Twitter-Mob Helps Take Down Laptop Thief in New York

I suspect we don’t have many criminal readers. But I’ll say it once again: don’t steal laptops.

Canadian Sean Power recently had his bag, with among other things, his birth certificate and Mac laptop, stolen while in New York. But this machine was outfitted with a little piece of software aptly called Prey.

I won’t bore you with the entire story, which you can read here (with some NSFW language) as it unfolded live over Twitter late last week.

The short version is that by using Prey, Power was able to snap a photo of the new “owner” and view screenshots of the person accessing things like his banking account information, Facebook page and e-mail account. With a little more research, Power tracked down the man’s name and exactly where the laptop was.

But he was not in town and able to do anything. Enter Twitter, where Power publically shamed the person (it’s unclear whether the man actually stole the laptop or just bought the machine from a less-than-reputable source) with the information he accessed using the open-source, anti-theft software

Two of Power’s Twitter followers read about the dilemma went to the bar to stake out the scene and wait for police. But Powers called the police, and was told that he had to file a report in person before the authorities could become involved (which does make sense, I wouldn’t want police to arrest me from a random phone call.)

Power’s friends then stepped, in convincing the man in question to turn over the machine (which has been defaced with a fresh paint job) without any questions.

So here’s to another laptop theft foiled. I don’t know about you, but installing Prey has just jumped  to the top of my list of things to do this week.

Posted by Brent Dirks on May 16, 2011

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