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Never Steal Computers From The Tech-Savvy

by Adriana Lee | May 23, 2011May 23, 2011 6:00 am PDT

Sean Power’s laptop may have been stolen, but let’s make one thing clear: This tech author and consultant is no victim. He didn’t cry or shrug it off, but tracked his computer, got it back and even shamed the guy who took it. All this, from hundreds of miles away.

Power, whose computer was taken in New York City, was actually on a trip to Canada when the drama went down a couple weeks ago. But that didn’t stop him from being the main protagonist in this plotline, thanks to a free gadget-tracking program called Prey. Using the open-source software, he monitored the laptop’s usage and noted the wireless SSID (or network name) — it was one he recognized! The computer was being used in a well-known Soho restaurant and bar, and thanks to seeing the perpetrator’s Skype and Gmail accounts, Power also had a name: (NAME REMOVED BY REQUEST), one of the co-founders of the establishment.

So how do we know this all went down as Power says? Well, he microblogged the whole thing on Twitter.

TWEETS REMOVED BY REQUEST

Thanks to the software, Power now had a photo of the guy using his computer.

At this point, I’d like to say that the evidence — including name, location and photograph — was handed over to the cops, who busted this guy. I would like to, but I can’t. The police can’t act until the victim shows up in person to file a report, and as stated, Power was up north at the time. The Twitterverse, on the other hand, knows no geographic limits.

Not only did his followers see the story unfold as it was happening, but they got involved. While some advised caution or dug up the research on who(NAME REMOVED BY REQUEST) was, others stepped in and actually went to the bar, to see that(NAME REMOVED BY REQUEST) and the laptop would still be there when the authorities arrived. When they received word that the police weren’t coming, they then got friendly with the staffers. In the end, Power and his Tweeples got(NAME REMOVED BY REQUEST) — who insists he didn’t steal the computer, but found it — to return the laptop. It was a little worse for wear, having been painted silver on the back, but still functional.

The moral of the story: Well, it’s not that you or anyone should confront alleged thieves. This had a happy ending, but it wouldn’t have if the perpetrator was actually dangerous. (Power even thanked the guy for letting the matter resolve peacefully.)

Here’s a better lesson: Don’t take devices that are not yours. You could wind up in the annals of online history. Like this guy.

I guess shame is a powerful way to get people to return stolen stuff.(NAME REMOVED BY REQUEST) had even naively asked Power “to take down my picture from the web?…” (Sorry. As the great Sue Sylvester once noted about toothpaste and rumors: Once it’s out there, you can’t put it back in.)

 

And who could forget Mark Bao’s power move a few months ago? When someone stole this 18-year-old tech and business wünderkind’s MacBook Air, he tunneled in remotely and dug up a weird video the thief recorded on it — of himself dancing to Tyga’s “Make It Rain.”

Bao did what anyone else would do in this situation — he posted the video (LINK REMOVED BY REQUEST) on YouTube. The clip went so viral (it currently has over a million and a half views), the crook returned the computer and begged(LINK REMOVED BY REQUEST), “Can you please put down the videos you put of me?”

The name of the clip? “Don’t steal computers belonging to people who know how to use computers.”

Indeed.

[via TheNextWeb, NicholasReese.com, @seanpower]


Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...

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