Overrun by bandits
November 12, 2008 7:10 AM   Subscribe

Most of what I own just got stolen. What should I do that I haven't yet done? And... what now?

I came home from a two day business/shopping trip to find that thieves had kicked in my back door and taken everything. Not just the electronics, and there were plenty of those, but my furniture. My pots and pans. The quilt off my bed. Musical instruments. The food out of the freezer.

I still have bookcases, a dresser, and a bed. And books, of course. No-one steals books but your friends. I rent, and I didn't, stupidly, have renter's insurance.

The cops came and were bemused at the extent of the theft, and they fingerprinted, gave me a form to fill out, and said I wouldn't hear anything for three to six months. When I checked with neighbors, who hadn't seen anything, they said there'd been a string of burglaries in the area.

They got my TV, my PS2, my XBox360, and my laptop and my desktop. I called the bank first thing and got my cards flagged and my checking account closed down, because there was a ton of paperwork with my personal information around, and I don't know if they took any of it. Then I spent a couple of hours at a friend's place on a laptop changing passwords to everything. The systems were both passworded, but it wouldn't take much to hack into them; there's no real information on them, just my digital life for the past few years.

Obviously, I'm reeling. I'm in no state of mind to deal with a crisis like this, but I have to. I'm hoping you folks can point out any steps I'm missing in dealing with this, anything I should be taking care of that I'm not.

I'm going to see if my landlord will let me out of my lease early; there's a housing complex across the back fence from my house, and they can clearly see when I'm home and when I'm not. I was somewhat worried about that when I moved in in February, but I didn't own anything at the time, and I just forgot to be worried as I gradually accumulated stuff during the year. So moving's probably my best option.

Advice would also be appreciated on how I could go about handling this emotionally as well. It's difficult to see everything I've worked for this year gone. Plus, of course, now I have deeper credit card debt and I need all new stuff. If I don't just say the hell with it and go live in a cave somewhere.

Thanks for being here.
posted by MrVisible to Law & Government (33 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have renters insurance? Because if you do, the obvious thing would be to file a claim. It'll set you back $500 or so for the deductible, but you should get sufficient money to put you more or less where you were before the theft. Obviously your data is just gone, but a little money wouldn't hurt.

Your only option is probably to look into suing the landlord for improper maintenance of your apartment. But if he's provided adequate security--and "adequate" really doesn't require all that much in most cases--that isn't going to get you anywhere. If you don't have insurance... you may be SOL.
posted by valkyryn at 7:21 AM on November 12, 2008

From the second paragraph, "I rent, and I didn't, stupidly, have renter's insurance."
posted by nitsuj at 7:24 AM on November 12, 2008

valkyryn, he said he didn't have any. You just missed that. I am so sorry to hear about this. I have no real advice. If you have any religious affiliation, that group may have some resources to help you get the basics back together. Friends and family can probably scrape together some extra furniture and feed you for a week or so. Wow. So sorry. Best of luck.
posted by pearlybob at 7:27 AM on November 12, 2008

I'm so sorry. I can't imagine how violated you must feel.

Moving is a great step! Maybe once you settle down a bit, you can actually get excited about it; think of this as a fresh start like when you get your first apartment away from home with nothing but a used couch and a computer. Also, if you are a member of a church then tell your church family about this - nearly every church hold drives for its members at times like this to help them recover.

Before all that though, you probably need to do a credit freeze your credit. Google whether it's the right option for you, and I guess it would be. There's no telling what information they ended up with, like you said.
posted by Willie0248 at 7:29 AM on November 12, 2008

This sucks and I'm so sorry that it happened to you. You may want to stay with a friend for a couple days if you can. Being alone at the scene, especially with none of your usual distractions (tv, games, etc.) could be hard emotionally. I know I wouldn't get any rest, either out of fear or sheer anger at the situation. I think moving is a good idea. AS for replacing things, thrift stores these days have a lot of household items pretty cheap (due to forclosures).
posted by krix at 7:40 AM on November 12, 2008

The Red Cross helps people after they are displaced by natural disasters, perhaps they can help you?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:44 AM on November 12, 2008

I'd try not to use the cards to get stuff back. It's just stuff.

