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Laptop computer theft is becoming more and more common, particularly from airport conveyor belts. If you're toting yours along on assignments, keep it safe with these tips:


* Never leave your laptop in an unlocked vehicle; even if you've locked your car, cover the laptop up or tuck it into your trunk. Be especially careful to conceal it in parking garages.


* Avoid leaving your laptop in a closed-up vehicle in extreme temperatures, which can damage computers.


* Carry your laptop in a nondescript carrying case, briefcase, or bag rather than a case designed for computers, which attracts thieves.


* Don't leave your laptop sitting out in a public place, such as a restaurant or conference room. Take it with you-or you run the risk of it not being there when you return.


* In a motel or hotel room, lock the laptop with a cable lock, which you can attach to a piece of furniture. Or put the laptop in a locked closet or cabinet.


* Paint distinctive markings on your laptop to make it unique and easily identifiable.


* Consider purchasing one of the new theft alarm systems specially made for laptops.



Don't forget that losing your laptop also means losing your files. Before heading out on an assignment, back up your information on floppy disks or CD-ROMs and store them at home for safekeeping.