Earlier today I sat down at Wayward Coffeehouse to drink a cup of coffee, write a blog and relax. Right after I booted up the computer, I get a notification from Dropbox: “700+ new photos uploaded.” My immediate reaction was “What the deuce? That better not be me!” The photos were actually uploaded into my wife’s Dropbox account. When I opened the folder, I was greeted with a ton of pics from a girl and who I assume is her boyfriend.
It took me 15 seconds to realize that whoever had uploaded these photos must have done so from one of our stolen laptops. I immediately entered Sherlock Holmes mode, backed up the entire file folder, and began scouring the photos for information on who was this girl. Luckily, there were photos with her name and even her address. A quick Facebook search with this information turned out her profile.
Lucky break number 2: most of her profile was public. I had access to her employment, her family members, friends, and the town she lives in. Unfortunately her email and phone number wasn’t listed. I wrote her a message letting her know I had her photos, that they were uploaded from a stolen computer, and if she didn’t contact me by this afternoon I would take everything to the police. (I also included a few of the “racy” photos in case she thought I was lying) Then I sent the same message to every person in her family, sans the racy photos.
At this time I had to meet some friends for lunch. I was really excited as much by the chase as by the possibility of recovering one of our stolen items. I had written them off as gone. What was really shocking was how much information I was able to track. Over lunch, my friends seemed to struggle between happiness (that I had a lead) and horror (that I was easily able to glean all this info).
After lunch I still hadn’t heard any word from the young woman. I went down her family member list, looking for their places of employment. I was able to speak with two of her cousins, who unfortunately didn’t have her information. Finally, I was able to find her father’s phone number. After a brief conversation with him, he agreed that it would be best to give me her mobile number. I called and left a message. Then I realized that I had all the info I needed to find where she worked. A quick Google search let me know where the closest Wendy’s restaurant was to her address. Contact achievement unlocked!
Long story short: she got the laptop from her brother, who bought it from a shady “friend” who was selling it at school. I believe she was innocent in the matter. Her brother a little less so. If a guy comes up to you selling a laptop “cheap” no questions asked… well, it’s time to ask questions. However, he was very forthcoming with the contact info for the guy who sold it to him.
His number came up as disconnected. However, he never removed it from his Facebook account! A quick search pulled up his profile page, from which I took plenty of information (including that of his girlfriend and friends). I wrote on his page that if he didn’t contact me quickly, I would turn his information into the police. 5 minutes later I got a phone call from a “restricted” number; I believe this was the guy (or one of) who robbed our home.
He was young and by his language, was obviously a wannabe gang-banger. He started out saying he didn’t know anything about a laptop. Then when I told him I had proof, he pressed a story that his “cousin” gave him the laptop to sell. What a load of crap. He wouldn’t give me his cousin’s contact info or even the guy’s name. Eventually, I had enough of his crap and hung up the phone. I had all the information I needed.
I contacted the Seattle Police Department who sent an officer to collect my information. The officer was pretty impressed by all the pictures, contact information, and other bits of intelligence I had gathered. He said that in most robbery cases, unless there was a lead like mine, it was almost impossible to make headway. Now that they had all this to go on, they’re hoping to close the case on a number of robberies in our neighborhood!
When the day started, I had much different plans on what I wanted to do. By the end, I found myself playing covert spy games, following digital bread crumbs where they would lead. On Sunday, I’ll be getting one of our laptops back (the young woman offered to give it back, no problems) and hopefully soon police detectives will be arresting a stupid young man. My hope is that they get the guy(s) off the street and out of other people’s homes.
And maybe I’ll find my other missing tech too!