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Retrieving a Stolen Laptop By IP Address Alone?

kdawson posted about 4 years ago | from the schooling-the-law dept.

Crime 765

CorporalKlinger writes "My vehicle was recently burglarized while parked in a university parking lot in a midwestern state. My new Dell laptop was stolen from the car, along with several other items. I have no idea who might have done this, and the police say that without any idea of a suspect, the best they can do is enter the serial number from my laptop in a national stolen goods database in case it is ever pawned or recovered in another investigation. I had Thunderbird set up on the laptop, configured to check my Gmail through IMAP. Luckily, Gmail logs and displays the last 6 or 7 IP addresses that have logged into your account. I immediately stopped using that email account, cleared it out, and left the password unchanged — creating my own honeypot in case the criminal loaded Thunderbird on my laptop. Sure enough, last week Gmail reported 4 accesses via IMAP from the same IP address in a state just to the east of mine. I know that this must be the criminal who took my property, since I've disabled IMAP access to the account on all of my own computers. The municipal police say they can't intervene in the case since university police have jurisdiction over crimes that take place on their land. The university police department — about 10 officers and 2 detectives — don't even know what an IP address is. I even contacted the local FBI office and they said they're 'not interested' in the case despite it now crossing state lines. Am I chasing my own tail here? How can I get someone to pay attention to the fact that all the police need to do is file some RIAA-style paperwork to find the name associated with this IP address and knock on the right door to nab a criminal and recover my property? How can I get my laptop back — and more importantly — stop this criminal in his tracks?"

cancel ×


Report it to the Univeristy's judicial board... (4, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | about 4 years ago | (#32881912)

University cops do the bidding of the school... they're more into securing physical spaces and crowd control than anything in the tech sphere. But there's some part of the school that handles the misbehaving students, and they're the ones to contact. You've got your $1000 laptop missing, they get to threaten his $30,000-$120,000 investment in education.

This is the threat the RIAA/MPAA loves to use, they don't have the school police raid the computer, they just get the school admins to hammer the kid.

Re:Report it to the Univeristy's judicial board... (5, Funny)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about 4 years ago | (#32881964)

University cops do the bidding of the school...

Just call the RIAA and tell them that IP downloaded a song. They seem to be able to do all the John Doe stuff through the courts to find out who it was...

Re:Report it to the Univeristy's judicial board... (2, Insightful)

crafty.munchkin (1220528) | about 4 years ago | (#32882230)

for love of all thing good, pure, and fuck it, all those things evil and malevolent, someone mod this up!!!

Re:Report it to the Univeristy's judicial board... (1, Offtopic)

adamdoyle (1665063) | about 4 years ago | (#32882336)

Seriously - why is this not +5 Insightful?! (the RIAA comment)

Re:Report it to the Univeristy's judicial board... (1)

XanC (644172) | about 4 years ago | (#32881968)

I believe that the university police in question are the police of the submitter's own university, in whose jurisdiction the theft originally took place. Nothing to do with the current location of the laptop.

Re:Report it to the Univeristy's judicial board... (2, Insightful)

Compulawyer (318018) | about 4 years ago | (#32882004)

Ummm.. and what if the thief is not a student?

Re:Report it to the Univeristy's judicial board... (0, Troll)

sortius_nod (1080919) | about 4 years ago | (#32882010)

I think CorporalKlinger needs to learn the first rule of owning tech devices - don't leave them unattended in a car. If you can't observe basic security of your own devices then you kind of deserve to have it stolen.

You might as well just leave it sitting on a park bench. Thieves exist, cops can't do much about it. If it was stolen from your home then I'd have sympathy for you. If you don't have theft insurance on your car that covers items in said car then you should consider getting it if you refuse to observe basic anti-theft protocols.

That said, you might want to pressure your governments to stop using excuses to not follow up on crime. How can an university's rent-a-cops have more power than state or federal authorities? The university is within the state/country, the police are the protection for citizens of said state/country.

I know we don't have the same problems here in Australia, crimes that happen on an university campus are covered by state/federal laws, therefore are to be investigated by state/federal police.

