Stop tech thief

Does your child take a tablet or laptop to school? How about a mobile phone? Yvonne Walus explains how to protect electronic devices from theft and mischief.

We’re lucky to be living in a country where we’re not afraid of crime. We send our children to school with their smartphones and laptops, more worried that they’ll be smashed by accident than stolen. However small the risk is, though, it’s best to be prepared in case of theft, a silly prank, or the possibility of your child mislaying their belongings.


Lock the device.

Use a password (numeric, swipe pattern, fingerprint or face recognition) to protect unauthorised access to your device. This can be broken by professional criminals, and the device can be reset and resold, but at least you’ll be protected from opportunistic mishaps.

Auto-lock your screen.

For the password to do its job, make sure the device locks automatically when not in use (after a minute or so of inactivity).

Install security software.

Some apps and operating systems can help you locate your device, or flash up a message for the new user, or activate an alarm that will alert you to the location of the device and scare off the thief.

Record the IMEI number.

Every phone has a unique 15-digit code called an IMEI number. You can view it by entering *#06#on your mobile. Write down this number and give it to your provider if your phone is stolen or lost, so that they can block the phone from using their network. It can also help the police identify the phone if it’s found.


You can buy various security gadgets to attach to your device.

Tile Mate.

This comes in the form of a tag or sticker that can be attached to your phone case, laptop bag, expensivesports shoes, and so on. You can then use your smartphone to make the Tile Mate ring when it’s nearby. If your Tile Mate is within Bluetooth range, it will play a loud tune until you find it. The Tile Mate app also records the last time and place it saw your item and it will remind you where to look  first. The Tile Mate community can also help: when any user in Tile Mate’s global network comes within range of your missing item, the app will let you know its most recent location. (Tile Mate is just one of such gadgets available;shop around to see what solution fits your family’s needs.)

Digital Password Chain Smart Lock Anti-Theft Alarm (or similar).

These types of locks work on a four-digit numeric code. They can protect school bags, bicycles, and other personal belongings both indoors and outdoors. When anyone cuts the cable, or attempts to remove the battery cover, or inputs the wrong password, or if vibration is detected, the lock will sound the alarm.

Permanent ID marking.

This could be writing your contact details in an ultraviolet market (invisible unless you shine ultraviolet light on it), or placing a microdot with your information on the device you want to protect. One brand of microdots is called SelectDNA, and it provides you with a unique code – a tiny sticker – which will mark your items as uniquely yours.


Several New Zealand websites are dedicated to recording details of any lost or stolen property. This increases visibility of your items, prevents re-sale, and may even aid recover. Second-hand goods shops and savvy buyers routinely check these websites to ensure they don’t inadvertently end up with stolen goods. Examples include, and the police-run


Electronic devices are not the only items that go missing. Sometimes bicycles are taken from public places or from the school bike rack, even if they had a security chain on them. Write the bike’s serial number in large visible letters on a piece of paper and photograph your child displaying the serial number next to their bike. This will help you prove ownership in case there is a dispute. The NZ Bicycle Registry ( ) is a place to store your bike’s serial number and report it in case it goes missing. Hundreds of bicycles are found by the police every year and the website helps them reunite with their rightful owner. Buyers can also search through the list of stolen bikes before purchasing a secondhand bike.

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