I had a few things taken from one of the places I rented. They left the things of value, and just went after crap of value to me (personal stuff). They left behind my 1,000 CDs, my computer, the new TV, and took stuff that had no real value. I suspected a person I had been dating, since it seemed aimed to hurt, not to gain valuable stuff.

As far as the emotional part, time will take care of that. Not a lot else you can do. I obsessed on it for months. Been years since I've last thought about it. Mine wasn't as bad as yours though.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:48 AM on November 12, 2008

Don't some credit cards cover theft? If these items were purchased recently using a credit card, investigate to see if you're afforded any protection under their terms. It might be worth it just to call the customer service and see.
posted by barnone at 7:51 AM on November 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

I had a similar thing happen to me several years ago. My burglars weren't quite so thorough, but they did get a lot of stuff. There wasn't a whole lot I could do. I reported it to the police who gave me a number to call if I could find make, model and serial numbers for any of the stuff that was stolen. If you have any of that information, there's a small chance it'll turn up at a pawn shop and you might get some of the stuff back.

I didn't have rental insurance either. The burglars apparently thought I did, because they broke in again a few weeks later, hoping that I'd bought a bunch of replacement stuff in the meantime. So there's a chance you'll have that to look forward to. In my case, I was poor and without insurance, so they didn't get anything in their second go round. If you think you'll be at the same place and have some of the items replaced fairly soon though, definitely get that renters insurance. You should get it regardless, but I can understand wanting to save that money if you're not going to have anything to actually insure for awhile.
posted by hootch at 7:55 AM on November 12, 2008

Your local freecycle group would be a good source for get you by furniture and stuff like pots.
posted by Mitheral at 8:07 AM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sorry for your loss. Now to business.

1) Approach this as a chance for identity theft. You must contact the credit agencies so no one starts getting credit cards or credit in your name without your express permission. It is a pain when you need to open a cell phone account but it is extra insurance. Here is a short article with links

2) Do not buy more stuff beyond the bare basics. Due to your fears of future theft because of proximity to the thieves and also you do not need to carry debt for just STUFF. Stuff that would have declined in value, such as electronics.

3) Breathe. Breathe again. OK. Now, it is always a freakout when a chunk of your life's contents go AWOL however, view this as a opportunity to slim down and re-think the important things in life AFTER you recover mentally and spend time with other people; people you like;

4) Goodwill and Freecyle are your friends. Also, Craigslist or college bulletin boards. Basically people move all the time and they want to give away crap for FREE and that includes pots and pans. About now is when sketchy roommates dodge the rent and someone is having a moving/fire sale. This is how you get pots and pans, dishes and other things for cheap. I know this because my roommate once skipped out and I had to vacate an apartment during finals and then the time I gave away all my goods in anticipation of Peace Corps. Remember, it is stuff and stuff can be replaced.

This is on the plus side - they only damaged the door and not the apartment so you did not come back to a smoking ruin nor to something completely unlivable and very violated. They did not harm you nor did they harm your books in an act of maliciousness. You are OK. You will be even more than OK after this first week.
posted by jadepearl at 8:08 AM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ugh. Everything I owned was stolen out of a car when I was moving cross-country. It SUCKS.

Moving is a good start. You will never feel safe there again. I don't know if you have a leg to stand on, but threatening the landlord with legal action might help him let you out of the lease. Or maybe he'll give you a discount on rent for the rest of the time you stay there.

GET RENTER'S INSURANCE AT YOUR NEXT PLACE. Actually, get renter's insurance NOW. Everyone reading this, stop reading and go get renter's insurance. Now. Do it.

Replace things slowly and with care. It's not necessary to actually replace everything that was stolen, and if you try to do it all at once and up front, you'll wind up with stuff that you don't like and will just remind you of what it's replacing that you no longer have. For months...maybe years, you will say, "Hmm, what did I do with that shirt/CD/game/blanket....oh yeah..." and you'll get a little sinking feeling. It'll pass, but just know that it's coming.