Re:Report it to the Univeristy's judicial board... (5, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 4 years ago | (#32882070)

As I read it, it was stolen FROM a university, and is now located one state away.

So neither the local Muni's or the local Uni's are the right jurisdiction.

Where the machine is NOW is what matters. Those are the only cops who can go knocking on doors in that jurisdiction.

Re:Report it to the Univeristy's judicial board... (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 4 years ago | (#32882092)

I suggest using whois to find out who "owns" that IP address- then write a convincing sounding letter to the ISP and pray that it works.

Re:Report it to the Univeristy's judicial board... (1)

icebike (68054) | about 4 years ago | (#32882116)

It won't. You need a court order or at least a letter from the police department in that jurisdiction.

Re:Report it to the Univeristy's judicial board... (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 4 years ago | (#32882278)

You can't force them to do it by yourself, but they can always choose to offer up the information voluntarily. I've known a few small ISPs who would be willing to do this sort of thing.

Post the IP address (4, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#32881952)

Then maybe somebody here will have something close enough for you to be able to identify the ISP.

Re:Post the IP address (1)

TimeOut42 (314783) | about 4 years ago | (#32882036)

Go directly to the ISP that owns the IP number and get the local police there.

Don't forget to post juicy stuff to he email account they are reading so they keep reading it. Then, send and email to infect the computer with a bot so it's easier to track and will automatically report back.


Re:Post the IP address (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 4 years ago | (#32882080)

THIS. A lot of us work network operations (or own networks). Publish the IP, and let the tubes work for you.

Here it is... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882128) That's odd, it seems to be finding... me. Oh man, don't tell the cops.

Re:Post the IP address (1)

A Commentor (459578) | about 4 years ago | (#32882148)

Instead of posting the address, just do a nslookup and/or a traceroute to the IP. That should give some more additional information to track it down. You might have the ISP and other information to go on.

Re:Post the IP address (5, Informative)

CorporalKlinger (871715) | about 4 years ago | (#32882218)

OK, I'm going to post the IP since it's been requested. According to Gmail, it was last accessed 3 hours ago from this IP. The IP address has been the same EVERY time it's been accessed, starting June 28, 2010. It traces to Cincinnati Bell's Fuse Network (a home internet service). I can't get anywhere with Cincinnati Bell's customer service. "Customer privacy rules," they say.

Here's the IP: 208.102 (DOT) 223.137
I split it up so auto-filters and bots wouldn't find it.

Thank you everyone and anyone who may be on the inside of 'Ma Bell who can help me track this thief down. I apologize if this is a TOS violation for Slashdot, but I am really at wit's end and have PROOF that this is the IP that's violating my account. I need your help.

Re:Post the IP address (1)

erstazi (1304229) | about 4 years ago | (#32882264)

The person who stole the laptop is in Ohio?

Re:Post the IP address (3, Informative)

CyberBill (526285) | about 4 years ago | (#32882286) resolves to

Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:
            Hostmaster, Fuse
            Fuse Internet Access
            Cincinnati Bell Telephone
            209 W. Seventh St., 121-550
            Cincinnati, OH 45202
            800-387-3638 fax: 999 999 9999

Contact them.

Re:Post the IP address (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882304)

OrgName: Fuse Internet Access
Address: 209 W. Seventh St.
City: Cincinnati
StateProv: OH
PostalCode: 45202
Country: US

OrgAbuseName: Fuse Internet Access Abuse Team
OrgAbusePhone: +1-513-397-6598

OrgTechName: Fuse Internet Access Operations Center
OrgTechPhone: +1-800-387-3638

Re:Post the IP address (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882306)

Do you use windows? I'll check our logs and kick the shit out of this asshole myself, but only if you'r a penguin. Windows faggots can suck my jock sweat.

Re:Post the IP address (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882344)

OMG, we tracerouted the IP address and it's coming from upstairs!

mod parent UP (2, Interesting)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | about 4 years ago | (#32882226)

post the IP. let the internet hate machine do its thing. trust us, it's for the best. you will probably have your laptop back in less than a week, with hilarious results.

