Would you leave your wallet, purse or a bag containing $1,000 in cash on your car seat, even if your doors were locked? Of course not, but the message you send when you leave your laptop, iPad or other mobile device in plain sight in your unattended vehicle is similar: “Steal this!” Taking simple precautions can help protect your mobile devices and the information within them.

Locking the doors when you leave your vehicle is a good practice, but will not stop a motivated thief. The opportunity for theft is magnified when you park your vehicle outside overnight with your device inside, whether in your driveway or on the street. Aside from the cost to replace the device, there is the value of what is stored on the machine, whether it be passwords and logins, contact information, pictures, music or personal information belonging to you, friends, family, clients or business partners.

Most thieves can recognize a computer bag, carrying case or tote on wheels. Those do not disguise what’s inside. At the end of the workday, even when your intention is to go straight home, get in the habit – before you leave – of securely storing your laptop or other device where it can’t easily be seen, place it in your trunk if you have one or take it with you.

How many times have you decided to make an unplanned detour on the way home to the store, dry cleaners or mini-mart? It takes less than a minute for a thief to identify something of value sitting on your car seat that can be sold quickly for some easy money. And if you wait to store your equipment once you are in a mall parking lot or other public place, any thief watching will know exactly which vehicle to target. You may think taking your laptop with you to watch your child’s soccer game is overkill, but if your car or SUV does not have a trunk or somewhere to conceal these items, that may be the best alternative.

Even if your data is encrypted and you are not worried about someone stealing the information stored on your device, it won’t deter a thief from smashing your car window to get at something of value. If you become a victim of a mobile device theft, report it to your local police department immediately. Also, if it is company owned or even if you have your company’s data stored on your personal device, know your company’s procedure for reporting lost or stolen computer equipment and notify the appropriate company representative as soon as you discover the loss.

Taking a few minutes to protect your mobile devices can save you hours of time replacing valuable devices and the information they store.

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.