Definitely do an actual credit freeze, pull your credit reports fairly frequently for a while (you get a free one when you're the victim of a theft like this, then you can use annualcreditreport.com to get your free report each year. Check with your credit card company and see what protections or service they might offer you. If nothing else, they might up your limit or lower your rate while you're replacing the things you need to replace right now.

If you feel really violated and upset after a few more weeks look into some talk therapy. It's a really upsetting situation, and I can only imagine what it would feel like to know that my home was invaded--losing all my stuff was bad enough, but I would need to vent with a professional if my house was robbed.
posted by purplecurlygirl at 8:11 AM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

When you get new stuff, create a list with make/model/serial#'s and put it somewhere online. Have an online backup of important files (and scanned paper files), preferably encrypted. Along the same lines, make sure to use something like TrueCrypt for a laptop. Keep an eye on craigslist, eBay, Kijiji, local yard sales, etc. for anything they might try to sell. Re-evaluate your security in terms of locks on doors, and windows. Get a dog. Remind yourself it's just stuff, but good call on addressing the banking and passwords just in case.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 8:11 AM on November 12, 2008

I'd been shot at and bombed and seen loved ones die, but when I caught a neighbor stealing my one little fresh vegetable from my little garden in back (this was during war, food was precious and "fresh' food nearly impossible to obtain) I felt weirdly violated and vulnerable in a way unlike any other. Because it's not something "physical" like rape or murder, robbery isn't always seen as the blow to one's sense of security that it is. This is what I would mention to your landlord, and I would do it calmly and without other explanations (like fear of the housing complex across the way.) People are sympathetic to calmly explained "irrational" thoughts like that, because in some way we all have them.

Aside from that, consider letting a friend who ordinarily has roommates stay at your place next time - they may appreciate the temporary privacy. Obviously, renter's insurance is a must - it's not very expensive, and you can pay it monthly in most cases. It's certainly cheaper than losing everything.

Keep in mind that a "string of burglaries" usually comes to an end, and you are better off in this case than if it were a one-off, because there's some chance the villains might be apprehended and linked back to your place. And remember that many of us have been through this and eventually, the horrible feeling does wear off, and the realization that most people would never do such a thing returns.

And endnote to my story: months later, my thieving neighbor appeared at my doorstep, with a jar of jam (this was like gold at the time.) He apologized for stealing from an orphan (me), whose parents had been friends of his. I could tell he'd been miserable since the incident. We cried together and ate the jam. Why people steal is sometimes from necessity, sometimes from greed and sometimes just from opportunity. I think some people just lack the understanding of what their actions do to others. So try not to take this personally, as much as it hurts you personally . . . the wear and tear on your heart is not worth it. I wish you the best of luck, just hang in there.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:14 AM on November 12, 2008 [22 favorites]

About seven years ago I had recurring dreams that someone was breaking into my house and I would walk out of the bedroom and catch them in the act. Then one Tuesday night around midnight, just after I had gone to sleep, someone broke into my house and stole a bunch of stuff including my phone and my car. I slept through the whole thing. The dreams stopped.

Although I felt a little less safe all the time, I continued living in that house for several more years. Maybe having roommates at the time made things easier. Do you live alone?

There's a lot of good advice above. Get renter's insurance immediately, even though now seems like the least necessary time to have it. Be freezin' that credit, as Sarah Palin would say.

Trust me, as terrible as you feel right now, you should embrace the fact that external forces have created a situation that forces you to re-examine your life. Remember, every crisis contains both danger and opportunity as Condoleezza Rice would say.

As for getting back on track, check out Live Simple for strategies for getting by without stuff.
posted by billtron at 8:25 AM on November 12, 2008

My condolences.

If you had a debit card, inform the bank and get a new one IMMEDIATELY. It's often more difficult and time-consuming to get your money back for unauthorized purchases and withdrawals than it is for a credit card.
posted by desjardins at 8:34 AM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hi MrVisible,

Piping in to say I'm sorry for your drama.