This is what pisses me off about police (5, Insightful)

teshuvah (831969) | about 4 years ago | (#32881954)

We saw that the police bent over backwards and ransacked a man's home when he possessed a missing iPhone of Apple's. But when a normal person loses an item and has a lead for the police to go on, they aren't interested. Just further proof that the justice system is bought and paid for by corporations, and they exist only to ensure that corporations make money. Sickening.

The two situations are not comparable ... (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882208)

We saw that the police bent over backwards and ransacked a man's home when he possessed a missing iPhone of Apple's. But when a normal person loses an item and has a lead for the police to go on, they aren't interested. Just further proof that the justice system is bought and paid for by corporations, and they exist only to ensure that corporations make money. Sickening.

If the laptop owner had provided a name and address and reasonable cause to believe this person possessed his laptop wouldn't the police have gone into this person's home? If Apple had told the police someone at this possibly shared or possibly temporary IP address has our phone wouldn't Apple have also been ignored?

Once upon a time I knew a few college students publishing software from their garage, literally. At a local computer swapmeet they found someone commercially pirating and selling their disc. They bought a copy and called the FBI. Within a few days the FBI came over, took their statements and then the FBI visited the commercial pirate. The FBI did not care that the victim was 3 students running a company from their garage.

wait... if it was $5 of crack (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882334)

or a similar amount of weed they might find and raid the address. its incredible that, yes, the police are not here to help us, even when it just makes common sense that they should, yet they choose not too. in most countries they exist simply to make money

This is why you have insurance. (2, Troll)

zonky (1153039) | about 4 years ago | (#32881956)

Move on with your life.

Re:This is why you have insurance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32881966)

May I have your address?

Re:This is why you have insurance. (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | about 4 years ago | (#32882118)

1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC, DC 20500

If you decide you have the balls to break in and steal stuff, post pix. This I have GOT to see ...

Re:This is why you have insurance. (1)

TimeOut42 (314783) | about 4 years ago | (#32882052)

No, only if you don't have any leads. He has good info; it should be followed up on.

Re:This is why you have insurance. (4, Insightful)

Canie (652059) | about 4 years ago | (#32882252)

Maybe it's his insurance company he should be contacting anyway. They may do their own investigation based on your evidence because they don't want to have to pay a claim. They may have a little more clout than the average citizen too.

Re:This is why you have insurance. (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 4 years ago | (#32882324)

The insurance deductible is probably more than the laptop's worth. And he knows the thief's IP address, which should be enough to track him down to a specific home. (My IP address hasn't changed in several weeks.) It's a trivial thing to do; he needs one letter from the DA to make it happen, and one police report to get the DA to write the letter. But neither of them gives a shit about him, because he doesn't live in their jurisdiction.

Oh - so sorry, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32881958)

Your privacy is much more important than that plastic thingy - no help for you, who ever you are.

What a retard (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32881960)

Is the person asking this question retarded?

IP not precise enougn (4, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about 4 years ago | (#32881984)

That IP could be behind a router at a School or Library with thousands of computers behind it.

There is no way to determine who is leasing that IP without forcing ip block owner to cough up records. That will probably take a court order, and they won't tell you, (fearing you will show up gun in hand).

If you get a court order they will tell the local authorities in the jurisdiction where the IP resides. That could be any one of 20 different police departments if it is in an urban area.

But if you can track it to a specific area, (traceroute is your friend), you might get a cop from an small not too busy department to go out and check the address.

I say MIGHT.

Busy departments will laugh you off and tell you to file an insurance claim.

Replevin (5, Informative)

Compulawyer (318018) | about 4 years ago | (#32881986)

Go to your University's legal aid office and talk to an attorney. If your University doesn't have a legal aid/legal affairs office that helps students, go to the community's legal aid office to see if you qualify for free legal services. Even if you do not, you may still be able to get the name of an attorney who will be willing to help.

See if you can file a civil replevin action against John Doe to recover the laptop. That will give you the ability to issue subpoenas to trace the IP address. Once you have the identity of the thief, report the information to both the campus police (for the theft) and to the local police (for possession of stolen property). Good luck!

