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Guarding Your Electronic Devices

By Allie Seligman on March 17th, 2016

Your phone, laptop and tablet are worth more than you might realize. Personal electronics are an easy mark for thieves. They’re valuable, small, (thus easy to conceal) and easy to sell. And unfortunately, hocking your computer, tablet or phone would probably prove all too easy.

Put aside from the cost of the devices themselves — which likely all set you back at least a few hundred bucks — and figure in the cost of accessories and software, the loss of your documents and data, and the time it’ll take to replace it all. Enterprising criminals, though, may have more in mind.

An even bigger cost could come in the form of data theft. Does your browser autofill usernames and passwords? A thief may now have access to your financial information. Do you use your laptop for work tasks? Your customers’ personal information may now be at risk too. Is your phone’s passcode easy to guess (or nonexistent?) Your contacts are now vulnerable.

Read on for ways to keep yourself safe.

  • Keep carrying cases neutral. A bag that screams “I’m holding an expensive computer!” will draw unsavory eyes. Stick to simple bags.
  • No one wants to tote his or her belongings to the bathroom at a coffee shop, but it’s not worth asking someone you don’t know to watch your stuff for a minute or two. Who knows — that person could be waiting for an unsuspecting patron to leave something valuable unguarded.
  • Don’t leave your electronics unguarded, especially in plain sight. Leave device tucked away in the trunk rather than in your car, or hide them in a compartment or under the seat.
  • Password protect it. Set all your devices to require a password to login before use. It may take a few more seconds each time you take out your phone or tablet, but it’ll act as a barrier for thieves.
  • Make your devices recognizable. A thief is less likely to steal something distinctive. That’ll also give you a leg up on recovering your property. Consider stickers, paint or other markings.
  • Be diligent when traveling. Keep your devices within sight. Only place your laptop on the airport scanner when you’re next in line. Alert airport security if you see someone touching your belongings.
  • Making a new purchase? Enlist a friend to accompany you on a trip to purchase an expensive new item. A thief is less likely to target a pair. After you’ve checked out, stow your purchase in a less conspicuous bag or purse.
  • Arm your devices. Think one step ahead. In many cases, it’s too late to protect yourself after your device has been stolen. Take these steps to mitigate future hassles.
  • Register your products. Make it a habit of registering your devices right after purchase. Keeping a record could help you if your electronics go missing.
  • Think about what you’d least want a thief to find. Financial website logins? Customer or client information? Take extra steps to protect those. Consider password protecting documents stored on your computer, and don’t store passwords for websites that store financial or identifying data.
  • Wipe your data. Many phones and tablets allow owners to clear data in the event the devices are stolen. Contact your service provider for more details. Back it up. Save your pictures, documents and other data to a flash drive, portable hard drive or cloud-based service.