IMPORTANT: don't leave bags, backpacks, or purses visible in your vehicle!
I have personally learned of six different people who have had laptops stolen from their vehicle in just the last three months. Please take a few minutes to read this message and apply as applicable—both for your company or organization's assets and your own valuable items!
Don’t ever leave a bag, carry case, backpack, or purse in your vehicle where someone can possibly see it.
It is best not to leave these items in your vehicle unattended, even if hidden from view. It is best to leave items of value at home or at work if possible, or carry your item with you if unavoidable (e.g., on your way to or home from work).
If you have to leave an item in your vehicle, move it to a locked trunk before you arrive at your destination (don’t do it at the parking lot of your destination where someone could see you move the item).
Work with your company or organization's IT to encrypt your work laptop’s hard drive. This keeps any sensitive data from being exposed after loss or theft. But do that after you have ensured your data is consistently backed up (see next bullet).
Always keep a current backup of all important data in case of theft, loss, or hardware failure.
If you have a work-owned Windows laptop, use a backup solution if they provide one. If not, ask your IT where you should store important data--e.g., in your work email, SharePoint, file server, or your My Documents folder (if it is sync’ed with the server). Files stored on your Desktop or elsewhere may not be protected.
If you have a work-owned Mac laptop, use a backup solution if they provide one. If not, follow the recommendations above or see if you are allowed to keep a Time Machine backup to an external drive.
If you have a personally owned laptop, consider storing personal files in Dropbox or an equivalent service, use webmail such as Gmail for email, use Evernote, and/or subscribe to a backup service like Carbonite.
Five of the laptops I referred to were stolen from a restaurant or shopping center parking lot, and the other was stolen from a vehicle in a residential driveway. It may not seem ideal to carry the backpack or bag with you into a restaurant, but this would have saved 100% of these thefts (assuming the bag is kept you at all times in the restaurant or store also). Thieves know that people going to a restaurant before or after work are likely to have items of value with them.
A security guard last night told me that parking lots are often “staked out” by people in vehicles that are watching for opportunities as people leave their vehicles—they even pointed out a suspect to me. They especially target vehicles that have reduced visibility (e.g., two vehicles parked close to each other, or vehicles that are farther away from the building).
Windows that have been tinted are even more lucrative because breaking the window is quieter and makes less mess than a window without tinting film.
Be especially careful if you are traveling in a rental car, since there are usually markings that give them away and thieves know there may be items of value or suitcases in the vehicle or trunk.
You can consider purchasing LoJack for Laptops if you have personally owned equipment you want to protect, but that is more expensive and not as effective as the other options above.