When you lose something—or worse, have an item stolen—it’s hard to know what to do next. At SafeWise, we know how frustrating that can be, and we’re here to help. We’ve compiled this guide to walk you through everything you need to do to find those lost items and get back to your life.
Losing valuable items like a phone or laptop is enough to send most of us into a full-blown panic attack. Having them stolen is even worse. But chances are, you’re going to experience one or the other at some point. In 2014, 5.2 million smartphones went missing in the US, and over two million of those were confirmed stolen.1
But that’s no reason to simply roll over and accept your fate. There are plenty of things you can do to find a stolen phone or other lost items. And if we really want to turn the tide, we can take preventive measures to keep our stuff from getting stolen in the first place.
If you’ve ever had your heart drop at the realization that you left your wallet in a cab or restaurant, then you’ll love the resources we’ve pulled together. This guide will walk you through how to find something you lost—and provide tips to keep it from happening again.
How to Keep Your Stuff from Getting Lost (or Stolen) in the First Place
Prevention is the best medicine, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to missing or stolen goods. We may not be able to thwart every thief (or forgetful moment), but there are plenty of things we can do to lower the odds of becoming a victim.
Fortunately, some of the best things you can do to prevent losing an item are completely free—they just take a little extra brainpower.
- Don’t leave things unattended. Leaving your phone or laptop on a table while you run to the restroom might not seem very risky, but it takes only a moment for someone to snatch up your goodies. It might feel like a burden, but schlepping your gear to the restroom is much easier than dealing with a stolen phone.
- Be consistent. Your best bet against absentmindedness is to create reliable daily habits. When you get home or to your office, always place your keys, phone, laptop, and other valuables in the same place. This way, you won’t forget where you left things.
- Set a lock screen message. If you tend to leave your phone in random places, help people return it to you with an “if found” message. Not everyone is out to steal your stuff, so make it easy for the good ones to do the right thing.
- Use memory tricks. For those who just can’t help misplacing things, try some extreme memory tricks to burn the last known location into your brain. Extreme visualizations, like picturing yourself plunging your phone into the surface of wherever you leave it (table, countertop) or picturing your phone as a transformer that will set out to destroy you if left on your colleague’s desk, create an association between the environment and your phone. This can embed your phone’s location into your otherwise distracted brain, which might increase the odds of you actually picking it up before you walk away.
If being practical just isn’t enough to put your mind at ease, you can always turn to tech before your stuff gets lost or stolen.
- Use a laptop lock. Whether you’re on campus or regularly use your laptop in public settings, keep it safe with a lock and security cable designed to make sure it stays put. The Bodyguard Notebook Combination Lock is inexpensive and has a 4.3 average rating on Amazon.
- Get an anti-theft bag. Sometimes things get swiped right out from under you. Foil thieves with the extra protection of the Bobby Anti-Theft Backpack. Perfect for commuters, this pack features hidden compartments for valuables including your wallet, phone, and laptop.
- Tag it. Bluetooth tracking devices like Tile and XY Findables can be discreetly attached to your phone, keys, wallet, or any other item that you don’t want to lose. With XY, all you have to do to find something you lost is activate the “Find It” feature, and the app makes the item ring so you can easily track it down.
I Lost My Phone
There are few things worse than realizing you have no idea where your phone is, but most of us have been there—over three million phones were lost in 2014.2 Phones are much more to us than electronic devices; they hold a huge cache of personal information and data.
And it’s more than the risk of identity theft that stresses us out when they go missing—smartphones hold our memories. Photos, videos, voice messages, and texts from friends and family can be heartbreaking to lose. So heartbreaking in fact, that 50% of phone theft victims would pay $500 to get their phone back and one-third would pay up to $1,000.3 But we’re here to help you avoid extortion.
What to Do Next
When you realize your phone is gone, it’s not the time to panic. You need to have a cool head so you can act quickly and (hopefully) find it before someone gains access to your info.
- Make sure it’s really gone. Retrace your movements so you’re sure the phone is definitely missing. Dump out your purse or bag, revisit everywhere you’ve been, and give yourself a pat-down to make sure your phone isn’t hiding out in an oversized pocket.
- Call your phone. Borrow a phone from someone else and give your phone a ring. Even if it’s on silent, you should be able to hear it vibrate if it’s on a table or counter.
