Device Tracking

What to do if your laptop is stolen: action plan

Dealing with a stolen laptop? Find out what to do next. Get tips on reporting and recovering a stolen laptop on our blog.

September 22, 2023

We've all been there. One moment, your laptop is safe and sound; the next, it's vanished into thin air. Whether your laptop got lost or stolen, this can be an extremely stressful and anxious-making situation. But worry not, dear reader. We're here to help you navigate this rocky terrain. The following guide will walk you through immediate actions to enhance the likelihood of getting your laptop back and securing your data to prevent misuse. You’ll learn the critical steps for reporting theft, safeguarding against identity theft, and utilizing tracking technologies to locate your device.

Key Takeaways

  • Use built-in and third-party tracking software to potentially locate, lock, and secure your stolen laptop and leverage encryption, data backup strategies, and physical security measures to protect against future theft incidents.
  • Promptly report the theft to the authorities, notify your employer or school, and contact financial institutions to prevent misuse of your stolen laptop and to begin the recovery process.
  • Immediately take digital security measures such as changing passwords, disabling autofill, clearing browsing data, and employing multi-factor authentication to protect your online accounts and personal information.

Confirm your laptop is actually lost or stolen

This may seem redundant, but sometimes, what seems like a lost or stolen laptop is actually tucked away in the depths of your cluttered office or room. According to our Mobile Theft and Loss Report, 65% of our missing laptop reports were misplaced at home, school, or work; however, if you have discovered that your laptop has been stolen, it is important to take immediate action. Here are some steps to take:

Act Fast: Report the Theft and Notify Relevant Parties

In the event of a stolen laptop, every second counts. Acting quickly can significantly influence the recovery process and your ability to secure your data from potential misuse. Reporting the laptop theft to local authorities, informing your employer or school, and contacting financial institutions are crucial steps to undertake without delay.

Each of these actions serves a specific purpose, and together, they form a protective shield, minimizing the chances of your stolen laptop turning into a gateway for identity theft.

Notifying Your Employer or School

Suppose the stolen laptop is your work laptop or school-issued device? In such a case, it’s not only polite but also crucial for data protection to inform your employer or school without delay.

After notifying them, adhere to any established data protection procedures immediately. This typically involves specific departments and personnel such as HR, IT, and your manager being notified to initiate company or institutional protocols. These protocols can range from remotely wiping sensitive data, locking the device, and tracking the laptop's location.

Remember, your employer or school is your ally in this situation. Their resources, combined with your swift action, can significantly reduce the risk of data misuse and enhance the chances of recovery.

Reporting to Law Enforcement

Promptly filing a police report following the theft isn’t just procedural; it forms the cornerstone of your recovery efforts. Law enforcement relies on the information you provide to aid their investigation, potentially leading to the retrieval of your stolen laptop.

When you report the theft, you’ll be asked to provide specific details about your laptop, such as the make, model, and serial number. These details help the police in their investigation and, in the event of recovery, ensure the laptop can be returned to its rightful owner. Remember, every piece of information counts, so be as detailed as possible when filing your report.

Contacting Financial Institutions

If your stolen laptop served as a portal to online banking or housed sensitive financial data, contacting your financial institutions is an imperative step in safeguarding your financial accounts.

Upon notification of the theft, banks and credit card providers can place alerts on your account, monitor for unauthorized transactions, and even freeze your cards to protect against fraudulent access. Financial institutions have specific measures in place for such scenarios, including locking accounts or changing account numbers in cases of data breaches. Your quick action, combined with the proactive measures of your financial institutions, can drastically minimize the risk of financial losses.

Safeguard Your Online Accounts and Personal Information

Although you may have lost physical control of your laptop, you still have the power to manage your digital presence. Safeguarding your online accounts and personal information following the theft is a critical step in minimizing potential damage. This involves changing your account passwords, disabling autofill and deleting saved passwords, and clearing your browsing data. Using a password manager can help you keep track of your new, secure credentials.

Undertaking these steps can significantly reduce the risk of your stolen laptop becoming a portal for identity theft.

Changing Account Passwords

Initiating the defense of your online accounts begins with an immediate password change across all accounts, with your email account being the starting point. This small step can prevent unauthorized access to your personal data and is a recommended practice by digital security experts.

