Nobody wants to have their phone, tablet or computer stolen. But the reality is, theft happens. If a device is stolen, there are several unwelcome consequences that follow:

  • the hassle of reporting the theft and going through the official procedures
  • the financial cost of replacing the stolen item
  • the risk that the thief is misusing your personal data or undertaking fraudulent financial transactions in your name

How to protect your devices, data and privacy

We’d all like to believe that this would never happen to us, but ignoring the very real threat is simply counter-productive.

So what should you do, then?

The answer is to adopt a balanced approach: be aware without being paranoid and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from such crime.

1. Track your device

For peace of mind, get a security application that includes a tracking mechanism, along with lockdown or wipe facilities. You may already have something pre-installed (Android’s Device Manager, Apple's Find My iPhone, iPad and Mac, or BlackBerry Protect), or you could opt for other well-known apps like Lookout, AVG or Avast.

But your software can’t help unless you activate it, so get it up and running and find out how to use it.  

2. Get the hardware details

Nobody likes paperwork, but police reports need a lot of detail. So, make a note of your device's serial number and model number. Also note its MAC address and computer name. In the case of mobile phones, also take down your phone’s IMEI number. This info can also be useful for tracking purposes.

 3. Store it safely

If your stuff is easy to steal, you face a risk of theft. Physically secure your desktop PC with a lockdown plate. For both PCs and laptops, use cable locks or even security webcams.

When you can’t tie down smaller, more portable devices (tablet computer, USB flash drive or external hard drive), keep them out of sight when you’re away from them. And if you’re going on holiday without them, find creative places to hide them – like putting your tablet in a stack of towels, or your external hard drive behind a row of hard-to-reach books.                                                  

4. Stay alert in public

Thieves thrive in public spaces, so always be aware of your surroundings and the people around you – especially when using your device. Listening to loud music via headphones doesn’t really help, so try to avoid that if you can.

Sometimes, these criminals act like innocent passers-by, striking up conversation with you about your device. They may be waiting for the chance to snatch if from you, so be cautious with strangers.

5. Make it difficult for criminals

In a thief’s mind, easy access equals easy pickings. So when you’re in public, keep your device out of sight when you’re not using it. You also want to avoid unsafe hiding places, such as your back pocket or handbag.

When you’re using your device, keep a tight grip: hold it with both hands, spacing your fingers out or weaving them together.

Also set a unique ringtone on your phone. Criminals have been known to set off a popular default ringtone, then watch people pull their phones out to check if it’s their phone ringing. They then know where people are keeping their phones, which makes it easier to pickpocket them.            

6. Report the theft

You need to report the theft of your laptop, phone or device to CPS immediately if it is stolen on campus. You can call them on 021 650 2222 or use the toll-free number 080 650 2222

You also need to report the crime to the nearest police station and get a case number. This will be required by your insurance company, banks and any retailers should your identity be breached by the robbers and your accounts be accessed and used fraudulently. The police may not be able to recover your device, but they could use the information to track thieves selling mobile devices online or in pawn shops.

If you are robbed in a place where there are security guards on duty, report the crime to them so that they can be on the lookout for any suspicious activity.