- Send a text. If your text messages display on the home screen, send out a message with info about how to return the phone to you. This makes it easy for a good Samaritan to do the right thing if they find your phone.
- Use a mobile app. Use another device to log into your carrier’s (or your phone’s) mobile app. From here, you should be able to sound an alert—but don’t shut down your phone. If it’s still active, you can use the app to track it down. You can also use the app to lock your phone.
- Back up your phone. For those with automatic cloud backup, chances are your data is already secure. If possible, do a remote backup through the app, just to make sure your info is preserved and up to date.
- Wipe your phone. If you’re sure the phone has been stolen, use the remote wipe function to remove all data and personal details from your phone. Do this as soon as you can, because sophisticated thieves know how to shield phones and remove SIM cards to make it impossible for you to wipe your info.
- Change passwords. Go online and change the passwords for any accounts you had enabled on your phone—especially bank and shopping accounts, email, and social media.
- Inform your carrier. Let your cellphone carrier know that your phone is missing, and ask them what the next steps are on their end. If your phone is simply lost, they may be able to disable service but still help you trace the phone. At the very least, you’ll get a jump start on setting up a new phone so you can stay connected.
- Contact the police. Whether you get your phone back or not, a police report will help you fight any fraudulent charges that come up after your phone was stolen. If you have cellphone insurance, they might require a police report to process your claim.
Resources to Help
When you can’t find your phone, it may seem hopeless—but there are tools that can help. We’ve selected these apps for their comprehensive tracking and lockdown capabilities.
Find My Device
With this app, you won’t have to panic when you can’t find your Android phone. Find My Device is built into your phone through Google Play Services (or you can download it from the Google Play Store). To locate your phone, all you have to do is go to Google and search “Where is my phone?” This prompts the app to start looking for your lost phone. The best part is, you don’t have to configure the app in advance—you can use it without any prior setup as soon as you lose your phone.
Find My iPhone
The Find My iPhone app makes it much easier to retrieve your lost or stolen property. Sign in using iCloud.com or the Find My iPhone app, and put your phone on Lost Mode. The app will show you a map that identifies where your missing iPhone (or iPad, iPod touch, or Mac) is and where it has been. Use Find My iPhone’s Lock Mode to prevent anyone from accessing the information on your device. Then send your device a message with a contact number. If someone finds your phone, they’ll have a number at which to reach you but won’t be able to get their hands on your personal data. Worst case scenario, you can initiate a remote wipe that will delete all of your personal data and restore the phone to its factory settings.
This is another great option to help you find missing Android devices. In addition to anti-theft protection, Cerberus also gives you remote control of your phone or laptop through its website or via text messages from a different phone. Once remote control is established, you can locate and track your phone, lock it down, sound an alarm, display a message, take pictures and videos to record the thief, and wipe the internal memory and SD card to keep your private data secure. You can try Cerberus for free for one week, and if you like it you can buy your own license for around $5.
Learn More about Protecting Your Phone
Losing your phone is stressful and scary, and it can be costly. If you have a security system or a smart home that you control with your phone, it could grant a thief or hacker access to your house. Because you can’t predict when you might misplace your phone (or have it stolen), take action before it goes missing. Don’t put your personal data or your home at risk—find out what you can do right now to secure your smartphone from hackers.
My Laptop or Tablet Has Been Stolen
When you look in your bag and realize your laptop has been stolen, it’s easy to lose your cool. Having your laptop or tablet swiped is a traumatic event, but you can minimize the damage if you remain calm and act fast.
What to Do Next
A thief wants to do one of two things with your stuff: sell it for a quick buck or try to hack it to get their hands on your personal and financial data. Either way, you want to stop them.
- Ask for help. First, make sure you’re not dealing with this situation alone. If you’re on your own, call a friend and have them help you sort things out. It might feel dramatic, but theft can be traumatic, and you’re going to be in a bit of shock. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have one more person on the case.
- Report your stolen device. When you discover your laptop or tablet has gone AWOL, your first call should be to the authorities. If possible, have serial numbers and photographs of the stolen items handy. Provide specific details, such as when and how the item was stolen.
- Get a copy of the police report. This will help you follow up, and it may be required to make an insurance claim. The police report can also be helpful if you run into problems with identity theft.