Once, when I lived abroad, I didn't lock the door correctly at the apartment of the man I was seeing when I went out. When I came back, his CD player and Every Single CD of his insanely large collection was gone. I was devastated. I felt so, so angry and stupid. So I called my mom at something like 3am in the morning. And she listened. And then she told me about the time that she and my dad lived in a New York apartment, and how they'd gone out for the day, and came back home to discover that they were cleaned out. They couldn't even figure out how the robbers took all of the furniture, or why, and how *nobody* saw *anything*. Seriously. Someone unfamiliar to the neighborhood moved an entire apartment, and not a single person saw *anything*. (So yes, she was angry at her neighbors too.) Apparently, one of the few things that was left was a man's coat. Not my dad's - the robber took my dad's nice coat and left a ratty one. Hanging in the closet. Triffling.

And then she explained to me that it was totally discombobulating because she felt like she didn't know who she could trust. Because she wondered if whomever did it was watching their comings and goings for a while, and she didn't know about it. Because she also felt very embarrassed, like somehow she was to balme.

To end:
In term of things: What was kind of neat was that my parents sort of decided to see it as if the slate had been washed clean, and they lived kind of spartan, carefully choosing what they brought into the home (sort of checking out second hand shops, only buying what was useful or beautiful, rather than immediately trying to 'replace' everything because they couldn't afford it). They wrote out a list of what they had lost, crossed off what they didn't care about and prioritized what they needed to get back. They then told all of their friends and family they were in the market for X,Y, and Z if they saw any good deals. It took about 6mnths to a year to get themselves sorted.

In terms of paperwork: you seem to have that all in order, but in about a week or so, check your credit report. And check it 2-3 times throughout the year or do something like Equifax's Credit Watch service. If you have a passport, report that as well and get a new one.

In terms of emotional shitstorm: At some point my mom said that they just understood that whether they liked it or not, it happened, and it was neither right nor fair - and in talking to other people she learned that getting cleaned out happened more than she imagined. And she told me not to eat myself alive about the fact that I had been robbed. Not to look at where the CD player was and say: and that's where the CD player was, and it was damn expensive, and I can't afford a new one, why did this happen to me......and down and down the mental spiral you go, beating yourself up and getting yourself into an anxiety frenzy. Don't do that. Try just stopping yourself and saying something to short circuit the thinking, like: It happened, it's shitty, it happens to a lot of people, I still have my health, and I'm dealing with it, etc.

Also, it's great that you are letting friends and family help you. And moving is a good idea.

Random: If you're anywhere near a pawnshop, you might drop in and see if any of your stuff is there.

good luck.
posted by anitanita at 8:35 AM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Definitely freecycle and thrift stores to get new stuff--you can try craigslist too. I furnished an entire apartment from scratch using thriftstores and freebies for ~$200 (including a TV, dvd player, and computer monitor) last year. You don't need to go totally broke to replace your stuff.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:48 AM on November 12, 2008

The Arizona Department of Corrections office of Victim Services may be able to direct you to services or resources to help you a) get your life back on track, b) get any necessary meetings with mental health professionals, and c) help you find resources to get at least your basic stuff replaced.

Best wishes and good luck.
posted by anastasiav at 8:56 AM on November 12, 2008

i totally agree anitanita!

When it happend to me, I became insanely paranoid that everyone I came in contact with in my building and neighborhood was in on it or knew something about it. But, I was also scared, because they knew who I was, but I had no clue who my perpetrators were.

nthing that it is best to think about it this as a fresh start. I have since thought long and hard about things that I buy or want, not because of fear that someone will take it, but that I should have been doing that in the first place. I had noticed that I had assigned irrational significance to everything that I bought/lost, when in the end, they were just things.

Also, change your locks or get out. I, unfortunately, had to stay and was living in a booby-trapped house (think Home Alone) - it was the only way I could sleep. I would leave items set in a particular way to see if anyone had come in while I was gone.

