Students Brace for iPod, Laptop Thefts

As Justin Bills walked across his condo's parking garage on a Sunday morning last fall, he noticed shattered glass surrounding his car. Through the empty window frame, he noted the iPod he left in a car charger the night before was missing.

That same morning, two other tenants in the Provo, Utah, complex discovered their car windows shattered and their iPods missing as well.

Bills, a senior majoring in music education at Brigham Young University (BYU), said car insurance covered the cost of his broken window, but the company would not replace his iPod.

Theft is a recurring problem, but there are preventative measures students can take to reduce their risk of having personal possessions stolen -- particularly iPods and laptops, which are common prey for thieves. "iPod is not only the best selling MP3 player, but also the most stolen," according to inspice.com and Macfixit.com.

To prevent iPod theft, students can take away opportunities to steal it. "Turns out the standard white ear buds -- which identify an iPod user immediately -- are mugger magnets," according to a "Fox News" report in April 2004. Students can easily buy black earphones to use with their iPod, making it look like less desirable electronic equipment. People can store iPods out of view -- in their pockets, for example -- to prevent themselves from being a target.

Laptops are another item commonly stolen from students, Harroun said.

"FBI statistics indicate that one in eight laptop computers will be stolen," according to an article in the USA Today.

News source: Tech News World

Some protection is afforded by software that tracks stolen laptops. After a laptop equipped with such a system is stolen, the next time it hooks up to the Internet it will "phone home." This software usually runs about US$50 a year. One company that provides it is LoJack For Laptops.

The cost of the laptop may be considerably less than the value of the information it contains. Software to recover the actual machine may be more useful than some other coverage that only recovers its price.

Services such as SmartProtec from inspice allow laptop owners to register their serial number through a secure database online. Anyone purchasing used electronic equipment can go online and contact the owner through the serial number to see if the item has been stolen or if it is the real owner selling the item.

Marking a laptop with the owner's name obviously makes it easier to identify and reclaim stolen property. Identification can be done either discreetly or indiscreetly.

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