Re:Replevin (3, Insightful)

gd2shoe (747932) | about 4 years ago | (#32882068)

There's a good point here. In many (most?) states, knowingly possessing stolen property above a certain value is a crime, regardless of who stole it. If the cops aren't interested, a state DA's office might be.

contact the network admins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32881988)

This is in a university? Contact the network administrators. If you are lucky, they will tell you the room number. With the MAC address, which you probably have in your router's DHCP lease file, you could confirm that it's your PC.

Re:contact the network admins (1)

SCPRedMage (838040) | about 4 years ago | (#32882084)

I know it's bad form to read the article, but not reading the SUMMARY? The IP address accessing the account is in another STATE.

Man up or move on (-1, Flamebait)

bakamorgan (1854434) | about 4 years ago | (#32881992)

I saw get some friends and some guns and do the job your self or move on.

Use your email (4, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | about 4 years ago | (#32881994)

Obviously they've launched Thunderbird, so they are possibly interested in gleaning whatever information they can in that way. You could try sending a trojan to your account in the hopes that they run it, in order to open some remote access to your machine. Perhaps based on their web browsing history, etc, you can determine more specifically who they are.

Also note that the person may have purchased your laptop unaware that it was stolen.

Re:Use your email (1)

Idbar (1034346) | about 4 years ago | (#32882206)

Also note that the person may have purchased your laptop unaware that it was stolen.

A person who purchased the laptop from someone, and it's not aware of it, shouldn't be checking your email account, unless he knows it and it's planning to return it. Opening your mail client 4 times seems suspicious to me.

In any case, if you could get to login to your computer and use it as proxy you could probably use firefox to determine your approximate location, or simply download a hell lot of movies/music and wait for the RIAA/MPAA to do the rest.
Unluckily, I'd guess it's probably behind a NAT, or may have no remote services enabled.

Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32881996)

Do a 419 email scam on your email account to see if they falls for it. Tell them you need to launder some money.

No agency is gonna care (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | about 4 years ago | (#32882000)

No agency is gonna care your laptop is a statistic now to them that's all. Best thing you can do is post the IP and hope some vigilante pwns the thief.

turn it over the bigger crooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882002)

zonky is close.....turn the info over to the insurance company....they might be interested.

Let us take care of it (3, Insightful)

drsmack1 (698392) | about 4 years ago | (#32882006)

Post the IP here and the s/n of the laptop. Then sit back and wait. All *you* did was post some info - just cannot be held responsible for the life-altering ass-beating that the person found with the laptop will most certainly receive.

Sometimes you just have to let the system work.

Re:Let us take care of it (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about 4 years ago | (#32882144)

Right, just make sure you don't deliver said ass-beating to some poor naive kid who didn't realize (even if he should have) he was buying a stolen laptop.

Re:Let us take care of it (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 4 years ago | (#32882212)

DISCLAIMER: I do not condone or endorse violence against the person in possession of the laptop.

If the person who has it is accessing CorporalKlinger's gmail account, using Klinger's password, he has
to know it's stolen.

Speaking of which, CorporalKlinger, have you tried using Google as your sledgehammer? This guy has got to be in violation of some Google TOS and some computer fraud law by accessing your Gmail account.

Re:Let us take care of it (1)

drsmack1 (698392) | about 4 years ago | (#32882316)

Sometimes bad things happen to bad people. If the theoretical "poor naive kid" can talk with a broken jaw, then perhaps we can work our way up the criminal food chain.

This system has worked for thousands of years. Only recently has the theft of someone's personal property been considered something to treat like a small matter.

Did the person who stole the laptop consider the impact of it's loss to the proper owner? What if by losing access to his own laptop the owner lost valuable and unreproducible creative content?

If the thief did not consider this before taking the laptop - there is a PROVEN way to ensure he thinks about it BEFORE he steals the next one.

Municiple police? (1)

gd2shoe (747932) | about 4 years ago | (#32882008)

Are you talking about the police in your municipality, or where your laptop is? I'd contact the latter. They will be the ones who can physically recover your property. Also, many states have their own law enforcement branches. You might contact your neighboring state directly.

If your laptop is expensive enough, or you really don't feel like letting them get away, then hire a lawyer and file a john-joe civil case.

