How to avoid gadget theft?

How to avoid gadget theft?

I’ve been told about several incidents of gadget theft (specifically laptops) and was asked to write about how to avoid being a victim, especially if you carry them around in your car.

This topic is timely because an old friend who lost a lot of valuables (including a Macbook Pro) from a burglary (apartment got broken into and lost hundreds of thousands worth of gadgets) several months ago had a breakthrough this week that we were acting on (more on this later).


  • Avoid storing valuables inside the trunk of your car. Majority of people who carry valuables often store them in the trunk. I think this is a mistake, for two reasons — the process of storing them in the trunk is always done wide open and in public; and thieves will most probably target the trunk first knowing people use it as a safe. I’d always use the space under the car seats or the backseat and cover them with a towel or throw pillows. Since you are inside the car when you do this, you also don’t draw attention to the public.
  • Dark tinted cars help prevent thieves from clearly seeing what’s inside your car. Put sun visors if you have one — that should cover some area inside your car from direct visibility of thieves. Dark-colored seat covers also help mask the silhouette of laptops, dSLRs or bags.
  • Park somewhere more conspicuous, near the entrance gate or where security personnel always patrol. If you drive a sedan, don’t park beside vans, 4x4s and other big cars as they will offer cover for thieves and add blind spots against security cameras. Always try to take that space where no other car is parked beside you.
  • Don’t publish details of your lost item online. People who lost stuff like laptops tend to post details of their items on blogs, forums and classifieds. While it serves as fair warning, it is also a death sentence that you’ll most probably never get back the items. If you want to seek help from friends and contacts to share with them the details, you can do it privately in an email. They could help you as a look-out. However, publishing it online will take the case wide open. Thieves might not know about “Google” but it’s most certain the very first person they sold it to might (and they will sell it for a fraction of the original cost of the stuff so it’s a very tempting bargain and this initial sale will most likely happen offline). It will be this person (the buyer) who will sell it online, knowing he could flip the sale and earn twice the amount he originally invested. This guy might do due diligence and when he realizes the item he bought was stolen (after finding about it on blogs, forums and classifieds), I don’t think he will report it or return the items to the real owners (he knows he’s at a disadvantaged position and might even get intro trouble).

What you can do is “wait and search”. This is what my friend who lost his Macbook Pro did. Since, he has the serial number of his laptop, he regularly did a search for that number online.

If you have something similar to Google Alerts, set up an alert with your serial number as the keyword. If someone posted about it online (most probably in the classifieds), you get an email alert. You can then go from there — get a screenshot of the listed item with the serial number and use it as evidence when you report to the police. Start bidding on the item to make sure you get the cell number and name of the seller. Contact the owner of the classifieds site to get their help/cooperation. The police can help you set up an entrapment should the seller agree to meet you.

Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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17 Responses

  1. gio says:

    thanks for this ^_^

  2. BigBird says:

    if you lost your gadget you’re certified stupid.

  3. manu says:

    Thank you for this, the tips are really helpful. I also want to share a special tip for gadget lovers especially iphone users. Its an Iphone solar charger

  4. so basic yet so helpful. nice tips!

  5. John Ray Cabrera says:

    We’ve been seeing so many reports of laptop thefts recently. Most of the time, they’re taken from parked cars. A friend of mine recently lost his Powerbook and external hard drive at the open parking in between North Park and Big Grill in Makati. Window was smashed and there are traces of blood in the broken glass. Obviously, the culprit forced his hand inside. If only our local police has DNA records of people with criminal records. I’m blasting this email so we can all pitch in some of our own tips, based on our personal experiences, on how to avoid losing a laptop. I’ll try to list as many as I can in this first post, please feel free to add your own.
    Luckily Vista has rafts of security features that will preserve your most sensitive banking information and quasi-pornographic, Paris Hilton-esque photos to an impregnable limbo. You can either encrypt your data or encrypt the entire hard drive volume via Bitlocker.
    Unluckily though, this will not exempt you from being a victim of these ruthless thieves and mindless thugs. So here are some ways to camouflage your laptop from would-be thefts. Note that there is still no such thing as fool proof, and no one has the immunity to this mishap so better be extra careful with your belongings not just your lappies but also your cellphones, digital camera, and mp4/mp3 players.