Police also hinted at taking a look at the pawn shop. I never did, because I could never be as covert as they said I should have been.
posted by alice ayres at 9:57 AM on November 12, 2008

If this had happened to me:

1. Who knew I was going out of town for a given period of time?
2. Who on that list would have motivation to do something like this to me, or be complicit in its happening?
3. Where can I quickly purchase a baseball bat?
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:30 AM on November 12, 2008

Can't offer any additional advice to what's already been given, but wanted to commisserate with you and send you a cyber-hug. It's such a feeling of violation to know that someone was in your house, pawing through and taking your things while you were gone. My mom happened to walk in when her house was being burglarized. Funny thing was, although the window on the back door was broken and there was a strange car in the driveway, she didn't think much of it because just two weeks before, my brother had stopped by during the day in a co-worker's truck to do some electrical work on the house and they'd cracked that same window while hauling equipment inside. (They fixed it the next day.) So she walked right into the house expecting to find my brother again and instead was knocked over by a woman and a man rushing by, their arms filled with stuff.

Luckily, because Mom had walked in on them they didn't get away with as much - the TV sets and boom boxes were all neatly piled together and ready to be carried out, though. But one of the perps had cut themselves pretty badly on the broken window, and there was blood everywhere. We could see where they'd dug through the dresser drawers and we had to throw away lots of clothes because they had blood on them. The cops suggested we check out local pawn shops to look for the few valuables they'd taken (my Dad's gold pocket watch he'd gotten when he'd retired, some of my Mom's jewelry, etc.), but in a large metro area there are so many places to check that we didn't bother.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:37 AM on November 12, 2008

Freecycle.com is a resource where people offer up stuff they no longer need, and others post needs, in hopes that somebody has excess stuff. Craigslist has a Free section. Call the local United Way and see if they know of a resource that might help you out. A food pantry might give you food.

Figure out what you really need. Have a party. Call it a "Mr.Visible's Burglary Shower" and note that you are strapped, and that maybe your friends would be willing to help you replace some of the essentials that were stolen, like pots, pans, towels. People are often very kind, and it would help restore some of your faith in the world.
posted by theora55 at 10:49 AM on November 12, 2008

I was robbed hard a month or so ago, and now I'm in the process of trying to sell the house. Some good advice here; I'd add that you should try and track down serial numbers of your shiny things that were stolen, and report them to the police. They should go into a database that is matched up with the local pawn shops' inventories (well, the legitimate ones at least). Don't forget, if you don't have serial numbers onhand but are still under warranty, you may be able to contact the shiny things' manufacturers (dell, apple, etc.) and ask them what your serial numbers were.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:52 AM on November 12, 2008

I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry.

I'm going to come in here and not urge you to be the Buddha. You're going to go through the stages of grieving. Go through them. Get angry. Mourn. Yes, you are lucky you weren't there and weren't hurt and all the stuff that well-meaning folks tell you, and all of it is VERY true, but it's not going to give you solace until later. It's just stuff? Some of it is, some of it isn't. The oddest things will make you upset, and it won't be the most expensive or obvious ones.

Put fraud alerts on all of your credit reports.

Contact victim's services or victim's rights or whatever it's called in your community and get some short-term counseling. Even if you think you don't need it. That way you don't burn your friends out and you get objective advice.

i'm not a cop, but the food out of the freezer thing strikes me as odd. why would they take the time unless they knew you weren't going to be home? but you could drive yourself crazy thinking about that.

you are right to move and it would be a very cruel landlord who wouldn't let you go.
posted by micawber at 10:58 AM on November 12, 2008

I don't know if you have a leg to stand on, but threatening the landlord with legal action might help him let you out of the lease.

IANAL, but IMO implied in habitability is reasonable security of person and possessions:

According to Arizona state law, the landlord is obligated to:

2. Make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.

A.R.S. ยงยง 33-1324(A)(2)

Now, breach of habitability is generally defined as: 'dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to the tenant's life, health or safety.''

That the burglars were able to clean the poster out so thoroughly indicates that there is insufficient security of the apartment premises. I would give the landlord 30 days to improve the security of the apartment premises to the poster's satisfaction -- attaching the police report to this request, and include in this that if the security is not meaningfully improved by that time then the poster will then break the lease for the cause of constructive eviction of the landlord's failure to maintain the apartment in a habitable condition.

That's the legal theory at least. Again, I am in no way a lawyer but when you put the landlords on notice in writing that a remediable security situation exists with their premises they are VERY liable for any further bodily harm that comes to you.
posted by troy at 11:09 AM on November 12, 2008

Sorry this happened to you. It sucks but you will get through it. Here's my suggestions.
I've never heard of a landlord letting someone out of a lease because they've been robbed but it never hurts to ask. If not, at least it makes asking for some safety improvements seem like the cheaper option.