For added security, enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) on all important accounts after changing passwords. MFA can be set up using various methods such as:

  • Code generators
  • Third-party authentication apps like Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator
  • SMS verification
  • Receiving verification codes on trusted devices

Remember, the strength of your online security is determined by the measures you take to protect it.

Disabling Autofill and Deleting Saved Passwords

Although autofill is a handy feature, it becomes a substantial security hazard if your laptop gets stolen. The thief can use your saved login information to access your digital accounts, resulting in severe consequences. Hence, disabling autofill in web browsers and deleting any saved passwords becomes a necessary security measure.

To erase saved passwords on Google Chrome or Firefox, head to the settings, find the ‘Passwords’ section and manually remove the passwords. This seemingly tedious step can provide an added layer of security, deterring unauthorized access to your online accounts.

Clearing Browsing Data and Removing Saved Payment Information

Your browsing data, which includes history, cookies, and saved information, can give a trove of information to anyone who gains access to your laptop. To further safeguard your personal information, it’s recommended to clear your browsing data and remove any saved payment information from your online accounts.

This step includes:

  • De-authorizing your stolen laptop from online services
  • Remotely revoking access
  • Removing the device from trusted lists
  • Deregistering it from your accounts

Being prepared to go through verification processes, especially when adding new cards, changing payment methods, or deciding to disable Apple Pay, is a small price to pay for ensuring your digital security.

Locate, Lock, and Secure Your Stolen Laptop

Having taken the initial steps to safeguard your data and accounts, it’s now time to concentrate on tracking, locking, and securing your stolen laptop. Built-in tracking features, like ‘Find My Device’ for Windows and ‘Find My’ for macOS, can be instrumental in this process. Additionally, third-party tracking software options like Prey can provide additional tracking and security measures.

It’s time to turn the tables and fight back!

Using Built-In Tracking Features

The majority of contemporary laptops have inbuilt tracking features that can aid you in tracing your stolen laptop. For instance, Windows users can turn on ‘Find My Device’ in the system settings after logging into a Microsoft Account and turning on location services. Once enabled, you can visit the device’s page on Microsoft’s website and use the ‘Find My Device’ tab to locate and lock your stolen laptop.

For macOS devices, the ‘Find My’ feature is your go-to tool for localizing and locking a stolen laptop, provided the feature was enabled prior to the theft. It’s worth noting that law enforcement agencies can also leverage these remote locking and tracking capabilities to assist in locating a stolen device. These built-in features can be your first line of defense in the battle to recover your stolen laptop.

Third-Party Software Options like Prey

Software options from third-party sources such as Prey can offer an extra layer of safety and tracking abilities. Prey includes anti-theft tools such as Screen Lock, Remote Alarm, Alert Messages, and track the device's location history, which can be critical in securing your device in the event of theft.

With Prey, users can manage their linked devices on a large scale, organize HW inventory, perform bulk tasks, and view global device information across various operating systems and device types. For business customers, Prey also offers additional data protection options.

Although theft is unpredictable, preparation with strong security measures can be a game-changer when the unforeseen occurs.

Learn more how to use Prey for find and recover your stolen laptop

Listen to the story of a user who caught a thief with his stolen laptop at a cafe! (Dramatized from a recovery case)

Protecting Your Laptop from Future Theft

The ordeal of a stolen laptop offers a harsh lesson on the importance of preemptive security measures. With the knowledge that a significant majority of stolen laptops are not recovered, focusing on preventive measures can help avoid such incidents in the future. Here are some steps to protect your laptop from future theft:

  • Keep a record of your laptop’s serial number
  • Invest in strong security measures such as secure passwords and full disk encryption
  • Use a laptop lock to secure your laptop when you’re not using it
  • Enable tracking software to help locate your laptop if it is stolen
  • Be cautious when using your laptop in public places and avoid leaving it unattended

These measures are instrumental in maintaining your data security.

Encrypting Your Data

Encryption stands out as one of the most potent methods to protect your data. Modern operating systems like Windows 10 and Windows 11 come with built-in encryption options, which can be enhanced for added security. For instance, Windows users can utilize BitLocker, which incorporates a Trusted Platform Module chip to carry out pre-boot system checks, guarding against unauthorized bootloader attempts.

For macOS users, Apple’s FileVault 2 provides partition encryption, while Linux users can utilize LUKS Encryption for securing their data partitions. Third-party encryption tools like Veracrypt are also available for added security.