- Deal with insurance. If you have a homeowners or renters insurance policy that includes protection for personal property, then a stolen laptop should be covered. The easiest way to get things moving is to give your agent a call. If you’re worried about a claim affecting your premiums, you may choose to skip it and just absorb the loss—especially if you have a high deductible that is big enough to cover the cost of your stolen item.
- Wipe your machine remotely. If you use any tracking or anti-theft software, then it will be simple to log in and wipe all the data from your tablet or laptop. If not, you can still use services like iTunes and Google to log out of your accounts and de-authorize all devices.
- Change every password. We know, this feels like a huge nightmare, but it’s one of the best ways to protect your personal information—especially if you have your browsers remember login information to sensitive accounts.
- Start looking. Even though it may seem overwhelming, you should try to track down your stolen laptop or tablet. Check out local pawn shops and websites like Craigslist and eBay. If you find your device, don’t buy it or let the seller know it’s yours. Instead, ask if they can hold the item for you, and contact the police so the authorities can recover your stolen property.
Resources to Help
By the time you report your laptop stolen, it might seem too late for a tracking system. That’s not always the case, though. Check out our favorite recovery services below and find out which one may already be protecting your laptop.
Prey is an app that’s specifically designed to help you track down your stolen phone, tablet, or laptop. It will tell you the location of your laptop, lock and prevent access to it, and even take a picture of the person using it. With Prey, you can also remotely wipe stored passwords to prevent the thief from accessing bank information or other online accounts. You can use Prey to track up to ten devices for just $15 per month—but you do need to have it installed before your phone goes missing.
This recovery service won’t keep your laptop from being stolen, but it will help you track it down if it gets swiped. If you have LockItTight installed on your machine, you can locate it by logging into your account on another device. You can also snap a screenshot or webcam photo, access a keystroke log, and check out the browser history. It even lets you grab and delete crucial files. Best of all, you can get LockItTight’s basic recovery solution for free—and upgrades start at as little as $1.99 a month.
You might already have LoJack protection for your laptop, and you don’t even know it. Absolute LoJack’s data protection and theft recovery technology is already embedded in many laptops, smartphones, and other mobile devices. All you have to do is activate it to get access to remote security measures, including the LoJack Investigations and Recovery Team. This is one of the best ways to find a stolen laptop and shut down any identity theft attempts, but it will cost you. Even though the tech may already be in your laptop, activation starts at $39.99 for a year of protection.
If you’ve ever suffered the shock of realizing your Mac is missing, we feel your pain. Get the Hidden app, and should the worst ever happen again, you’ll have a much better chance of recovering your laptop. Hidden can reveal your Mac’s location to within a few meters and even take screenshots of the person using it. Hidden costs between $1.25 and $30 per month, but recovering your Mac is priceless.
Learn More about Protecting Your Laptop or Tablet
Keeping your laptop or tablet safe takes a two-pronged approach: physical security and cybersecurity. You need to make it difficult for someone to walk off with your laptop, but if that does happen, you want to make sure they can’t access your data. You should also protect your device with a security program and anti-malware and use these internet safety tips to keep cyber criminals at bay.
My Package Is Missing
Getting stuff in the mail is awesome. Coming home to find nothing but an empty porch after a package was supposed to be delivered is not. If you’re one of the eleven million Americans who had a package stolen in 2016, you know the misery caused by package theft.4 Fortunately, all is not lost when a package goes missing.
What to Do Next
Before throwing your hands up in despair, take these steps to try to locate your lost or stolen package.
- Check again. Just because the package isn’t on the front porch doesn’t mean it got stolen. Check every entrance of your home, and then consult with the neighbors to see if they accepted the package for you or if it was mistakenly delivered to the wrong address. Look in spots that would protect your package from weather or prying eyes, like the back porch, the hedges, the garage, or between the screen door and the front door.
- Contact the retailer. Once you determine that the package is missing, get in touch with the website where you placed your order. Have your order number handy, and be sure to ask them for the tracking number if you don’t have it. Sites like Amazon and eBay do a great job of helping customers track down missing packages. Depending on the company’s policy, they may send out a replacement immediately.
- Contact the delivery company. Find out which company delivered your package (FedEx, USPS, or UPS), and contact them directly. Have the tracking number available, and ask about their policy for stolen packages. If the theft was due to their mistake, they should help you recover your loss.
- File a report. Report your missing package to the police and the Postal Inspection Service. The more agencies helping you track down your stolen package, the better.