If you do most of the work... (2, Informative)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | about 4 years ago | (#32882018)

the school cops may be more willing to help

This site claims to get it down to the ISP or provider: []

SO, then you would have to look up your local laws and what is needed to identify the person or block that the IP is assigned to. Next, you have to start "kicking down doors" (it might take a few) and recover your property in a stunning raid.

Probably not, get an encrypted hard drive on your next laptop so that it just becomes a brick for anybody that takes it

Re:If you do most of the work... (5, Interesting)

CorporalKlinger (871715) | about 4 years ago | (#32882152)

I got the IP tracked down to Fuse Network on Cincinnati Bell's home internet service. I'm not going to post the IP address here since that probably violates the TOS of Slashdot or something. I will try calling Cincinnati's police tomorrow, but with the size of the city - and the fact the crime took place in Indiana - i doubt I'll get anywhere.

Re:If you do most of the work... (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | about 4 years ago | (#32882214)

Well, since they took the laptop over state lines it's probably a federal offense.

Re:If you do most of the work... (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 4 years ago | (#32882246)

But the FBI isn't going to care over such a low value crime.

Re:If you do most of the work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882282)

"I'm not going to post the IP address here since that probably violates the TOS of Slashdot or something."

You must be new here.

Re:If you do most of the work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882178)

When has encrypting your hard drive resulted in it getting bricked, evar!

Re:If you do most of the work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882328)

This website is a whole lot of fail. I'm in phoenix and it shows me in denver. I own a small software company that sells software that does remote data destruction. If your laptop is stolen we can remotely retrieve files,delete files and even kill ms windows but we stay away from recovery, too many variables. A vpn tunnel that routes all internet traffic can show an ip address coming from a completely different part of the world. Even somewhat accurate results will be a few miles off. Unless gps is involved you have no chance of getting the box back. Lojack for laptops will promise recovery but won't work for this one as it is not installed.

Dear FBI (1)

Frogbert (589961) | about 4 years ago | (#32882028)

On X day at X time I was emailed child porn and/or terrorism material from the following IP address AAA.BBB.CCC.DDD

Now that your dell serial is on the national stolen goods database the rest should sort itself out.

Re:Dear FBI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882062)

He said he wanted to get the laptop back, not have it irretrievably destroyed.

Re:Dear FBI (1)

CFD339 (795926) | about 4 years ago | (#32882130)

That's a great way to end up in jail, where you won't be needing that laptop.

Re:Dear FBI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882180)

just send the email from an anonymous account on tor while using open wifi at starbucks using a modified mac address while wearing a disguise :)

GeoIP? (1)

gabereiser (1662967) | about 4 years ago | (#32882040)

What about GeoIP lookup, I'm sure you can narrow it down. Not all IP's can be GeoIP looked up but checkout those IP's at Hope you get some answers.

email some spyware to yourself (1)

richardpenner (681555) | about 4 years ago | (#32882046)

I would likely go all out and begin by emailing some fake juicy pics to yourself from a fake account, and see if the user takes the bait (check the IP logs). if so, send another email from the same person, but this time attach some sort of spyware, that at the very least, turns on the webcam (tell me you have one built in!), installs a keylogger, installs some sort of URL logging software, etc; this guy will likely login to his own email from the machine, and with access to all of this I'd say you're likely to track him down. The only question would be whether the police would be willing to retrieve the laptop for you based on the evidence you've gathered. But your giant cousin Vinnie might love to do just that.

You are an idiot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882056)

Don't leave valuables in your car! It's not a safe or a locker. You probably left you laptop bag sitting out beside your cellphone, mp3 player, wallet, and a couple $100 dollar bills.

Re:You are an idiot (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#32882240)

Right because I'm sure we all carry large bags with us at all times... If it was parked in a university parking lot think of all of the reasons why you wouldn't want to take it in.

Oddly enough not everyone can really lug a 20 pound bag around with all their possible valuables in it. While its true that a car isn't exactly safe, one would think that people wouldn't break into a car simply to get a $600 piece of technology...

