How My Stolen Computer was Recovered Personal

I’m pleased to announce that thanks to the free software at preyproject.com, and the efforts of the OIJ (Costa Rican FBI), the local police, and some good friends, I now have one of my Macbook Pros that was stolen a couple weeks ago! So, what happened? Here’s the scoop.

Guy at work with my Macbook

About two weeks after the robbery, I started receiving email reports from Prey that someone was using my computer. It looks like the thieves hadn’t formatted my computer after all. They had simply wiped out my user account. I knew this because first, prey was working, and second, I saw my old printers that would have been removed in a reformat. Prey sent me photos of the user and screenshots every 10 minutes, along with a map (which was fairly inaccurate), network information, and some other cryptic technobabble.

From the screenshots, I was able to determine the person’s name and email address. I then searched online and found his Facebook page, where he works, and eventually his phone numbers, home and work address. I admit that it was kind of fun to spy on the guy, to see what he was doing on my computer, and the funny expressions he had staring at the screen. The photos also revealed that he was working in an office, and was an architect.

I first called the police in Escazú, who were very proactive, and were at my house in just 5 minutes. When I told them about all the information I had, they were a little suspicious, until I showed them the software. At that point, they were very impressed, and they wanted me to help them get it on their computers, too. Over the next few days, I got frequent calls from the police asking for more information about where the guy was, as they were ready to pounce on him. However, I was later told by others that this kind of situation is a job for OIJ, not the police, although I’m still not exactly sure why. I did file my original report with OIJ, though, on the day of the robbery.

Report from Prey

On the guy’s Facebook page, I also saw a link to a 13″ Macbook Pro that looked exactly like the other one I lost. So when I gave all of this information to OIJ, they were concerned that he might be dealing in stolen goods, and wanted to make sure we got as much information from him as possible. OIJ contacted him asking to buy the 13″ Macbook, but it turns out that he was only looking to buy that computer, and then decided on mine instead, so he didn’t know the computer was stolen. OIJ then determined to get the computer the next day. However, the next day, he took it back to the store where he purchased it. It looks like he took it back because the battery doesn’t hold a full charge anymore. I have pictures and maps that show all of this as well.

New guy checking out my computer in the store

That same day, just hours later, someone else purchased my computer from the store and took it home. So I had to start the research process over again. This guy jumped right on Facebook. In fact, I never saw him do anything else on the computer besides Facebook. But I was able to figure out from there his full name, and where he worked. OIJ called his work and got his home address, then went to his house and took back the computer that same day. He was pretty shocked to see OIJ at his house, but they had the photos from Prey showing him using my computer, so he understood that it was stolen. He’s going to have to try to get a refund from the store. Poor guy.

So the main questions at this point are, how did the store get my computer? Most likely, the thieves from Puerto Viejo sold it to them. But the store is denying this and doesn’t have any records for where they got it (conveniently). I’m hoping that OIJ will keep a close watch on this store, so they can catch the thieves. There is a chance they have my other computer or iPads as well. I’d have to go and check serial numbers to find out.

OIJ Office San Jose

Today I was able to go to OIJ and pick up my computer. It took about an hour of waiting for them to fill out reports and get authorization, etc. But I did get it. They didn’t have my charger cable, though, so I may have to replace that. But the computer is a lot cleaner than when I had it. It looks like the store wiped it down to look like new, so I appreciate that. I also found that all my old programs were still on the computer. They had just been hidden so that no one could find them. Of course, all of my “Documents” were deleted, so it will take some time to get the computer back to where I had it.

Also, I didn’t know the new admin password for my computer, since it had been changed. So I had to hack into my own computer in order to have full access. It was actually pretty easy. Here are the steps to hack a mac, if you’re interested. You can make this much harder to do by creating a firmware password.

Overall, I’m very happy to have my computer back, and very pleased at how responsive the police and OIJ were. My Tico friend Kincho, who’s brother used to work for OIJ, was a huge help as well, in communicating and making sure everyone understood what was going on.

Also, after working on an 11″ Macbook Air for a couple weeks, I’ve decided I like the smaller lightweight computer more than the Macbook Pro, and it’s plenty fast for my needs. So my next computer will probably be a 13″ Air, and I will sell this larger 15″ Macbook Pro. Smaller computers are easier to travel with as well.

If you haven’t installed Prey on your computer yet, what are you waiting for? It’s free, takes up almost no resources, and could help you get your computer back if it’s ever lost or stolen. I sure wish I had installed it on my other computer, or I might have it back now, as well.


Brandon is a location independent entrepreneur, musician, traveler, worldschooling father, and the principal author of this blog. He's all about reaching his potential and enjoying life to the fullest in every moment while inspiring others to do the same.


Comments

  1. Glad you got it back. Sometimes I think it would be fun to be a detective.

  2. So, so glad you got it back. I imagine that Prey will be the first thing you load onto any new computer you get. I am looking forward to when they also release an iPad version (which their FAQ says they are working on).

    So interesting that you have found you prefer the smaller computer – you were rather resistant to the idea of working on that small of a screen. I really wish that I could have purchased a 13″ rather than the 15″ Mac I got, but the software I mainly use on it wouldn’t run on it – needs the additional resources of the 15.” Maybe someday…

    Are you going to drop by the store and check serial numbers? I’m a little surprised the OIJ didn’t do that while they were in the store… would make sense that they might have the other items as well.

  3. What an experience. I think being a spy would be fun :)
    So glad you got your computer back!

  4. That is crazy!! Way to go, Sherlock!

  5. Jennifer Pearce Says: July 12, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    I agree, it would be fun to be a spy/detective, if not a bit dangerous… So glad you got that computer back. Amazing!

  6. Amazing! Congratulations!! I will put prey on my computers, too!

  7. Wow! Awesome story! Glad to read and hear that you recovered at least some of your property. I’m gonna go check into the Preyproject ware right now! Pura Vida, Amigo!

  8. That’s quite the high tec story. I wonder if you would get that kind of cooperation from the police here in the states?

  9. That doesn’t surprise me about Costa Rica. I hope you had a great trip nonetheless! I lived there for a few years, and heard many, many, many stories of home invasions, robberies, etc. Luckily nothing ever happened to me, but there’s definitely too much crime there now. Most people don’t realize this. I immediately installed Prey after reading your article! Great story.

  10. Nice story. You convinced me to install the program on my laptop and share it with others.

    Here’s why I checked you blog. I had read it a while ago.

    I’m on LinkedIn and was looking at its list of recommendations of people I should connect with and saw your name – the only one that I did not have any known LinkedIn affiliation with. Nothing that I could find in my background or history that matched us. So to me this is spooky and a little troubling. I don’t like those big brother internet companies knowing all about me and try hard to remain anonymous for my privacy. Somehow they made the connection.

    I thought you might find this interesting as well. If you send me an email I’ll give you more info or connect in LinkedIn if you want.

  11. […] my son recovered one of his laptops a few weeks later because he had installed the free Prey Project software. Yeah, Prey! (Yes, I […]

  12. […] in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Lost 2 Macbook Pros, 3 iPads, camera, binoculars, backpacks, and more. Got one computer back thanks to […]

  13. So I’m in Costa Rica now and my surface pro 3 was just stolen. I have prey and lockittight installed on it. I didn’t realize I need there to be an open guest account and am getting no feeds from either apo, any advice? And yes I already filed with oij or whatever its called and the police
    Thanks!

    • It took a few weeks before I started getting hits. If it was stolen and sold to a pawn shop, it may have been wiped or is just waiting to be purchased. As long as the software is still present, once someone hooks it up to the Internet you should start getting info. I hope you get it back!!

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