Resources to Help
You don’t have to put up with stolen packages. Help scare off would-be thieves and improve your odds of recovering missing packages with these high-tech solutions.
Not only do security cameras deter burglars, they can also help you identify and track down package swipers. Across the country, package thefts are being thwarted by home security camera footage. Whether it’s by the police or the homeowner, thieves caught on camera are far more likely to be caught.
For some, a smart doorbell with video capability is more practical than a full-blown surveillance camera. The added advantage of a doorbell camera like Ring is that it comes with two-way talk that lets you speak to the person lurking on your porch even if you’re not at home.
There are a number of ways to keep an eye on deliveries using GPS technology. Major delivery companies use GPS to monitor packages en route, and customers can sign up for access to maps and live tracking alerts. Sometimes the lost package is one that you sent. If you ship items regularly, you might want to look into GPS trackers that can give you the security you need to guarantee safe delivery.
Learn More about Protecting Your Packages
Losing a package is frustrating and stressful—especially if it was full of important items like medication or gifts for loved ones. In addition to tech solutions, there are plenty of other tactics you can use to prevent theft and recover stolen packages. If you shop online regularly, bookmark those linked resources for easy reference.
I Can’t Find My Car
We’ve all been there—you leave a shop or restaurant and realize you have absolutely no idea where you parked the car. In fact, one in seven people admit to having lost their car in a parking lot, and it takes an average of forty minutes for them to find it.5
What to Do Next
Sometimes a lost car has been stolen, but more often it’s simply a matter of absentmindedness. Before sounding the alarm, take these steps to locate your missing vehicle.
- Search the parking lot. Most of the time, we’re able to locate things we’ve lost, and cars are no exception. The first thing to do is check the parking lot carefully. It’s common to forget exactly where you parked, especially in big parking lots that are fairly generic. If you parked outside, inspect nearby streets—you may be confused, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar neighborhood.
- Use your panic button. If your car has a remote to lock and unlock the doors, it probably also has a panic button. Press this button to activate your car’s alarm. Then follow the obnoxious beeping and flashing lights to find your car.
- Contact the parking lot company. When your car goes missing in a monitored parking lot, call the company that manages the lot. They will know if your car was towed. If they haven’t towed any cars, they should have security footage available that might help you find out what happened.
- Contact towing companies. Maybe you parked your car in the wrong spot and it got towed. Look around for signs that provide information about the towing company the lot uses. Give them a call to find out if they have your car.
- Call the police. If you still can’t find your car, it’s time to bring in the authorities. More than 2,000 cars were stolen every day in 2016.6 Have as much information available as possible, including the vehicle identification number, license plate number, and the address where your car was last seen.
- Inform your insurance company. All those monthly premiums are finally going to pay off. If you have the proper coverage, your insurance company should compensate you for the loss of your vehicle.
- Search for stolen parts online. Stolen cars are often sold for their parts. You might be able to track down your car by searching online for people selling parts. Automated systems can help you identify parts from your stolen car—but don’t contact the seller directly. Report your findings to the police, and let them take it from there.
Resources to Help
Because it’s so easy to forget where you parked, it’s smart to get some car-finding tech on your side. These are our favorite resources to help you find a lost car or track down a stolen vehicle.
GPS Vehicle Trackers
These nifty gadgets can pinpoint your car’s location, whether you’re aimlessly wandering a parking lot or trying to stop a car thief. We recommend a GPS vehicle tracker with an SOS button that sends an instant notification of exactly where your car is when pressed. Some trackers also include a kill switch that will keep a thief from re-starting your car after they turn it off.
Steering Wheel Locks
You don’t need a high-tech car alarm to stop a car thief in their tracks. An anti-theft steering wheel lock keeps thieves from driving away in your vehicle—even if they were able to get into your locked car. Starting at around $15, this line of defense is as affordable as it is effective.
Stolen 911 lets you create an “internet fingerprint” of your stolen car that’s indexed on popular search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. A unique advantage of this site is once you’ve created a stolen property post, you can share it on the social media outlets of your choice. Unless you report the item as recovered, it will remain listed on Stolen 911 for one year.
There are a few clever ways to use Stolen-Property. You can report your lost or stolen property so it can be returned to you if it’s found, and you can check if an item you want to purchase has been reported lost or stolen. Search items by serial number, vehicle identification number, product, or brand. Stolen-Property can also help you create an inventory of your property. Simply upload product identifying information such as photos, serial numbers, and receipts, and the website will store the information for you.
