I have a lot of valuables around the house, ranging from gadgets and electronics to antiques and art. I'm worried that if my house is ever broken into I'll never be able to get all this stuff back. I know you can install apps that help you track your computer and phone, but is there a way to track everything if it gets stolen?
You may not be able to track all your stuff with GPS/phone-home tech the same way you can your smartphone or laptop, but that doesn't mean you can't prepare your other valuables in case you get robbed. Any technology with a GPS or even Wi-Fi is pretty easy to handle, so let's start there before we move onto other tech and valuables.
The Tech You Can Track: Smartphones, Computers, And Cameras
Since most computers and smartphones have at least Wi-Fi built-in it's remarkably easy to track them if they get stolen. In fact, you have three really good options:
- Track Computers/Android/iPhone with Prey: We've shown you how to setup Prey on your computer, iPhone, and Android and it's easy. It's also one of the coolest free services around. You can not only find an IP address of your lost device, you can also get detailed Wi-Fi information, do a remote lock and even snag some pictures of the thief.
- Find My iPhone/Find My Mac: Apple's built-in service for finding and wiping your iPhone or Mac is easy to setup and totally free. It doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles like Prey, but it will show you the location of your phone or computer and allow you to wipe content remotely.
- PlanB for Android: Android users have the added benefit of being able to track a phone even if you didn't set it up with Prey ahead of time. Plan B can be installed remotely and will track your phone's GPS coordinates for you.
Amazingly you can track your camera as well. Since cameras aren't generally equipped with Wi-Fi you can't track them in real time, but you can keep an eye out photos taken with your camera that appear on the web. Both CameraTrace and StolenCameraFinder scrub the web looking for any pictures taken with your camera. When they find a picture uploaded with your camera's details they'll send you an email. That doesn't necessarily mean you'll find your camera, but you will see pictures the thief took and where they were uploaded from.
So, computer and smartphones are pretty easy provided you have the foresight to set up a couple things first, but what about the rest of your technology? Well, in most cases that requires a more old school approach.
Write Down Your Serial Numbers Now So The Police Have Something To Track
Maybe it's just the fact I've been robbed before, but I'm always surprised at how few people keep a record of their gadgets' serial numbers on file. This is an essential tool for tracking your stolen stuff when it doesn't have an internet connection. This means musical instruments, stereos, bicycles, kitchen supplies, and anything else that has a serial number.
The reason is that if a thief decided to sell your stuff to a pawn shop the pawn shop has to check the serial numbers against a police database of stolen goods. When you get stuff stolen your first step is to call the police and give them all those serial numbers. If anything you own heads into a pawn shop with the thief, the shop will claim ownership, call the police and you'll get it back. If you don't have your serial numbers you don't have proof of ownership so you're out of luck. Image: Michael Miller.
For Everything Else: A Photograph Can Help You Find Items Being Sold
For all your other valuables, say, that antique dresser or the art on your wall, your only option is to get pictures. This won't really do you much good as far as the police are concerned and it won't help you track anything, but you can take those pictures to any local shops the thieves might be trying to sell your stuff at so at least someone is watching out for you. Don't forget to monitor Craigslist as well or just automate your search with Hey Craig.
The above are your best options for tracking where all your stuff has gone and with just a little foresight you can dramatically improve your chances of getting stolen stuff back.
PS Have you ever been robbed and got your stuff back with any of the above methods? Share your experiences (and tips) in the comments.
Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.