Pwn your own (1)

Stavr0 (35032) | about 4 years ago | (#32882066)

Try to actively monitor the gmail IP address, then try to remote-access it while it's online.

If you can connect to remote Registry you might be able to install VNC using the Run regkey and monitor the thief's usage.

Alternately, use the Service Manager to have Remote Desktop running by default.

Re:Pwn your own (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882094)

He's running Ubuntu, you idiot.

Re:Pwn your own (1)

CorporalKlinger (871715) | about 4 years ago | (#32882164)

I have no idea how to do any of this. What's worse - it was a Dell hackintoshed to run OS X, so it doesn't have Windows installed. I have no idea how to gain remote access to a Mac...

Re:Pwn your own (1)

VladTheBad (178747) | about 4 years ago | (#32882262)

If you had filesharing enabled, you can try connecting using AFP and the IP address, or if you had remote access/ssh enabled, you could try that. The problem in both of these cases is that in all likelyhood your laptop is going to be connecting to something via DHCP and will be behind NAT.

Re:Pwn your own (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about 4 years ago | (#32882308)

Wouldn't that be stopped by firewall though? IIRC, you have to first allow port 22 or something from OS X, then you can remote login.

go go go (2, Insightful)

parasite (14751) | about 4 years ago | (#32882072)

(1) WTF cops refuse to arrest the thief when you can give them a direct address to him? Sue them for the cost of the laptop. Take it to small claims, dereliction of duty?

(2) Get the IP and reverse DNS to the ISP name. Then just get your lawyer to write a letter to the ISP demanding the identity on grounds that you need to identify the thief to sue him in civil court. (Since police refuse to make it criminal. Remmeber even OJ Simpson was taken for murder to civil court?) Then sue the police also for all your lawyer expenses, expenses you only had cause the cunts refused to do their jobs.

Two words: (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about 4 years ago | (#32882086)

Vigilante Justice

Report it to Dell (5, Informative)

novafluxx (1089189) | about 4 years ago | (#32882102)

Make sure you call Dell and report it and give them the case number, they can flag it in their system as stolen and if anyone calls in on that system's tag...they'll obtain as much info as they can and act like nothings wrong.

call the ISP (1)

RJBeery (956252) | about 4 years ago | (#32882110)


1) Lookup on the IP and call the ISP. If they're a smaller company they may be willing to give an address "to the police". With an address (and potentially even a heads-up as to when the criminal is home) you've done most of the hard work for the local law enforcement.

2) Expand use of the honeypot. Send yourself some nude pics that are apparently from some girl. Then use your imagination to get the guy to meet you somewhere. "Hey stud, I was thinking of you the other day and snapped a couple of pics for ya. I can't wait to see you at the orgy conveniently located in the state to the East of your current location! See you there!!"

Re:call the ISP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882222)

3) Get promptly shot in the face when you appear.

Wrong Tree (2, Insightful)

dennis612b (1658395) | about 4 years ago | (#32882112)

I don't know if anyone else has pointed out the person using your laptop probably purchased it at a flea market and isn't the guilty party you're hoping to find. You can't even accuse them of recieving stolen goods.

root it (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882114)

Find a rootkit and hack your own laptop. From browsing history alone, you should be able to identify the perp. From there, you could file a civil suit against the ass. A civil suit won't put him in jail, but will get you your property back, will bury him/her in legal paperwork, and will certainly get the attention of the judicial system for criminal charges. If all else fails, turn the fucker's tail pipe into a potato gun.

I have cases like this a lot (5, Informative)

barnyjr (1259608) | about 4 years ago | (#32882120)

I'm a cybercrimes detective and computer forensics examiner in a Sheriff's Department and do this all the time. It simply requires a subpoena to the ISP that the IP address returns to. If the campus police and city police won't do it, try your county or state police agencies (both which also have jurisdiction). In my state, all police officers have power anywhere in the state and I could "technically" investigate and/or charge anyone with a crime anywhere in the state. We just don't typically do this because it's stepping on each other's toes. As a county officer though, I frequently investigate crimes involving cases inside city or town limits if that agency doesn't have the capability. If the IP address ends up being from another state, we just contact the local police there to ask for their assistance.

