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How to protect your smartphone, tablet, laptop and other tech kit

We look at the best ways to ensure your tech kit doesn’t get lost, stolen or damaged

Insurance

Backup can be thought of as an insurance policy for your data, but you should also ensure that you have adequate cover for your hardware. When your kit’s at home it’ll be covered by your home-insurance policy, but this doesn’t necessarily apply when you’re on the move. We spoke to the Association of British Insurers, which gave us some advice on policies.

There are two main choices, both with pros and cons. The first is to add extra cover to your household policy; the second is to take out a specific mobile devices policy.

Generally, you’ll have to pay an additional premium if you want loss, theft and damage cover for items taken out of the house. However, since this should cover everything you own, it may well be a good investment.

However, if you do have to make a claim, the excess will tend to be higher than it would be with a specific mobile devices policy, and it will probably affect your no-claims discount. This option also applies only to home owners and tenants.

Mobile devices insurance was originally aimed at phones, although these policies now tend to cover anything with a SIM; many also include laptops and e-readers. Theft and accidental damage are generally covered, and some policies also cover breakdown once the warranty has expired. Commonly, but not always, you’re also protected from having to pay the cost of calls made on your phone following theft or loss, something that a household policy probably won’t cover.

This is an area in which it’s difficult to provide definitive advice, since policies differ between companies. The number-one rule is to carefully read the policy before signing up. Make sure you know what equipment and types of loss are covered, what excess applies, and how a claim would affect next year’s renewal premium. Also, if you’re going to be using your gear abroad, ensure that you’re covered when overseas.

Tips on avoiding theft

Avoiding theft often comes down to common sense. Don’t advertise your valuable gear to thieves. If you have to leave kit in the car, hide it in the boot rather than on display. And leave your kit at home unless you really need it. Remember that laptops and tablets aren’t easy to hide and are easy to steal from a busy environment such as a pub.

Keep receipts of your purchases and make a record of the serial numbers of each of your devices. Not only are receipts important if you need to make a claim under the warranty, but some insurance companies also ask for them as proof that you owned the item.

If your phone is stolen and you are a pay-monthly customer, report the theft to the service provider as soon as possible. It will ensure that no-one else is able to run up your phone bill. Failure to do this could result in you being charged for calls you didn’t make, and the bill could be more expensive than replacing the phone.

If you discover a theft, report it to the police. The chances of it being found and returned might be slim but, unless you report it (or your kit is marked, this likelihood is zero. Your insurance company will also require a crime-reference number when you make a claim for theft.

Not only is data valuable to you, it’s also valuable to a thief who may use it to your detriment. In addition to backing up your data so you can restore it following a theft or loss, sensitive data should be encrypted.

This can be done simply using Cryptainer on a laptop.

For smartphones and tablets, use a passcode to prevent unauthorised access and remember that its memory card is removable.

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