Computers on the Run: Unusual Tales of Computer Theft

With laptop theft continually plaguing not only universities, but also business travelers, and with concerns over identity data that is sometimes contained on these laptops (such as a laptop stolen from Hewlett-Packard which contained data on some
200,000 former and current employees
), recovery of laptops and prevention of laptop theft has become an issue of greater and greater concern to not only the IT department, but also the physical security department.

So, on Tuesday when the press office from Absolute Software contacted SecurityInfoWatch.com with its list of "unusual tales in crime fighting" -- essentially a list of some of the most notable recoveries the corporations computer tracing technology had aided -- we thought the SIW readers might be interested to hear about the illegal trade of stolen laptops. It appears much of these stolen goods are ending up in online auctions, something that's been a problem for not only stolen laptops, but also been a problem for our loss prevention readers as well, who've seen goods fenced via sites like Ebay and others.

Without frther ado, here's Absolute's list of what it consider the more intriguing recovery stories from the last twelve months:

Stolen Laptop Given Honorable Discharge

In October 2005, a laptop reported stolen from a college in Illinois began calling in to the Absolute Monitoring Center from an Army barracks stateside. Before a recovery could be attempted, the laptop began calling in from Iraq. The user of the laptop had joined the National Guard and, once contacted in Iraq, indicated he had bought the laptop from someone at the college. The soldier promptly shipped the laptop back to the States where it was returned to its rightful owner. As a token of support to the troops, Absolute provided the serviceman with a new replacement computer.

Chop Shop Uncovered Thanks to Computrace

In Texas, Computrace led police to an auto repair shop, where they found not only the laptop that had been reported stolen, but a stolen luxury SUV, worth over $50,000. Numerous arrests ensued, and the case continues.

Santa Returns Laptops Stolen During Hurricane Katrina

Three laptops reported stolen during Hurricane Katrina were purchased by a woman in Alabama over an online auction service. The buyer kept one of the laptops for herself, and arranged for Santa to give the other two to her kids for Christmas. When informed that the used laptops she had purchased were stolen, Santa Mom offered up the computers. Not wanting to ruin Christmas for the kids, local law enforcement gave Santa a few days grace, giving her time to purchase two identical new laptops, transfer the electronic files over while the kids slept, and then replace the laptops, with the kids none the wiser!

Laptop Takes World Tour, Calls Home Often

A laptop reported stolen from a student in New Jersey in October 2005, called in to Absolute’s Monitoring Center five days later from Hong Kong.

Shortly thereafter, the laptop began calling in from England, then Dubai, then England again, and next from a hotel in Florida. When the laptop popped up in Massachusetts the next day, state police apprehended an astonished Hong Kong businessman who had bought the computer through an online auction service. A detective who helped crack the case sums it up: "I don't think I'd ever want you guys chasing me."

Stolen Laptops Flunk Student

Two laptops reported stolen from a university in Florida began calling from the same location. Detectives discovered the suspect was a student at the university – and was using the laptops to send out graduation invitations to his family and friends. When a detective knocked on the door and asked the student if he knew why he was there, he replied, matter-of-factly, that he’d stolen two laptops from school. Despite the student’s admirable - though belated – cooperation, the youth was charged with two counts of grand theft and will not be graduating.

Over 100 Laptops Recovered for Independent School District

Over 100 stolen or missing laptops have been recovered for one of the nation’s largest Independent School Districts (ISD) since they installed Computrace on the district’s 15,000 computers. Laptops belonging to this ISD have been recovered from Texas to New Jersey to California after having been purchased by unsuspecting bargain-hunters at pawn shops, flea markets, garage sales, parking lots – even a car wash. Computers belonging to this ISD have been recovered along with other stolen goods and narcotics.

Police Use Computrace-Enabled Laptop in Sting Operation

A Police Department in Texas arranged for a laptop protected by Computrace to end up in the hands of an individual under surveillance. The Computrace-enabled laptop helped police to ultimately break up a crime ring involved in identity theft and the production of counterfeit credit cards.

Stolen Laptop Brings Down House of Crime

A stolen laptop recently pointed authorities in North Carolina to an individual allegedly involved in a wide range of criminal activity.

According to local law enforcement officers, the ensuing investigation of the residence revealed not only the stolen laptop, but various other allegedly stolen goods, including another computer ready to ship to an unsuspecting shopper from an online auction service. Also found at the residence were large amounts of contraband. Numerous charges are pending, while the investigation continues.

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