Loss of laptops, smartphones and tablets puts data at risk

The amount of data that we’re carrying around with us on laptops, smartphones and tablets keeps growing. But with 70 per cent of people having lost a data storage device, that data can literally slip through our fingers.

The average person now loses 1.24 items a year and less than half of those are ever recovered. The average cost of a lost item is $220.15, but it’s not just the value of the item itself that has an impact. Fifty-seven per cent of people who had lost a device said that they were more upset about losing the data on the device than the device itself.

In fact, so strong is the desire to hang on to our smartphones – and the pictures, contacts and messages on them – that 93 per cent of people who have dropped one down a toilet have attempted to retrieve it. Yet most loss comes down to human error. Just 18 per cent of the things reported lost in the study were stolen, with most people stating that their own distraction or forgetfulness was to blame for losing their belongings.

This makes personal circumstances a huge contributing factor to loss. The times when people are busy and moving around a lot cause peaks in loss, so it may come as no surprise that 6:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays in December are relatively disastrous when it comes to hanging on to your things.

Globally, big cities and areas where people use more public transit tend to form black holes for lost property. In the U.S., New York, Chicago and Atlanta form the Bermuda Triangle of the U.S. with more items lost here, per capita, than other parts of the country. Globally, 19 per cent of items are lost on public transport.

With such a high percentage of loss happening in concentrated bursts, there’s a strong case for businesses and individuals to make sure that they are protected by ensuring that their items are insured and that the data on their electronic devices is backed up.

Beware 18:00 on Saturdays in December!

With more items going missing at 18:00 on Saturdays in December than any other time, businesses and individuals should protect both their physical items and their data against loss.

Transition from work life to home life creates perfect environment for loss

December is the month in which most items are lost, with Saturdays being the worst days for loss and nearly as many items going missing on Fridays and Saturdays than the rest of the week put together. Loss peaks at 18:00.

The transition from daytime activities to evening activities seems to create a perfect environment for loss. People dashing from the office, laptop bag in hand, to meet friends for an evening out, or people going from a day of shopping to a dinner with friends seem to be the most likely to get distracted and carried away – or are simply carrying too much to keep track of everything. With people more inclined to be travelling to meet friends and family and to have more social commitments at Christmastime, it’s no wonder that December is the most loss-packed month. A person leaving the office on a Friday night with an overnight bag and an armful of presents in addition to their usual laptop bag is, unsurprisingly, more likely to lose track of what they have with them.

Similarly, making last-minute arrangements of where to meet or snapping the highlights with your phone’s camera mean that more of us are using our smartphones – the most common item to go missing.

In areas where commuting for work on public transport is common, there’s also a peak in loss in the morning, which appears to correspond to travel to work. Nineteen per cent of loss recorded was on public transport.

There’s also a seasonal peak in the summer, which appears to reflect loss whilst enjoying a summer holiday.

Peak time for loss

What time of the day are you most likely to lose/have your lost something?

Graph Peak Time For Loss Uk Ie

Peak day for loss

On which day of the week are you most likely to lose/have your lost something?

Graph Peak Day For Loss

Peak month for loss

Which month of the year are you most likely to lose/have your lost something?

Graph Peak Month For Loss

Explore the country’s lost property hotspots

Cork, Galway and Dublin form the Bermuda Triangle of Ireland

Is your hometown a loss hotspot? Explore our loss map to find out where the most items go missing.

Lost And Found Loss Map Heat Map Ie

Busy business people put data at risk

With 70 per cent of people having lost a data storage device, business plans, contracts and proposals are disappearing in the back of taxicabs, in hotel rooms and on commuter trains

It’s the data that counts when devices get lost

The transition from work life into social life coincides with the peak time of day for losing things. Nineteen per cent of property that’s lost is mislaid on public transport but people who travel to work by car are also likely to experience loss with 11 per cent of lost and stolen items disappearing from a car.

Both electronic and data and printed information are at risk. The most commonly lost item is the smartphone, which, in our increasingly app-driven working environments, carry more business data than ever before. However, paperwork also features in the top 10 and 7.5 per cent of people have lost their laptop in the last 12 months.

The more frequently you carry it, the more likely you are to lose it

With more of us carrying smartphones than ever before, it’s no wonder that they are creeping up the list of lost items. It might be argued that, because we tend to take them out of our bags and pockets more frequently than other items, they are the most likely to slip through our fingers. As we use our phones to check messages, surf the web, take photos, play games, shop and even make payments, we’re forever picking them up and putting them down – and hopefully remembering where!

Other regularly lost items include, keys, credit cards and wallets – all things that we’re used to carrying but are small enough to escape our notice if we don’t have them with us.

Which of the following items have you lost (or had stolen) in the past 12 months?