CarLock Car Tracker
This mobile car tracking system is designed for use with a smartphone. It uses GPS to track your car in real time and sends automatic alerts when it detects suspicious behavior. The only downside is that it plugs into your car’s on-board diagnostic port, which makes it easy for a thief to remove. But you can download route history up until the time the device was removed.
Learn More about Protecting Your Car
It’s no fun to wander around looking for your car. Save yourself the worry by taking action before you head to the parking lot. Snap a photo of where you parked, note landmarks, and check out our guide to avoid getting your car stolen. With these tools and resources in mind, your days of desperately seeking a forgotten parking space may very well be behind you.
I Can’t Find My Keys
The freezer. The mailbox. The bottom of the trash bin. These are all places where I’ve found my keys. But I’m happy to report that there is some hope for us forgetful souls.
What to Do Next
It always seems like keys go missing when we’re in a hurry, so discovering you’ve lost your keys accelerates an already flustered panic mode. To save you from frantically running around with no real purpose, follow these steps for a quicker recovery of your lost keys.
- Stop. As soon as you realize your keys aren’t where you thought they were, stand still. Take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. You’ll find your keys faster if you approach the search with a calm, cool head.
- Retrace your steps. Think back to the last time you had your keys. Replay the scene in your mind. Were you coming in from the car? Did you have anything else in your hands, like groceries? Can you see where you set your keys down? After you’ve got the visual, revisit the last place you remember having the keys in hand.
- Look in strange places. I don’t know why, but keys seem to end up in locations that defy logic. That means you can’t rule anything out. After you’ve exhausted the usual suspects (purse, pockets, etc.), start checking out the weird places. Look in cupboards, the fridge, sinks, between sofa cushions—there’s really no spot that should be ruled out. And don’t rush this process; a thorough inspection will save you checking the same place multiple times.
- Call for backup. If you’re like me, you’ve given out spare keys to several reliable people who love you enough to come to your aid when all efforts to find your keys have failed. However, if you don’t have a phone full of spare key holders to call, it’s probably time to bring in a locksmith. If your missing key is for your car, you may also want to contact the dealer for help with a replacement.
- Change the locks. Sadly, if you’ve misplaced your house keys and are sure they’re not in your house, you need to change all the locks. This process can eat up some time and money, but it’s the best thing to do to keep your home and loved ones safe.
Resources to Help
Even though one in five Americans loses or misplaces something every week, we can now turn to technology to assist our addled, multitasking brains.7.
Pair this small, square Tile with the power of the Tile app and track your goods anywhere, anytime. You can stick Tiles to almost anything using the supplied cord or double-sided tape. Put it under a bike seat or drop one in the baby bag. The Tile app saves the last GPS location where the Tile was, and an alarm will sound to help you find your items in a flash.
The hipKey App works in tandem with the hipKey accessory. Attach the tiny hipKey device to items you don’t want to lose, and when the item moves you’ll be alerted with an audible alarm that can be set as loud as 90 decibels. Parents can use hipKey’s “Child Mode” to alert them if their little one has strayed too far. And for those of us that are forgetful, hipKey’s “Find Me” setting will save you the frustration of looking for the dog leash or remote.
Upgrade to a keyless lock and never worry about losing your house keys again. Smart electronic locks let you open your front door with the push of a button. You can find locks that use numeric codes, Bluetooth, or fingerprint identification. Not only does this save you from frantic searches, it also increases your overall home security.
Learn More about Protecting Your Keys
Keeping your keys safe is about more than saving time and avoiding the hassle of looking for them. When keys go missing, it puts you and your property at risk. Use the tips here to keep better track of your keys, but if you do end up locked out of your car or home, use our step-by-step guide to help gain entry and get on with your day.
My Pet Is Lost
Pets provide us comfort, companionship, and joy—so losing your pet can be devastating. Around ten million pets go missing every year, and one in three will get lost at some point during their lifetime.8 With odds like that, it’s important to know what to do if you come home to find your faithful companion on the lam.
What to Do Next
Your pet is part of the family, and you want to find them as quickly as possible. Keep a cool head and minimize the time you’re separated with an organized search plan.
- Begin the search immediately. The sooner you start looking, the better your chances are of finding your pet quickly. Start with your pet’s favorite neighborhood spots. If they have a particular tree they like to sniff or a canine buddy down the street, hit those spots first.
