Lost or stolen laptop? 6 steps to help protect yourself

David Pollino
Posted by David Pollino

Recently, a coworker’s home was broken into. Her kitties were safe, but the robbers did take her laptop and paperwork related to her tax return. Immediately, and for good reason, she was concerned about identity theft.

Close-up on a laptop being partially concealed in a man's blazer.As much as we try to protect ourselves from identity theft, sometimes bad things happen. Here are six quick tips to help protect yourself if your computer is lost or stolen:

1) Police report: File a police report. It may seem old school, but documenting the incident is important. If the police recover the computer, they won’t know to contact you unless you’ve filed a report.

2) Passwords: Change all your online passwords as quickly as possible, starting with those for your bank, credit cards, brokerage and other financial accounts. Change you social media account passwords as well to help keep anyone from hijacking your identity and infiltrating your network of friends and acquaintances. If you use app-specific passwords, revoke the passwords associated with your stolen device.

3) Fraud alert: Place an initial fraud alert on your credit file with any of the three main credit reporting services — Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. This free 90-day alert on your credit file puts the credit agencies and lenders on heightened alert for fraud. The Federal Trade Commission has more details on this simple process.

4) Monitor: Start checking your financial accounts more frequently online or through mobile devices to watch for suspicious activity. If possible, set up account alerts so you are notified of account transactions.

5) Free credit report: Get a free annual credit report every four months at annualcreditreport.com. You are entitled to one free report per year from each of the services, so if you stagger the requests you can get a report every four months from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

6) ID protection: Sign up for an identity theft protection service for some added protection. These services charge a fee, but if you feel you are at high risk of being defrauded it may be worth it to have a service monitor for suspicious activities.

Have you had a device lost or stolen? Tell us about it and what you did. I’d love to hear your story.

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