Taking the law into my own tiny hands
March 30, 2009 7:50 PM   Subscribe

Laptop stolen, and I have the IP address. What should I do with it?

My laptop as well as my boyfriend's laptop were stolen today (home robbery, they kicked right through the door and ran--with our two laptops-- when the alarm went off.) Using his Gmail account I found out the IP address of the next time his Gmail account was opened. What can I do with this information? Will the police take it down or use it for anything? Can I call the ISP myself? I've seen questions that say how to get the IP address, but nothing on what to do with the information except put it in the police report. The police around here don't have time to care about stolen laptops, so if there's anything I can do on my own, I'd love to try. Has anyone successfully used the IP address to do anything?
posted by miniminimarket to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you drop it into the ARIN whois search, you'll at least find out what ISP it's been plugged into (particularly helpful if it turns out to be a business or educational institution instead of, say, Comcast). If you want to go on, the next step is to try to contact the ISP (the police are probably the better choice for this) to find out who had that IP at the time in question.
posted by Partial Law at 7:58 PM on March 30, 2009

The ISP is a lot more likely to answer a question about an IP form the police than from you. You should definitely report it to the police.
posted by meta_eli at 7:59 PM on March 30, 2009

More useful than ARIN is MaxMind's Geo IP: http://www.maxmind.com/app/locate_ip
posted by meta_eli at 8:00 PM on March 30, 2009

Some people who were successful in getting the police to pay attention

Victim uses remote logon to nab laptop thief

Mac thief caught on webcam

posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:33 PM on March 30, 2009

One thing you could do is log in via Remote Desktop and delete/scrub any sensitive data that might still be there.

Perhaps making a backup copy of it first (if you don't have a backup already).
posted by flug at 12:29 AM on March 31, 2009

More useful than ARIN is MaxMind's Geo IP

Not really. ARIN tells you what city an IP address is probably in. MaxMind doesn't give you any more precision.
posted by oaf at 4:47 AM on March 31, 2009

Go to the police with the information. The likelyhood is that they will do nothing with the information, but at least you've tried.

Also don't forget to change all your passwords!
posted by InsaneRhino at 5:24 AM on March 31, 2009

Best answer: This happened to me a couple of months ago. I had been mugged and had my laptop stolen. When I got the ip address, I called the police with it. I was surprised that they wanted the information -- this is a big city (Chicago) and I figured they'd have better things to do with their time.

The detectives got a subpoena for the ISP which allowed them to get the residential address where the computer had been used. This whole process took a little over a month. Then they called me up (on my 30th birthday, no less!) to say, basically, "we've got the address and we'd like to arrest the guy. Are you available this evening to do a line-up?" I said, umm, it's my birthday and I'm going out to dinner; they then offered to arrest the guy a little later so I could finish my dinner first.

Now that was an odd experience, eating my nice dinner and knowing that somebody was in jail on account of me.

After dinner we went over to the police station and did the lineup. I could tell which guy the police wanted me to choose, but it wasn't the mugger. Oh well. They were a bit disappointed, but they told me they'd found an illegal gun so "at least they'd get him for that".

The whole episode left me pretty unsettled, worrying about the state of the justice system. And it didn't get me my laptop back. However, I did learn that the police were interested in getting the IP address, which is what you wanted to know!
posted by wyzewoman at 6:05 AM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: We called the detective today and gave him the IP address, ISP, and the ISP's phone number. He seemed to know what we were talking about and was interested in getting a subpoena, so that's comforting. I did have Adeona installed, but I wasn't familiar with their recent server problems, so it seems to only return 1 or 2 results a day. I'm still checking it every few hours though, hoping it'll send something back. Thanks all.
posted by miniminimarket at 7:35 AM on March 31, 2009

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