    1. Use a nondescript bag to carry and hide your laptop. There are bags that are obviously laptop bags, avoid those at all costs. A brand logo on the bag doesn’t help either. But CD-R king brand will do, hehehe.

    2. Never let your laptop or your laptop bag out of your sight. When in a public space like a café, take the laptop with you when going to the restroom or when picking up coffee at the counter.

    3. As much as possible, deploy a cable lock. If you have to leave your laptop in the car, keep it connected to the Kensington cable, and tie it around the seat brace, tie it or any secure area in your trunk. Think of your car as if its just another table in a trade show. You leave a laptop untethered, you give thieves more chance to take it from your car.

    If you have to leave it in the trunk, prevent the driver side lever from opening the trunk. Some cars have this “child-safe” like switch at the inner side of your trunk that prevents it from being opened without a key.

    4. As much as possible, avoid leaving your laptop in a car. In case you have to:
    a. do not leave the laptop or its bag in plain sight. Thieves will not bother breaking into a car that looks empty. Even shopping bags attract their attention.
    b. Make sure your car doors are locked and windows shut.
    c. try to park in an area that’s well-lit and highly visible.
    d. if you’re going to watch a movie, make sure not to park in an area obviously used by movie-goers only
    e. vans with sliding windows are the most broken into. Never leave valuables in L300s and the like.

    5. Do not leave your laptop in the office overnight, especially over the weekend. No matter how secure your office may be, there’s a big chance for someone to take it when no one is looking

    6. Use the hotel safe.

    7. When flying, do not check your laptop in with your luggage

    8. In airports, do not let your laptop bag into the X-ray machine until you are sure you have a clear path through the metal detectors.

    9. Keep your laptop’s whereabouts in the top of your mind. As the TV commercial says “Bawal ang pork…”

    10. My personal style, I have to park in between the glossiest, shiniest sedan or SUV, that could easily be mistaken as those of ambassadors or expats or elitist few. That will make my car pale in comparison to theirs, as well as the contents of my car and my personal belongings. Thus, making mine less prone to thefts.

  6. BrianB says:

    John Jay. I like number 10.

  7. BrianB says:

    Wait, does customizing the casing prevent casual theft? It should, right?

  8. herbert says:

    Buti na lang wala akong car.

  9. thanks for the advices! this is really helpful.

  10. Jhay says:

    Like Herbert, we worry less about parking lot thieves because we don’t have our own cars.

    Then again, we have to watch out for street thugs and snatchers.

  11. Jacobato says:

    Yuga, thank you for the insights.

    I’d like to add a few cents, something we have learned from our company (where we give each employee a laptop).

    Remove or conceal your “give-away” car stickers. If your car’s windshield prominently displays the company or location you work for, thieves are more likely to zoom into your vehicle. This is yet another reason I am a proponent of affixing stickers permanently, aside from how it eventually dirties the windshield.

    Best of all, and this is a typical corporate reminder – bring your laptop with you, damn it! Why leave it in your car? Yes it might be too heavy to bring around when you are shopping or out on a date. However, consider the priceless information you are risking. Better yet, get yourself a smaller, lighter everyday laptop or netbook, something you can lug around on a typical day, so that your powerful laptop with all the bells and whistles stay more often at home where it is supposed to be still more safe than inside your parked vehicle.

  12. EiBox says:

    Excellent idea, I really learned a lot.

  13. CC Lozano says:

    Thanks Yuga for the tips and from the commenters as well.

  14. John Ray Cabrera says:

    @BrianB : customizing casing? like maybe gmasking it and affixing a huge CDR King logo in it?

    i don’t leave my laptop around in the car. good thing my portable companion is a netbook. but since it is my gf’s car, and when she has one, i ended up lugging around two laptop bags in my shoulder, a netbook and a regular-sized 14inch laptop. aaarggghhh….

  15. there’s an ongoing thread on philmug about finding a stolen macbook pro sold online. i’m following the thread here:

  16. theres a busy thread on philmug right now about a stolen macbook pro. its quite an interesting read :) you might want to check that out

  17. renan says:

    funny thing that pinoy thieves aim for the gadgets. in the U.S. stealing laptops is the key for identity theft. they trash the gadgets.

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