While encrypting your data might seem like an extra step, it’s a powerful deterrent against unauthorized access to your data, even if your laptop falls into the wrong hands.

Regular Data Backup

Safeguarding your laptop is vital, but the protection of your data holds equal significance. Regular data backups can prevent permanent data loss in the event of a theft. Automated backup solutions can help ensure data is regularly backed up without the need for manual intervention, reducing the risk of human error.

The data backups should be diversified across different storage media and locations, including accessing data remotely, as well as:

  • Network Attached Storage (NAS)
  • External hard drives
  • USB flash drives
  • Optical media

Adhering to the 3-2-1 backup rule, which suggests having three different copies of data on two different storage types with one copy stored offsite, can create a robust backup system that safeguards your data, come what may.

Physical Security Measures

Despite the importance of digital measures, physical security precautions can be equally effective in deterring laptop theft. Using a laptop lock, for example, can secure the device to a stationary object, preventing thieves from easily stealing the laptop when it is unattended. A high-quality laptop lock that is difficult to tamper with can serve as an effective deterrent against theft.

Being conscious of your environment and not leaving your laptop unattended in public spaces is another crucial preventive measure. Carrying the laptop in a nondescript bag, rather than an obvious laptop case, can lower the risk of attracting the attention of potential thieves. After all, prevention is always better than cure.

Dealing with the Aftermath: Insurance Claims and Tech Support

Dealing with insurance claims and tech support can be tricky, but hang in there. The most important thing to remember is to remain proactive, and don't worry – we've got some steps to help guide you through the process.

Filing an Insurance Claim

Your first port of call should be contacting your insurance provider. If your laptop was insured, there are certain steps you need to take to make a claim for your lost or stolen laptop. Make sure you have your insurance policy details at hand and provide them with all the necessary information about the loss or theft. such as

  1. Providing the police report
  2. Giving details about your laptop, such as its serial number, make, and model.

Once you’ve filed the claim, an insurance adjuster will be assigned to verify if the loss is covered. Be prepared to provide complete and accurate information to streamline the process. Once the adjuster approves the value of the lost laptop, the claim is generally settled with a payment to you.

Remember, the procedure for filing claims can vary by insurance provider. Some offer more streamlined approaches for claim submission and payout, so it’s essential to understand your provider’s process.

Contacting Laptop Manufacturer for Technical Support

Contacting the manufacturer of your laptop can yield valuable assistance in the wake of a theft. Manufacturers can flag your laptop’s serial number for reference, which can be helpful if the laptop is found or serviced in the future.

Manufacturers also provide technical support, which could provide additional recovery options. For example, if your stolen laptop was covered by an extended warranty, manufacturers like Microsoft offer the option to either cancel the remaining warranty or transfer it to a new device.

While it may seem like a small step, every bit of support helps in the aftermath of a missing laptop incident, especially when it comes to an Apple laptop theft.


In this era of digital connectivity, a stolen laptop can be more than just a loss of hardware; it can be a gateway to your personal and financial information. However, with the right steps, you can minimize the damage and potentially recover your device.  From swiftly reporting the theft and changing your online passwords, to using built-in tracking features and filing an insurance claim, each step plays a crucial role in navigating the aftermath of a laptop theft. Remember, the strength of your response lies not just in the steps you take after the theft, but also in the preventative measures you adopt to safeguard your laptop and data.

Frequently Asked Questions

What to do if my laptop is stolen?

Contact the authorities immediately, including local law enforcement and campus or building security, and provide them with all relevant information about the stolen laptop, such as make, model, serial number, and identifying features.

Can a stolen laptop be tracked?

Yes, a stolen laptop can be tracked using laptop tracking software or by registering the device with the manufacturer for tracking features if it's connected to the internet. It's crucial to act quickly and involve the authorities in the recovery process if necessary.

Do police ever find stolen laptops?

Yes, the police can track a stolen laptop, but smaller departments may lack the expertise to do so effectively. Therefore, they rely on detailed information to enter the laptop as stolen and attempt to locate it.

How can I protect my online accounts after a laptop theft?

To protect your online accounts after a laptop theft, change all your passwords, disable autofill, clear browsing data, and enable multi-factor authentication for additional security.

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