Did you unwrap some shiny new tech over the holidays? Chances are you’re already putting that laptop, smart home hub or game console through its paces. But did you take a moment to consider what you’d do if that device were stolen? Theft can occur at any time and any place – from a pickpocketed smart phone to your tablet being nabbed from your unlocked car. In many cases, it’s nearly impossible to recover stolen goods without seeking police assistance.
A police investigation isn’t like what you see on C.S.I. Your devices aren’t low jacked and, despite what you may have heard, companies aren’t actively tracking your device’s every move. However, there is a lot of information that tech companies can provide in response to a police investigation – but they’re not magicians. Tech companies must follow federal, state, and local laws (not to mention a slew of internal policies) when providing any customer information in any situation. These policies are good as they protect your private information from ending up in the wrong hands. But should you ever need someone to access that information, you’ll want to have certain information available to assist any potential investigations.
Should the worst occur, here are a few easy steps you can take to protect yourself in case of theft:
Register Your Device
You’ve probably heard this advice before and for good reason. In addition to warranty perks, registration is the easiest and fastest way to prove ownership. Proving ownership can have several benefits including alerting you to attempts by others to register the device. Why would a thief try to register something they stole? Thieves usually sell stolen goods to pawn shops or through online markets with the buyers unaware they’re purchasing stolen merchandise. An attempt by one of these third-party buyers to register a stolen device could result in a prompt to the tech company and eventually to law enforcement.
Another reason to register? Burglaries are usually not one-time crimes and police often recover multiple stolen devices when a thief is arrested. Police will then reach out to the relevant tech company to determine the original owners. If you register your device, the company can provide law enforcement with your information and your device could be returned instead of being stuck in the seized property locker.
On that note, if you do register your device you should definitely follow the next tip.
Record Your Registration Information
Just like you want to hang on to any warranty information, you want to keep track of your registration information in a separate accessible location. If theft occurs after you’ve had your device for some time, there’s a good chance you used a different set of information to register your device. Moving, changing your email, or switching cell phone providers could all result in your personal information being different than it was when you registered your iPad 2 years ago. Many tech companies require you to provide the correct information before they will release information regarding your device – one mismatched address could be the difference between recovering your device or saying goodbye forever.
A good practice is to use the same registration information every time you register a device and record it in a place that’s accessible from any device. It wouldn’t do much good to record your phone registration in a smartphone note – try a cloud service such as Dropbox or Google Drive.
While you’re recording that information, you may as well grab one more thing with the next tip.
Know The Serial Number
Probably the most important action you can take is to record your serial number. Most devices will have a Serial Number that is unique to that device – a model number wouldn’t help in these situations. Keep track of the Serial Number for all of your electronic devices. The serial number is the most valuable piece of information you could provide to law enforcement. Depending on the device, it’s possible for law enforcement to obtain IP address logins directly from the tech companies. IP address logins based on a serial number are far more accurate than those that could obtained from an online profile, as an online profile could be used on multiple devices.
Bonus Tip – Secure Your Online Profiles
While a serial number may produce more accurate results, being able to provide your online profile information is still helpful. If you have an online profile that’s specific to your device, keep track of the registration information for that profile the same way you do for your registration information and serial numbers
There you have it – three easy ways to protect your device from theft and they only take a few minutes to complete. If you enjoyed this article, stay tuned for the second post in this three-part series, “5 Ways to Protect Your Internet of Things”.