Ask your landlord to put a motion sensor spotlight on on each corner of the back of your place. Make sure they're aimed so anyone close to the back door is lit up. I worked for someone who was rehabbing a motel that was getting broken into all the time for copper and this was the one thing that helped. There should be deadbolts on the front and back door if not there already. I'd also ask for a security bar (homemade if you have to) that goes across the back door so it's tougher to kick in. If you're really jumpy, ask for a metal screen or bars for the back window too. At least you'll feel safer until you can move out.

I'll nth Freecycle groups and Craigslist for getting some temporary stuff. Let your friends know you need new stuff. They probably know people who need to get rid of stuff to a good home. You could always go electronic shopping at the pawn stores where it's cheaper and keep an eye out for your stuff at the same time. If the musical instruments were expensive or distinctive enough, I'd call or visit a few local stores and ask them to call if anyone comes in trying to sell something that matches but it's a long shot. You might keep an eye on the Trader (paper) or whatever your local version is.

The taking of food and the household stuff seems to support your idea of it being someone close by. If you want to go all out, you could put up a few posters in likely areas saying "My house on "Some" street was robbed. Reward for information leading to the return of my stuff". If people are tight enough on money to steal blankets and pots and pans, the people they know will probably be in the same boat and tempted by a reward.
posted by stray thoughts at 1:02 PM on November 12, 2008

I'm so sorry for the loss and violation. We were robbed, 3 times in 6 weeks. I still remember walking through the house, shaking and crying. I couldn't think straight or complete sentences well for a few days. It's incredibly traumatic.

We did install a security system, with wireless monitoring. It didn't work. Please be very careful about replacing your laptop and other electronics because many people do replace things and they are re-burglarized. By the way, the burglar was exactly who we thought he was--a neighbor who had recently moved in across the street. He told me that he was doing a school project on crime and wanted to interview me about my reaction to the crime. We never found any of our items at pawn shops.

I'm so sorry. The home invasion had a permanent effect on my family and it will change you as well. Please take care of yourself.
posted by aliksd at 1:39 PM on November 12, 2008

Just throwing in my two cents here... When I was robbed, I was very upset. What was worse was when I realized the people had stolen my identity and were writing hot checks all over town a whopping 12 hours later ($10-15,000 in hot checks in less than 24 hours).

I would close your bank account and open a new one. Also, if you are having replacement checks, credit cards or ATM cards mailed to you (or anything financial, for that matter), have it mailed to your place of business.

Change anything financial to show JUST your first initial and last name. Your first name may be a clue to gender, you want as little info as possible on financial things. NO first name. NO DL#. NO extra info beyond the minimum, as the bank will probably tell you. Not a lot of help now, I know, but protect yourself against future theft this way. Thieves are less likely to use things if they don't know whether they match you and may not get away with pretending to BE you.

Keep the police report with you at all times. Make lots of copies. You'll need it in the future. I needed mine for almost two years.

If you regularly patronize a store, have a store credit card, or a favorite place where you eat or drink, make an effort to visit the managers of these establishments. Ask them to tell you if anyone comes in pretending to be you or use your account. This MIGHT help the thief get caught, especially if they have security cameras!

Also, be prepared for Christmas season and the upcoming tax season; let people you know who might mail you money, gift cards, checks, or important documents to send them all to your place of business or a PO Box. If they ask, explain the reason. Don't let the thieves reap your tax return or any well-meant replacement gifts. If you can't have stuff mailed to work, have your stuff sent to a trusted friend with a locking mailbox (I have one... NOW) and a home where somebody can sign for packages, if you can't send them to your office.

Re-key your locks if you can until you move. You can buy a standalone motion-detector security system for fairly cheap; get it and move it with you when you leave.