- Ask for help. When you scour the neighborhood, ask neighbors if they’ve seen your lost pet. If not, find out if they’ll join the search.
- Man the phones. If your pet has a tag or microchip with your contact info, be sure to have someone on hand to answer the phone if a good Samaritan finds your pet and calls.
- Reach out to shelters. Let local shelters and animal control know that your pet is missing. Provide a description and the best way for them to reach you. Find out if they have an online forum where you can post a photo and info about your missing pet.
- Spread the word. Make posters with a picture of your pet and display them in the neighborhood and at local businesses. Put notices in the hands of people who frequent your neighborhood regularly, like the mail carrier. You should also post the message on social media.
- Keep at it. Sometimes it takes a few days to locate a lost pet. Regularly check in with shelters, and keep the search alive in your neighborhood and on social media.
Resources to Help
Finding your pet is an incredible feeling, but it’s even better not to lose them in the first place. Here are some of our favorite tools that can help on both counts.
GPS Pet Collars
Always know where your best friend is with a collar that doubles as a GPS pet tracker. We really like the Whistle Activity Monitor. It works for both dogs and cats, and it provides you with live GPS tracking and location alerts. This nifty gadget also monitors the health and activity levels of your furry friend.
If you have an escape artist, you can use motion sensors to alert you when they use the doggie door or if the gate to your yard is opened. For those who don’t want a full-blown security system, stand-alone door sensors can get the job done.
You can keep an eye on your pet from anywhere with a security camera that’s specially designed to meet your needs as a pet owner. If you fear your pet will make a break for it while you’re at work, a pet camera can give you the reassurance you need. Cameras that let you talk to your pet or dispense a treat can help you keep them from taking off in the first place.
Learn More about Protecting Your Pet
Keeping your pet safe can be a full-time job. But you can make that job a little easier by harnessing the power of technology. Find out about the best home security systems for pet owners and the extra benefits of adding tools like a dedicated pet cam to your bag of pet-owner tricks.
My Child Is Missing
It takes only a moment for your child’s hand to slip from yours—and the next thing you know, they’re no longer in sight. This terrifying scenario plays out regularly, with nearly 400 children thought to be lost or missing every day.9 The good news is that the majority of those children are reunited with their parents within minutes or hours.
What to Do Next
No situation will probably ever feel as desperate as losing your child, but no one will benefit from panicking. If this frightening scenario ever happens to you, here are the immediate steps that will help.
- Look everywhere. Chances are your child hasn’t gone very far. Take a look around you and try to identify what might have grabbed their attention—look for things like a playground, a video game display, or anything else that you know your child likes. Quickly check all possible areas. If your kid likes to hide, search likely hiding spots first, like the middle of a clothing rack in the store.
- Call their name. You may have been told not to do this because a predator could use the information, but the benefits outweigh the risks. Not only can you get your child’s attention, but you’ll also alert everyone around you to the situation. In fact, calling your child’s name loudly can scare off a potential predator.
- Get help right away. Ask people near you to help you search. If you’re in a store, let them know your child is missing. Most big retailers are part of the Code Adam program, which puts the store on lockdown while employees guard exits and search the aisles, restrooms, and dressing rooms. If you have other children with you, call a friend or family member to help look after them while you search.
- Contact the police. If you’ve been looking for your child for five to ten minutes without success, it’s time to call the police. The sooner they’re brought in, the faster you’ll find your child. Don’t worry that you’re overreacting—the first few hours are the most critical when it comes to missing children, so pull out all the stops.
Resources to Help
No matter how well we try to prepare our kids to avoid a situation like this, sometimes they still wander off. Minimize your worry by implementing these tools to help keep your kids in sight.
GPS Trackers for Kids
Bypass the panic with a GPS tracker that lets you find your missing child immediately. While kids GPS devices are handy in a crowded store or at the park, they also let you know your child is all right if they have to walk home from school or while they’re playing at a friend’s house. You can find trackers that let you set virtual fences that will alert you if your child moves out of bounds. Many also include panic buttons that your child can activate if they’re lost or scared.
Child ID Kit
You don’t want to have to report your child missing, but if you do, it’s helpful to have all the info you need in one place. Put together a Child ID Kit with a current photo of your child, their fingerprints, and information about their height, weight, and any other identifying traits that will help authorities find your child. If you want help building your kit, Guard-A-Kid uses technology to put together a kit that can be stored on your cellphone.
