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If stolen, can I track my low-tech like I can track my phone?

Track my stuff illustration
Courtesy of Lifehacker
Courtesy of Lifehacker

A lot of people keep plenty of valuables around the house, ranging from gadgets and electronics to antiques and art. They worry that if their house is broken into, they'll never be able to get all their stuff back. You can use apps that help you track your computer and phone, but is there a way to track everything if it gets stolen?

Well, 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
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.

Courtesy of Lifehacker
  • 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 for 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.

Michael Miller / Courtesy of Lifehacker

Write down your serial numbers now so the police have something to track
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. Additionally, some police departments in the U.S. use a service called LeadsOnline that also tracks eBay purchases as well. 

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.

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