Someone Stole My Company Laptop! Now What?

When your company laptop goes missing, it’s time to leap into action!

Whether it was stolen from your car, disappeared in the airport security line, or was physically wrenched from your hands in a grab-and-run, these seven steps apply:

1. Call your IT department or your company IT service provider. They need to know as soon as possible so they can take care of issues on their end, such as encrypting or wiping the data on your hard drive, using tracking software that’s been installed, and notifying the manufacturer and stolen-computer databases. While you’re on the phone, get the computer’s serial number — you’ll need that. Also, you may need to contact your human resources department because your personal identity is involved as well.

2. File a police report. Give them the serial number and get a case number for the insurance company.

3. Freeze your credit if you used the computer for financial transactions. Locking down your credit will prevent companies from running credit checks on you, thereby thwarting attempts by the thief to open bogus accounts in your name. Financial transactions include personal banking, tax filings, credit card accounts and transactions, and other activities where you entered account numbers or login information. Contact the three major credit bureaus directly: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Note: Don’t worry — credit freezes do NOT affect your credit score and are good to have because they help protect you from the constant fallout of major data breaches.

4. Change your passwords. By looking at your emails and browsing history, criminals can discover a lot about you — where you work, bank, live. And your passwords. Don’t take chances. Now is a good time to start using a password manager, if you haven’t already.

5. Warn your contacts. Send an email letting people know that they should be on the lookout for emails from you that don’t seem legitimate. Even emails that seem legitimate might not be. Phishing has become a wildly pervasive form of cybercrime.

6. File your taxes immediately. Crooks want your refund and they’ll file a fake return in your name to get it! They’ll claim a super-big refund and have it sent to a different address. The last thing you need is IRS trouble on top of stolen-laptop trouble.

7. Recover your data on your new (or temporary) laptop. Hopefully, your laptop backs up automatically or you’ve synchronized it with the company server recently so you haven’t lost much work. Your IT department or IT service provider can help you with (or handle) this process.

To save yourself the hassle and embarrassment of having to do all of the above, here are a few tips to protect your laptop from being stolen in the first place:

  • Forgo the fancy case and use one that doesn’t call attention to itself
  • Hide it in your trunk or under your car seat if you have to leave it in your car
  • Make sure it’s the last item you put on the airport security conveyor belt so it’s more likely you’ll be waiting for it instead of the other way around
  • Use a computer lock when you’re working in public or don’t walk away from it even for a minute
  • Make sure you follow your company’s policies regarding laptops, security protections, and backups

Now is the perfect time to start doing what you can to reasonably protect the company laptop and data — and your own personal information. By taking precautions on the front end and jumping into action immediately if your laptop disappears, you’re doing your part to reduce any fallout.

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