Learn More about Protecting Your Child
Losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare. Work with your children to teach them what to do if they get lost, and regularly review these tips for what to do if your child goes missing. Being prepared in advance can help minimize panic for both you and your child.
My Identity Has Been Stolen
This may be something you think happens only to someone else, but almost twenty-two million people have had their identities stolen since 2013.10 When a hacker gets their hands on information like your Social Security number, address, and birthdate, they can do everything from draining your bank account to opening up a line of credit in your name. Worst of all, it can take years to recover from the damage done.
What to Do Next
Because anyone can be a victim of identity theft, we all need to be aware of what to do in the event of a data breach or other cyberattack.
- Freeze your credit. As soon as you see suspicious activity on your credit, initiate a credit freeze. This prohibits anyone from opening up an account in your name because it denies creditors access to your credit report. Each credit bureau (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) has their own process for freezing credit, so you’ll have to freeze your credit with each one individually.
- Stop the damage. If you notice that someone opened an account in your name, the first thing you should do is contact the company where the fraud occurred. Speak to the fraud department, explain that your identity has been stolen, and ask them to either close or freeze the account. If you have any legitimate accounts with the company, change all of your login information.
- File identity theft reports. You can go online and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. Once you’ve submitted your information, they will help you put together and implement a personal recovery plan. You should also file a report with the police. Both reports will be used to help you fight fraudulent accounts and recover any losses.
- Gather evidence. Ask for letters from any companies where you closed a fraudulent account. Make sure the letters confirm that the account was fraudulent and that you are not responsible for it. In addition, get copies of your identity theft reports from the FTC and local law enforcement.
- Protect other identifying information. If you think your Social Security number may have been stolen, contact the IRS and the Social Security Administration. You should also contact the post office to make sure the identity thief hasn’t submitted a false change-of-address form. This will also help the postal service find out if the thief used the mail to commit additional fraud against you.
Resources to Help
Your identity isn’t physical property, so having your identity stolen can seem surreal. Increase your chances of foiling an identity thief’s plans and recovering quickly with these tools.
If your identity is stolen, IdentityTheft.gov will walk you through what you need to do. Checklists and simple instructions guide you through actions you need to take immediately, such as placing a fraud alert on your credit report, as well as what you’ll need to deal with down the road, like stopping debt collectors from contacting you.
Identity Theft Protection Services
These services will monitor both your identity and your credit so you have a better chance of stopping identity theft before it happens. Websites like Credit Sesame and Credit Karma keep an eye on your credit and help you improve your score. For more extensive protection, you can sign up for a subscription service that will alert you to suspicious activity and help you repair any damage if your identity does get stolen.
Learn More about Protecting Your Identity
There’s a lot involved in keeping your identity safe. In addition to staying safe online, you also need to keep physical documents safe. Items like your Social Security card, birth certificate, and tax returns should be kept in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box. Stay informed about online scams and learn how to increase your online security with a password manager.
Don’t Lose This Guide
Nobody likes the stress and hassle that come with losing something or having a valuable item like a laptop stolen. The only consolation is that there are resources available to help you get your lost items back. Keep this guide to help you take fast action if the worst does happen—and use it to find the right tech to install today so that it will be easier to find that lost phone or laptop tomorrow.
Did we miss a tip that you’ve used to find a lost or stolen item? We’d love to learn your tricks for finding missing stuff. Share your experience in the comments below.
- Consumer Reports, “Smartphone Thefts Drop as Kill Switch Usage Grows”
- Consumer Reports, “Smartphone Thefts Drop as Kill Switch Usage Grows”
- Business Insider, “People are Willing to Go to Extreme Lengths to Retrieve Their Stolen Smartphones”
- August Home and Edelman Intelligence, “Package Theft Report”
- Daily Mail, “The 200 Years We Spend Looking for Our Lost Cars”
- FBI Uniform Crime Report, “2016 Crime in the United States—Motor Vehicle Theft”
- New York Daily News, “Lost Items Cost Americans $5,591”
- Home Again, “Talking to Clients—Alleviating Concerns”
- US Department of Justice, “National Estimates of Missing Children”
- Identity Theft Resource Center, “How Data Breaches Affect Your Identity”