We’re beginning a new era in the cycle of travel theft in favor of the victim despite the amount of coverage of what thieves can do to you with technology. Yet, our stuff that is so tempting to steal, is also getting smart enough to protect itself, fight back, and find its way home. You’re probably carrying smaller, more expensive electronics today than you ever have – two good reasons to prepare yourself in the craftiest ways possible.

1. All Around Laptop, Tablet, Mobile Phone Recovery: Project Prey

I am a huge fan of Project Prey and if there’s one solution you should use as part of a physical security plan for your gadgets, Project Prey is it. This free piece of software runs on your laptop (Windows, Mac, and Linux), mobile phone (iPhone and Android), and tablet (yes, iPad too); remaining hidden until you activate it. If your gadget gets stolen, you activate Project Prey remotely (through a free account on their website) and you can track it, get secret screenshots, steal passwords, and even get pictures of the crooks covertly with any built-in camera. Need more convincing? Project Prey helped Matthew recover his Macbook Pro in Panama.

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Mac users can also take a look at iCloud (although it doesn’t work nearly as well).

2. Set A Decoy Wallet Trap To Surprise A Pickpocket

I’ve talked about decoy wallets before as part of a broader travel security plan to reduce your loses if you’re unfortunate enough to be pick-pocketed. Decoy wallets also make good dummy targets but if you want to add a small chance of catching the thief, be sure to leave an unused – but activated – credit card in yours. This won’t work in every country but if the pickpocket decides to use that credit card somewhere and you’ve reported it stolen, police can use surveillance footage from stores to track them. More criminals are caught this way than you might think. Plus your credit card company likely won’t hold you liable for unauthorized transactions.

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You probably won’t get your wallet back but justice may still be served.

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3. Find Lost Or Stolen Luggage With An Inexpensive GPS Tracking Unit

Although controversial, GPS tracking units are often used to follow the movements of criminal suspects in many countries around the world. These small-palm sized devices broadcast radio signals that can be used to track them from a computer. Place Hide one of these (the Winplus AC13268-72 Beacon GPS Tracker is $29 or the Telespial TrackStick $149) in your backpack or checked luggage to find out where it is when it’s not where it’s supposed to be.

gps luggage trackerWinplus AC13268-72 Beacon GPS Tracker

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lost travelers looking at map

4. Keep A Digital Eye On Your House With Your Desktop

There are plenty of uses for that clunky desktop when you’re traveling; one of which is to act as security guard. Both Yawcam (Windows) or iAlertu (Mac) can snap and email you photos when they detect any motion – especially useful when things should be motionless. A picture of a potential burglar may help you get your stolen things back. Plus, you’ll finally know if you’ve really trained your cat not to jump on tables when you’re at work.

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In addition, iAlertu (and Laptop Alarm for Windows) can put some muscle on your laptop so it sounds a loud alarm if moved. Useful for those times you’ve just got to hop up for a napkin or your 6th cup of coffee in a cafe with your laptop just within visual range.

Hope For The Best But Plan For The Worst

No security is absolute – the first rule of security – and that’s why any plan without a backup is doomed to fail eventually. Remember, your data is more valuable than any piece of electronic equipment you own so don’t screw up your vacation by preparing for mini-disasters. Recruit your gadgets and technology to work on your side for protection and preparation just in case.