Keep asking and ask to talk to a supervisor if they are not helping as much as you would like. While there is no obligation from a police agency to necessarily do everything they can on a property crime, most department heads will do what they can to keep the public happy.

Like others have said though, you may simply get a return to a campus, business, or open wireless network.
Good luck.

Re:I have cases like this a lot (0)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 4 years ago | (#32882146)

He said the person was in another state. County and state police don't have jurisdiction in other states.

Re:I have cases like this a lot (2, Informative)

barnyjr (1259608) | about 4 years ago | (#32882216)

You don't need jurisdiction to investigate it. You send out the subpoena, the ISP responds, and you then contact the local police there to investigate further. Most states also allow prosecution of Internet crimes in either the place of the victim OR suspect. Not to mention, the original theft occurred where the victim is at...

Re:I have cases like this a lot (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 4 years ago | (#32882234)

Most states also allow prosecution of Internet crimes in either the place of the victim OR suspect.

Except that stealing a laptop is not an "internet crime". It's just normal theft.

Re:I have cases like this a lot (4, Insightful)

barnyjr (1259608) | about 4 years ago | (#32882254)

If he's getting into the person's gmail account, it most certainly is. It's called "computer trespass" in my state.

But hey, don't take my word for it. I just do it 40 hours per week...

Re:I have cases like this a lot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882298)

Isn't "unauthorized use" of a computer an internet crime?

Re:I have cases like this a lot (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about 4 years ago | (#32882256)

I believe the GP is suggesting getting your county or state agency to contact the out of state agency. The out of state agency is far more likely to respond than if an out of state individual contacted them. Its a professional courtesy and/or encourages reciprocation when the positions are reversed.

Lookup their IP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882122)

Go to the following URL:

Paste the IP into the search box and click "submit query".

This will tell you who their ISP is and where they are located. Call the police department in the city where the ISP is located and file a complaint. They should be able to take it from there.

Civil action (4, Interesting)

KiahZero (610862) | about 4 years ago | (#32882136)

Not legal advice, but you might consider that there is not only a criminal case against the thief, but also a civil case. If you want it back badly enough, you may be able to get a local lawyer to initiate a civil action against the John Doe and subpoena the university to get the identity of the person in possession of the laptop (you could also do this yourself, but it could be very easy for a non-lawyer to make a fatal mistake when going up against the general counsel of a university to enforce the subpoena, assuming they don't just give in, so I don't really think I'd recommend it). That not only identifies who it is so that you could potentially get it returned through the civil court system, it also may increase the likelihood of the police doing something.

Sue the police ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882142)

Sue the police !

Careful now... (1)

PmanAce (1679902) | about 4 years ago | (#32882156)

...the thief might be a regular reader of slashdot lol.

Lucky! (2, Insightful)

dr. chuck bunsen (762090) | about 4 years ago | (#32882168)

Take the opportunity to buy a decent laptop.

Change the nature of the action (5, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 years ago | (#32882182)

It's not just theft of the laptop,

They have illegally used Thunderbird to gain access to your e-mail account.

That means they have gained access to both the laptop and your e-mail account without authorization.

Maybe you don't need to stop with the police. File a suitable civil action, and get a court order to compel the ISP to reveal the information.

Not just theft of property, but gaining access to 2 computer systems without authorization, aka 2 accounts of computer fraud and abuse, AND 1 count of theft/conversion.

whois is your friend (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882188)

at the very least it will give you the administrative contact information for the isp that controls the address. A little bit of social engineering might get you somewhere but probably not.

Your best bet is probably just to suck it up because you could get in all kinds of trouble if you try to follow it up too recklessly.

You just need to be more interesting (2, Insightful)

dilvish_the_damned (167205) | about 4 years ago | (#32882228)

You don't care about the laptop, its just Hugh Hefner is going to be pissed if you don't get his pictures back. Won't work, but at least you and the cops will have more fun as they ignore you.

Subpoena... I do it all the time (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882232)

First, find out if small claims court in your state has subpoena power (it varies from state to state).

If it does, file a "John Doe" case in small claims court. If not, file a "John Doe" case in regular court. You sue the John Doe for "common law conversion" of the laptop.

