House broken into, in shock, tell us what to do.
June 8, 2011 10:08 AM   Subscribe

My house just got broken into. They took our laptops. What to do?

Our house just got broken into. We weren't home, we're ok, the cats are ok. It happened a couple of hours ago. Forensics just left, and we are starting to deal with the aftermath. The only thing they took were a couple of laptops. There was also damage to our front door.

We've talked to someone who'll come out today and fix our door. I'm about to call my insurance agent to talk to her about what happens next.

As far as our laptops go, I'm worried about identity theft. I just started changing all my passwords to all accounts I have online, including banking and credit cards. I started to change my gmail account password, but then realized that it may be possible to get the thief's IP address. Gmail is my home page, and so as soon as they open my browser, it'd go there. Would that be useful? Or is that stupid?

Is there anything we're not thinking about? We're a bit in shock.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot to Law & Government (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
*pulls up chair and sits down*

I had exactly the same thing happen to me back in December. Changing all the passwords was what I did; I'd talk to the police about whether you should leave your GMail password alone, but I'd change it too. There's a not-insignificant chance that all they wanted was something to pawn, and they're not going to look at what you've got on your comptuer -- they're just going to erase everything and then hock it.

You're doing better than me in having an insurance agent (wry smile); they may also be able to counsel you in this. As for me, I got my computer "paid for" courtesy of my sympathetic parents; the new computer I got was about half the price of the missing one, so at the end of the day all that I "lost" was sentimental (lots of pictures, and all the writing I'd been working on for ten years). If you don't have any data backed up, I would also consider looking into a regular backup system; a friend recommended Mozy to me. But I haven't noticed any unusual activity on any of my accounts, and so it's pretty much behind me now.

But yeah, I'd change all my passwords. Other than that, you're pretty okay (other than the anger and the temporary sense of insecurity). Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:19 AM on June 8, 2011

Do you have any documentation on your laptop, namely serial numbers? If you can find your laptop, probably through the Gmail-login thing unless you have other software installed, you might be able to get it back. (Probably* not, though, if all you have is an IP.) In what condition, though... who knows.

* Unless you can SSH in, defeat the probable router firewall, get the location, and take pictures with a built-in webcam.

If it were me, though, and there was nothing irreplaceable on the laptops, and insurance was replacing the hardware, I'd write it off mentally and emotionally and do everything I could to prevent the thief from getting into my accounts.
posted by supercres at 10:48 AM on June 8, 2011

And yes, this did happen to me. Fortunately, all my data was backed up on the desktop that the thieves didn't take (they were literally children) and the laptop was a five-year-old PowerBook with a user password and sensitive data encrypted.
posted by supercres at 10:50 AM on June 8, 2011

I had a bag that had checks in it, so I changed my bank account number, it really wasn't much of a hassle.

I also tried to be more vigilant about running credit checks over the next year.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 10:58 AM on June 8, 2011

Do you happen to know the serial numbers and, if so, did you provide them for the police report? In some (many?) jurisdictions, pawnbrokers have to are supposed to cross-reference serial numbers of all pawned items with a list given to them by the local police.
posted by matlock expressway at 11:07 AM on June 8, 2011

Best answer: Start watching craigslist/ebay for your laptops -- lots of thieves will try to sell them themselves rather than pawning them.
posted by zug at 11:15 AM on June 8, 2011

Ugh, that sucks. As you know.

I had a laptop stolen from my apartment a few years ago. I think changing the passwords is probably the most you can do. You probably want to keep an eye on any credit/debit cards (check the card activity daily or even cancel the card) if you think there might have been any card numbers stored on the computer. But everything was fine in the end (I mean, except that I didn't have a computer for a while, and I lost a bunch of un-backed-up stuff).
posted by mskyle at 11:17 AM on June 8, 2011

I started to change my gmail account password, but then realized that it may be possible to get the thief's IP address. Gmail is my home page, and so as soon as they open my browser, it'd go there. Would that be useful? Or is that stupid?

What if they change your Gmail password. I'm sure that you have saved that password since it is your home page.
posted by JesseBikman at 11:22 AM on June 8, 2011

Seconding the Craiglist hunting.

By the way, I've been there and it sucks. Sorry to hear about your burglary.
posted by JesseBikman at 11:24 AM on June 8, 2011

Best answer: Been there too. Change your gmail password. If they're smart enough to log into your account, they're smart enough to change your password, and fast. Additionally, access to your email may not give them all of the information for your other accounts, but they will get an idea of what banks you have your accounts at, where you shop, etc. If they really want to get crafty, they may even be able to figure out the answers to some of your security questions by looking at things like old addresses, your parents' names, etc. Good luck.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:39 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

absolutely check craigslist for the next few weeks. There was a story in the past year of a lady in San Fran tracking down someone because they tried to sell something they stole and listed their phone number. 15$ provided the lady with the name (and address?) of the thief, which the police greatly appreciated :)

good luck
posted by zombieApoc at 12:30 PM on June 8, 2011

In addition to changing your password, I think at the bottom of the page there's a "log out all other locations" link. That might tell you their IP if they turn it on and connect. But changing your password would probably log them out automatically. Good luck and best wishes.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:50 PM on June 8, 2011

Ouch, like so many others I've been here. Change every password, put a hold on your credit file, and hope they're just wiping the hard drive and selling the laptops for petty cash. I would not plan on getting your machines back.
posted by troublesome at 9:52 PM on June 8, 2011

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