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What To Do When Your Tablet Computer/Mobile Device Is Lost or Stolen

Consumers are storing more and more information on their mobile devices: smart phones and digital tablets. Perhaps you own an Applie iPad, ViewSonic ViewPad 7, Maylong M-150, or Samsung Galaxy Tab. These devices are fun to use and convenient. What do you do when yours is lost or stolen?

First, I am going to assume that you backed up any information (contacts, phone numbers, documents, etc.) you saved on your tablet computer. And, I am going to assume that you listed your new tablet computer on your homeowner's (or renter's) insurance policy. And, I am going to assume that you did not password protect your tablet computer.

The good people at the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) provide many helpful step-by-step instructions about what to do in situations like this. A lot of what you must do next depends upon what sensitive personal information you have stored on your shiney, new tablet computer.

  1. Did you save on your tablet computer any sign-in credentials to your bank or financial accounts?
  2. Did you download and save any statements for other accounts (e.g., utilities, department store charge cards, telephone accounts, store membership information)?
  3. Did you save on your tablet the names, addresses, birth dates, e-mails, and similar personal information of friends and/or family?
  4. Did you download any confidential property (e.g., customers' contact information, prospective customers' contact information, employee employment records, medical records, etc.) from your employer's online systems?
  5. Did you save on your tablet computer any codes, passwords, or access information and procedures to your employers bank accounts or proprietary information (online of offline)?

If #1 applies, obviously you will need to contact your bank(s). Think about if you do online banking and electronic money transfers. You may have stored several account numbers on your tablet computer.

If #2 applies, you will need to contact the appropriate retailers and businesses.

If #3 applies, you will need to alert your friends and family. Criminals may use the data on your stolen tablet computer to send out spam email/text messages, and/or send out phishing email/text messages. Criminals may try to impersonate you on social networking sites to trick your family and friends into wiring money to them (e.g., a variation of the "grandparent scam").

If #4 or #5 apply, you will need to inform your employer or school since state laws may require it to disclose data breaches to state government. If your school or employer owns the tablet computer, then you should follow their instructions and policies regarding lost/stolen equipment. An increasing number of higher education schools -- and some secondary schools -- are integrating mobile devices into their classroom study and curriculum. Ideally, the school will also offer training classes about good data security habits.

Steps you should do if your tablet computer is lost or stolen:

  • Change the passwords to any online accounts or email accounts associated with your mobile device. You may also have to alert the data plan provider about the theft
  • File a police report. List the items stolen and the contents. Get the business card of the officer or detective you meet with. Keep a copy of the police report as you may need it later with insurance companies.
  • If your mobile device was stolen at work, you should notify the Human Resources department at your employer and follow any related personal policies about workplace theft.
  • If your helath insurance information was stolen, notify your insurance provider. You don't want somebody else gaining healthcare in your name. Plus, this will corrupt your medical record. Request a replacement policy account.
  • If your auto insurance information was stolen, notify your insurance provider. You don't want somebody else using your information in an accident. Request a replacement policy account.
  • File a Fraud Alert if your sensitive personal information (e.g., name, address, birth date, Social Security Number) have been stolen or exposed. This is enough information for criminals to apply for loans in your name. Do this from your home phone as most credit reporting agencies use automated phone systems. If you have a credit monitoring service, it may do this for you.
  • Contact the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) and/or your country’s embassy if immigration papers and information were stolen
  • File an identity theft complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. They track this activity and need to know to develop effective commerce and security rules for businesses
  • In a couple months, check your credit reports for fraudulent entries. File a Security Freeze if criminals have already applied for or obtained loans or credit in your name. Fees vary by state, and you will need to contact in writing the three leading credit reporting agencies.

Keep a log and printed copies of all correspondence. Request printed confirmation of any accounts closed.

Be safe and hopefully you won't need the information in this blog post.


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Bill G

This advice also goes for smartphones. I use a password on my iPhone to access anything on it. I've also set the preferences to automatically wipe the phone after 10 failed passcode attempts. Too bad you don't see this feature on all devices with sensitive data.



I agree. That wipe feature is a nice feature.


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