After the case is filed, then get a subpoena from the clerk of the court, and serve it on the ISP that has the IP address, requiring them to ID the customer who was using that IP at that date/time.

Easy as pie.

Your laptop could tell you where it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882266)

Uses the same technology that iPhone/Android has for wifi geolocation. Admittedly, this is a bit after the fact, but it shouldn't be too hard to figure out a phone-home app with this stuff.

Threaten them (4, Interesting)

psalm33 (117641) | about 4 years ago | (#32882296)

You have an IP, you have a vague location, and you have an e-mail address that the perp is likely reading. If you can't get law enforcement to do anything about it, and all else fails, they don't have to know that. Send an e-mail telling them that the laptop they are using is stolen property, you have the IP address, which can be used to track their exact location, then give them the location info that you have been able to track. Tell them that you are giving them one chance to respond personally and arrange for return of the stolen property before you contact the authorities to have them arrested. Remind them of the severe criminal penalties for such a theft, and you can even throw in some digital crime mumbo-jumbo (which may or may not actually be prosecutable), to trump up the charges to felony.

The ability to communicate with the possible thief (or eventual owner) is a powerful thing, so if you can't find any other route, don't waste that chance. If it's already been resold, then the new owner may be more than willing to negotiate a return. I had my laptop stolen early last year, and after endlessly calling pawn shops, scouring Craigslist and Ebay for months, we finally gave up. I was perfectly willing to take matters in to my own hands if I saw it turn up on ebay or craigslist, knowing full well that the local Police as much as admitted there was little they could do about it.

User and thief may not be the same person (1)

michael_cain (66650) | about 4 years ago | (#32882318)

How can I get my laptop back -- and more importantly -- stop this criminal in his tracks?

There is at least a reasonable chance that the person currently using the laptop bought it from the original thief. Or bought it from a pawn shop where the original thief disposed of it. If such is the case, you may recover your property after a court appearance or two, but would be unlikely to stop the thief, who has pocketed their profit and moved on.

step 1? (2, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | about 4 years ago | (#32882320)

what's the ip address? you could post it here and get some "help" in more ways than one.

Setting that aside for the moment, the first thing you should be doing is tracerouting the ip address and doing a lookup on it also to see who owns it. That should get you a geographic location and a contact. Figure out who the ISP is and contact them directly. They are almost guaranteed to say they won't give you customer information, expect that. BUT, they are almost certainly used to these sorts of things already, and will know the name and number of their local police department or sheriff you need to contact to GET that request. (THEFT if a matter of jurisdiction, but possession of stolen property is a local matter) Sometimes the ISP requires a subpoena, sometimes they're used to it enough that a fax from the local sheriff on their letterhead will do the trick. Usually they won't give YOU the information, but they will give it to the law enforcement agent. Hopefully, if it was the one the isp recommended to you in the first place, that should be a person experienced in handing this sort of issue, knows what an IP address is etc, and can at least somewhat sympathize with your situation.

All that considered, you may still be crap out of luck if it turns out to be the open wifi at Starbucks. But then again it may pull up a specific home address somewhere. (most thieves are less technical than the police you've been dealing with, and don't forget it's entirely possible your computer has already been sold and is in the hands of a soccer mom or a friend of the thief or through a pawn shop already) Be sure you have EXACT DATE AND TIME to go with the IP addresses, since DHCP leases on cable modems expire and change from time to time. The ISP SHOULD have record of who had what IP when, but don't bet the farm on them keeping that information indefinitely, so you need to act fast. It's very challenging, although possible, to track down a wifi user.

Bonus info: nmap has a very nice OS fingerprint feature that can often guess what is at the end of an ip address. It may say something like "busybox linux vers xxx" indicating a router. or it may say "Mac OS X 10.5" or it may say "windows xp sp 1" etc. If it gives a computer and not a router, you can think more positive.

Post IP address on 4chan (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882332)

You know they're better than the FBI.

If they're dumb enough to use your email account (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32882342)

Maybe they're dumb enough to respond to a phishing email?

Make sure to ask for name, address, SSN, bank account numbers, etc.

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