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Posted: 1:09 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13, 2012

Recover your lost gadgets using free apps

By Clark Howard

If your phone or laptop goes missing, there are a variety of free apps that will help you locate it and protect your data so crooks can't compromise your financial security.

I spoke recently about how I found an iPhone in the parking lot of a doctor's office. It had no identifying info about the owner on the outside, of course. So I started playing detective, which was very easy because the iPhone was not password protected.

I scrolled through the contacts and called around until I found somebody who could help me get the iPhone to the woman who was the owner. But it occurred to me, boy, that woman could have been in trouble if I were a criminal who found the smart phone!

Since telling this story on the air, I heard from a lot of people about all the different apps that are available to help protect you if you lose your smart phone, laptop or tablet.

Then, lo and behold, New York Times technology writer David Pogue detailed his saga of losing his iPhone and using an app to help recover it.

Syndicated radio host and columnist Kim Komando recently ran a story in USA Today  about free ways to recover a lost phone or laptop. Among her suggestions are the following:

  • -- Freemium service for smart phones that run Android, Blackberry or Windows.
  • -- Freemium service for Macs, PCs and smartphones.
  • Find My iPhone -- Free service for the iPhone 4, the iPad or a fourth generation iPod touch.
  • Where's My Droid -- Free service for Android smart phone users.
  • Plan B -- Free service for Android smart phone users. This is the only that can be remotely installed on your phone after you've lost it.

Years ago, one of my in-laws had a laptop stolen at baggage claim. This was back in the day when laptops were a fortune; hers was an employer-provided one valued at $5,000! But the employer wasn't concerned at all about the monetary loss. All they cared about was the corporate info that was on that laptop.

In my case, nothing on my laptop is worth stealing. Plus, I tend to travel with a cheap one so nobody would want it anyway!