How to Stop Laptop Theft

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Track Your Laptop With an ID

The first step is to slap an ID tag on each laptop, BlackBerry, digital camera, and USB key your business owns, and record it with a recovery service. An astonishingly large number of businesses never record even the serial numbers of their equipment, police say, making it impossible for authorities to reunite found items with their rightful owners. Tracking tags give you an opportunity to enter serial number information as you tag each item, after which you can use the recovery service as a basic inventory system. (You should definitely maintain serial-number records, as well as purchase receipts, in case of insurance claims.)

Recovery services report recovery rates of 75 percent and higher on tagged items. Evidently, most people who find laptops are honest, and by offering prepaid returns and a reward on the tag (which lists an 800 number), the service makes it easy to do the right thing.

The services have you register each item on the Web, with identifying information; then they contact you to arrange return if an item is found. The price is nominal, usually around $5-$10 per label, with quantity discounts. Vendors that offer labeling and recovery services include ArmorTag, BoomerangIt, StuffBak, TrackItBack,, and zReturn.

The TrackItBack service provides labels matched to the size of different pieces of hardware.
Some of these companies sell lifetime service for a fixed price, while others use a yearly subscription model. Some charge a recovery fee if an item is found. TrackItBack sells multipacks, which bring costs down to $5 per label, with lifetime service and no administrative or shipping fees on recovered items. TrackItBack will even send you a free replacement tag if the original comes off.

The recovery firms unanimously cite privacy considerations and their 24-hour phone service as reasons to use their labels instead of just a taped-on business card or an inventory tag from your own company. The labels themselves may deter theft, as they render an item harder to fence. Labels are available for portable projectors, keys, eyeglasses, Bluetooth headsets, GPS devices, luggage, and more--not just laptops and cell phones. Anything that moves can and probably should be protected.

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