you need to visit to change your passwords. If you used your computer to log into a site, it’s probably a good idea to reset that password.

Here’s a good list of places to start, in order of importance:

  • Bank accounts
  • Email accounts
  • Social media accounts
  • Company- or business-related accounts (GoDaddy, etc.)
  • Credit monitoring services
  • Amazon
  • eBay

Essentially, you’re looking for any site where your personal information may have been accessible. You’ll also want to make sure you monitor these accounts in the future for any strange activity.

3. Contact Your Insurance Company.

You’re going to want to reach out to your insurance company and start your claim. This will take a while, so don’t expect to be compensated right away. You’re going to need to do paperwork, make a statement, get things notarized, provide a copy of the police report — and wait.

If you purchase replacements during this time, make sure to keep copies of your receipts.

Credit Report - Stolen Laptop

4. Alert the Credit Bureaus

If you’re concerned your identity may have been compromised, you may want to alert the credit bureaus. If you had personal information on your computer or are concerned that someone may have been able to access your personal information, it’s time to take this step.

There are three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. You have the ability to place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your account to help mitigate the risk to your credit score. I encourage researching both to figure out what one best fits your needs.

5. Prepare Your New Equipment.

To prepare yourself for next time (hopefully, you won’t have this happen to you at all, let alone more than once), make sure you take a look at the steps from the first section of this article. You’ll want to make sure your computer is prepared for any potential thefts in the future.

A stolen laptop isn’t fun, but it can be manageable if you prepare yourself for the possibility and know what to do if the worst case scenario happens. Here’s to hoping you will never need this advice! 

Photo Credit: John Francis


    • Hi Peter- I’ve unfortunately learned that the better lesson is to not leave your laptop in the locked trunk of your car.

  1. “Find My Mac” also lets bad people access your Mac, iPhone, or iPad and remotely wipe all your information while at the same time allowing them to assume your identity. Apple’s security features are laughable. All the bad guy needs is the last 4 of a credit card, your username, and your real name, and they are you: Able to rack up huge charges at the Apple App Store and you will have very little, if any, recourse.

    • Hi Mike- do you have any recommendations on the best software to use to locate your lost or stolen computer?

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