Graph Loss List Us

Item ten on the list, ‘paperwork’, reminds us that it’s not just technology that can put data at risk. We’re still capable of losing our printed documents too.

There were several international discrepancies in the types of items that we lose. Fashion-conscious French are twice as likely to lose a favorite item of clothing than the Brits and four times as likely as Germans. Americans are twice as likely to lose laptops as Germans and four times as likely to lose their keys. Germans however are two-and-a-half times as likely to lose their purse or wallet as Brits or the French. The dreary weather in the UK might be the reason that the Brits are half as likely to lose their sunglasses than people in any other country.

The sadness stakes

Data is more important than devices

Losing anything is an upsetting experience, but the research shows that people are most upset when they lose things that are difficult or impossible to replace. Overall, respondents were most frustrated by the loss of bank and credit cards, which present the problems of living without ready access to money until they can be replaced as well as putting people through the hassle of cancelling the cards and reclaiming anything fraudulently spent on them.

After cards, data storage devices in the form of laptops and smartphones take the second and third places respectively. And the statistics show that it’s not the devices themselves that people are sad about losing but the data that is stored on them. Fifty-seven per cent of people who had lost a device of this type stated that they were more upset about losing their data than they were about the gadget. With phones and laptops packed with pictures, documents and messages that are often irreplaceable, it’s, perhaps, no surprise that this is the case. When it comes to work devices, clearly, the business information on the device is likely to be the primary concern when a laptop goes missing.

With younger people, arguably, making their phones and laptops more central to their lives, they were more upset about losing them than their older counterparts. The prevalence of sadness at the loss of cards was driven by older respondents, where 25 per cent of people aged over 55 put it at the top of their list, compared to just 11 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds.

Graph Sadness Stakes

Conversely, 27 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds rated laptops as the item they’d be most upset about losing, compared to 10 per cent of over 55 year olds. Twenty-three per cent of 18 to 24 year olds placed their smartphone at the top of the list compared to just 5 per cent of over 55 year olds.

What were you more upset about losing – the data or the device?

Graph What Were You More Upset About Losing

Sadness stakes

The emotional attachment people place on data, and the complexity and inconvenience of replacing bank and credit cards make them the most upsetting things for people to lose.

Billions lost every year

With the average person losing over £60 worth of stuff every year, billions are being lost.

The true cost of loss

With the average person losing 1.24 items a year and just half of them being returned, every three years each person will have two items that they never see again.

The average value of a lost item is $176.25 and the average person irretrievably loses $95.78 of stuff each year.

Across all five countries surveyed, that’s a total loss of more than $47 billion every year.

But that doesn’t take into account the emotional value attached to the lost items. Losing a smartphone filled with pictures of the owner’s children is likely to mean a lot more than simply losing the phone itself.

Similarly, losing a laptop filled with work information can damage not only the business you work for but also your career if the incident changes people’s perception of you.

Looney loss list

False teeth are some of the craziest things that turned up again and again on our lost list, with over 15 people stating that they’d been the unlucky finders of someone else’s false teeth.

Cannonballs, guns, a mummified dog and a parakeet were also found by respondents to our survey proving that no matter how precious, large or cumbersome an item is, it’s still possible to lose it.

Here’s our list of the looniest lost items our respondents found:

• 1947 Florin

• £3000 in £10 notes

• A chicken

• A handcuff key

• A hogs pudding

• A safe

• One Prada shoe

• Two guinea pigs

• A bag of worms

•A bowler hat

• C17th cannonball

• False teeth

• Mummified dog

• Rolex

• An antler

• A rowing machine

• A cash register

• A small antique clock

• £100,000 in vouchers

• A bag of worms

• A bowler hat

• C17th cannonball

• False teeth

• A rowing machine

• A black pearl in a shell

• A full bank deposit bag

• A samurai sword

• A .45 calibre handgun

• A draft screen play

• A parakeet

• A little black book

• A cucumber in an umbrella stand

• A winning scratch card

• A gold tooth

Protect yourself against loss

It’s sad that the items we hate to lose are the ones that we lose most often. But it appears that the reason why we’re so sad about losing them is not because we value our smartphones and laptops particularly, but because we will miss the data that’s stored on them.

Technology exists today to enable people to back up their digital content and protect themselves against this sort of loss. As awareness grows, the frustration associated with this sort of loss could be diminished.

In the meantime, Friday and Saturday early evenings in December will remain hotspots for loss and both businesses and individuals should be wary at these times to make sure they avoid the heartbreak that loss can bring.


In 2012, Mozy surveyed 3,500 people in the US, UK, Ireland, France and Germany regarding their experience of losing and finding items.

The survey was conducted independently by One Poll on behalf of Mozy, the world’s most trusted provider of online backup solutions.

Click here to find out more about Mozy and its tools for mobile data access and online data backup.