After I was robbed right before Christmas, I was devastated. The thieves pried out my window with the burglar bars attached, leaving a five foot by five foot hole next to my bedroom. It was freaking cold in my house for awhile. Friends came over one day when I wasn't there with my boyfriend and they decorated the house as Christmasy as possible. I wept when I came home (NOT a huge fan of the holidays!) because it seemed so cheery and lovely. I would urge you to try and do something like this; I know you may not have lots of money right now, but changing the daily view with even some cheap lights or hanging up some cloth from the fabric store on sale might help you stay distracted until you can process it. Just a thought.

Of course you could always rescue a man-eating giant dog, too. I hear they're great for deterring break-ins.

My condolences for this terrible thing happening to you! Unfortunately, my thieves were never caught. Obsessing on revenge did not make me feel better (but I somehow couldn't avoid it!). If you ever catch the bastards or find out who did it, please let us know.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:31 PM on November 12, 2008

A quick update; I don't have time to do the favoriting or the thanks as they deserve to be right now, but this is all amazing advice, and an update seems like the least I can do.

A friend has taken me in, and I'm living out of a few boxes in a spare room for a bit. My landord has always been amazing, and is continuing to be so; he immediately agreed. Not only that, but he's agreed to give me half my security deposit back before I actually move out, so I'll have a bit more to make getting a new place easier. He's also said he'll give me an excellent reference. It helps that I repainted the whole place when I moved in, and did a lot of work on it in general.

I've closed out all my accounts, checking and credit, but not before picking up a laptop for cheap. I go to school full-time online, and work from home frequently, so it wasn't optional. I'll contact credit agencies tomorrow to put fraud alerts up.

We've started checking pawn shops, and I've worked through all the suspects I can think of who might have done this, but I'm coming up blank. Except for possibly the Grinch. This is his modus operandi, after all.

I'm emotionally numb, burying myself in all the work this is going to take, but the one good thing that's coming of this is exactly what I've seen in this thread. My friends, my family, my landlord, everyone I know is being incredibly helpful and generous. At this rate, my estimate of the goodness of human nature might end up rising as a result of the whole debacle.
posted by MrVisible at 8:43 PM on November 12, 2008

The Grinch visited my house too, early one Sunday morning.

He walked right into my house, stole my laptop and cellphone, and to add insult to injury, left the back door open so the cats got out. I was less than 20 feet away in another room, and Mr. Seppaku was in bed, asleep. My backyard is surrounded on 3 sides by 4 different apartment complexes, so the perp's identity is anyone's guess. Submitted police report, changed passwords, never saw the laptop again.

Because of the robbery, our landlord finally allowed us to get a dog. Now we have a doberman and a pit bull. They are harmless muffinheads, but the Grinch don't know that. I feel safe. =)
posted by Seppaku at 1:03 AM on November 13, 2008

btw, I asked my R.E. teacher today about this and he said habitability only extended to basic security, not whatever-it-takes to keep burglars out, so that legal direction would be more of a bluff perhaps.
posted by troy at 10:48 PM on November 13, 2008

The one-month-later follow-up follows...

I'm settled in my new apartment, I have renter's insurance, and I've pared down my mental image of stuff I need to own dramatically; my new place isn't exactly Spartan, but it's clean and uncluttered, and I really am liking it.

I took a lot of the stuff I had left to the local used book/media/stuff store, and used some of that credit to replace things like routers and speakers and such; I still have plenty left for fun things, too.

I decided that instead of replacing my big TV, I'm going to try to go TV-free, and just use my new laptop for all my media needs. So far, it's working out fine.

My new place is a five-minute walk from where I work, and it's cheaper than my old place, so I'm putting more money into paying off the cards that got ramped up buying all the stuff that got stolen. So that's good. I think.

I've spoken with the police. They did take fingerprints, but their turnaround time on getting fingerprints analyzed and compared to databases is one to two years. There's been no detective assigned to the case. So chances of me getting any of my stuff back are effectively zero.

On the emotional front, the one thing that really came out of this wasn't, surprisingly, a feeling of violation or anger. It was the realization that I missed being in a good relationship. And weirdly, I met someone, and we've been going out for a couple of weeks now, and it's really going wonderfully.

So, thanks again for being here. This thread was incredibly helpful, in any number of ways. It's good to know you folks are here.
posted by MrVisible at 10:43 AM on December 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

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