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Ask Chicagoist: Will I Ever See My Laptop Again?

By Thales Exoo in Miscellaneous on Jan 10, 2008 3:04PM

2008_01_asklaptop.jpgHi Chicagoist,
My roommates and I hosted a super fun party last weekend. Good times were had by all. Until my laptop and my roommate's ipod walked off. Who does shit like that? Obviously, we don't think one of our friends stole these things - we're thinking a friend of a friend who showed up later in the night? I filed a police report over the phone, and called the Apple people to tell them my laptop's serial number (they said they'd "flag" it, in case someone brought it in for repairs or whatever).

Is there anything else I can do? I'm so sad/mad/frustrated/confused. Who the fuck would go to someone's house, enjoy their hospitality, and then steal their laptop. PLUS, it's a laptop. I mean, it takes some balls to unplug it and walk off with a laptop, right? My lesson was don't get so drunk at your own party and leave the room where expensive things are lying around. But should we have to be so paranoid? What are the chances that my lovely Powerbook will come back to me?

Any advice would be great. Or if you could find the jerks that stole our stuff and kick them in the balls, that would be great, too.


Oh, Julie!

We're so sorry. Honestly, our entire lives reside on our laptop, and reading your letter made us break out in a cold sweat and rock back and forth in a dark corner for awhile, whimpering. Stealing from a gracious host is really unfathomable to us, and taking someone's laptop is akin to pure unadulterated evil.

Unfortunately though? The FBI says the number of stolen laptops that are never recovered is 97%. While we hope that you get to be one of the fortunate 3%, chances are probably more on the side that it's time to upgrade the Powerbook to a nice shiny new MacBook Pro.

We think when there's a chance there's going to be anyone you don't know in your home, it's a good idea to secure valuables, or at least hide them out of sight. Should you have to be so paranoid? We wish you didn't, but we imagine after losing your Apple products, you will be for now on. Same thing goes for electronics as would go for any kind of personal information, credit cards, cash -- whatever is super valuable to the point that you could imagine why someone else would want it, keep out of the hands of strangers and borderline pals.

Still, assuming everyone at the party was a friend of a friend, and not a random wandering in off the street, sounds like it's time to make some phone calls (luckily they didn't steal your phone too). Pretend you're Veronica Mars, Nancy Drew, Miss Marple, Angela Lansbury, or some other super smart detective woman of your choice [Ed note: Olivia Benson!], and call up everyone at the party. Make a list. Who was there? Ask the people you know who the people you don't know were. Ask if anyone noticed someone acting weird, wandering into rooms no one else was in, or walking around with a laptop bag and a burglar mask. Now we don't suggest accusing people (you could be wrong) or taking the law into your own hands or asking people offensive questions about their friends, but maybe a little detective work could help. Chances are you'll come up knowing nothing, but if TV has taught us anything, it's that you never can tell who saw something and will confess on the spot!

Well that probably won't really happen, so consider keeping an eye on ebay and Craigslist (borrow someone's computer?). Especially for sellers with both a used Powerbook and iPod up for sale.

As for the data on your computer, we hope you had backups. There's no reason everyone shouldn't invest in a cheap external hard drive (which you'd also want to hide during parties) backup their data (since you're a Mac user, we think Leopard's new Time Machine feature is a nice, no-brainer way to go). Avoiding the pain and suffering when your laptop gets stolen or your system fries is well worth the $150 price tag.

Also, if you're worried about the security of your personal information and data, here are some tips (password protection, laptop locks, data encryption, questionably valuable laptop tracking software -- smart pilferers will wipe the hard drive ) to help secure yourself against thieves. Again, won't help Julie out much, but might help someone in the future. Although who knows -- what your computer does when you're not using it might help recover the stolen computer too.

Oh and next time? Not only hide and lock up your (new) laptop, but maybe also have a designated sober and responsible person to keep an eye on things. It's the safe thing to do even when you're not overly concerned about things getting stolen. And maybe keep the friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend invitees to a minimum, if at all possible.

"laptop lock" image via sethw

Want to kick some laptop-thieving ass? Need some advice? Email ask(at)chicagoist(dot)com.