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How to protect Junior's laptop

Computer, printer, smartphone, tablet -- the average college student has a lot of stuff. The good news? It may already be covered.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 20, 2012 11:44AM

Image: Student in dorm room (© Digital Vision Ltd./SuperStock)Sending a son or daughter off to college? Talk to your insurance agent first.

Half of the 200 educational specialists surveyed by Travelers believe that theft is the greatest hazard on college campuses today.

As someone who got a college degree three years ago, I can attest that students aren't always the most vigilant group. During my years at the University of Washington I found and turned in several smartphones; over and over I saw students leave backpacks and laptops unattended at library tables and in restrooms.

The bad news: College is a great place for a sneaky thief. The good news: Your kid is probably already covered.

A dorm-dwelling student's worldly goods are likely included under your current homeowners insurance. Don't take that for granted, however. Talk to your agent, and be sure to ask whether certain items need additional coverage.

"It's not uncommon for college kids to have a smartphone, laptop and/or a tablet. All of this technology is expensive, and when your child brings it with them to college there's a risk of something happening to it," says Elaine Baisden, vice president of personal insurance for Travelers.

Protecting themselves

And if your student will be living off-campus? Talk to your agent -- right now -- about a renters insurance policy.

"That's an important distinction (that) parents often overlook: Now your child is a renter," says Amy Danise of (Post continues after video.)

Renters insurance isn't very expensive, usually costing between $150 and $200 per year. Moms and dads who've already shelled out thousands on tuition and books shouldn't balk at writing one more check, according to Danise.

"Parents are actually protecting themselves," she says, "because they're the ones who will wind up replacing these things."

A few more tips:

Be careful what you pack.
Heirlooms, jewelry or other "irreplaceable" items should stay home, according to Baisden. "If a student insists on taking something of significant value, rent a safe deposit box near campus to house the items," she says. (You can get another smartphone. Grandma's necklace can't be replaced.)

Keep photographic and written records.
Write down serial numbers of all those electronics. Shoot video or still images of what's in the room.

Report missing property.
If something disappears from Junior's dorm he must notify the police. Your insurance company will want a copy of the incident report.

More on MSN Money:

Aug 21, 2012 9:16AM
I would like to add that many laptops come with a free year of LoJack and in the case of ipods, you can sign up for a tracking system. A child in my daughter's school had his ipod stolen and they were able to locate it to the seat in the classroom!
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.