We was robbed.
March 14, 2013 9:55 PM   Subscribe

My house was robbed while I was at work today. The thieves are long gone, and I've called the police. What's next?

The items that were taken were a small amount of cash, jewelry, and portable electronics (an older MacBook, an iPad, and a digital camera). We can't find any signs of forced entry, so entry was made either through an open window or by someone with a key.

Although identity theft doesn't seem to have been a motive -- the thieves literally picked up a passport from a drawer and set it aside to get to the more attractive video camera beneath it -- the MacBook was not password-protected and had a fair amount of financial data on it (bank statements and tax returns). Who knows what the person who ends up with the computer will do with those data. Neither the iPad nor the MacBook were registered with "Find My iPad/Mac", unfortunately. All my passwords were in Wallet which is backed up to Dropbox and I have a current Time Machine backup, so I don't think I've lost any data.

So, what should we do now? Things that are on the list so far:

- re-key locks
- file police report
- make detailed list of missing stuff
- call insurance agent
- establish identity theft alerts
- turn off 3G on iPad (or can AT&T help figure out where it is?)

... what else should we do? I've seen this question, which suggested looking out for our stuff on Craigslist and in local pawn shops.
posted by harkin banks to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you have home and contents insurance, call your insurance company and make a report. Give them the details for the police report.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:06 PM on March 14, 2013

Do you have the 'Find my iPhone' app, and another iDevice? People have used that to recover stolen iphones/ipads before.

[OK, I now see that you don't. While cell phone companies can use cell phone triangulation to find your iDevice, I doubt they will do it - I've only ever seen telcos do this on request by the police. Doesn't hurt to ask though].
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:14 PM on March 14, 2013

Best answer: Do you have an automatic garage door opener?
posted by quince at 10:37 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

think looooong and hard before you make an insurance claim.....your premiums will skyrocket and it is possible that they will put you in a high risk category for years and make it very very hard to get new/better coverage. this happened to me and it was...inconvenient....for a long time.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:47 PM on March 14, 2013

Best answer: Did you buy any of the stolen items within 90 days? If so, most credit cards will replace them without any hassle.
posted by halogen at 11:07 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Double check non-obvious stuff. When my apartment was broken into, the thieves stole my extra backup checkbooks I barely even remembered I had.

Even if you don't think they got any physical sources of money besides the cash, you may want to call your bank and have them close your accounts and reopen new ones with new cards, checks, etc.

I got a fraud alert immediately, which was helpful -- and the thieves weren't able to steal any money from my accounts -- but completely starting fresh was still necessary.
posted by Sara C. at 11:12 PM on March 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If the police haven't yet, they will probably ask for serial numbers of the stolen items. If you have any records of these, try to find them. (The police can put the serial numbers into a database that will ping if they show up in a pawn shop.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:17 PM on March 14, 2013

Best answer: Change any passwords that your browser remembers, ie gmail, yahoo etc. Also dropbox may help get a lead on where your computer is.
posted by Sophont at 11:24 PM on March 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

The IP number as generally solved by programs is in a range, and via lookup table you can get an approximate x,y coordinate of the centriod of the figure. The story Sophont mentions, I believe, misconstrues the importance of this. (in other words, more than likely if they checked the IP from their own house they would have gotten the same XY coordinates, not the actual XY of their house). It indicates the item stayed close, but not much else. The ISP though should be able to figure out what router that device is connecting through, so getting the IP address should have been enough to get the last place the laptop was used, just not in the manner presented in Sophont's linked article.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:52 PM on March 14, 2013

Best answer: Nthing fraud alert particularly through trw or equifax ASAP. You want to prevent any opening of credit in your name(s). I think there is a cost. We got broken into and it's a little worrisome - you feel violated.
posted by lasamana at 3:26 AM on March 15, 2013

Best answer: I want to add that someone did not need a key - just a Bump Key.

We had a shady neighbor using a bump key to steal from us a few years ago.

We replaced our locks, anyway.

We also got these inexpensive alarms for doors and windows.

This curbed further break-ins, as our shady neighbor could hear us setting and testing our alarms.
posted by jbenben at 3:46 AM on March 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Check the local pawn stores for any of your items?

Someone I know got his golf clubs back that way....not sure about electronics.
posted by vitabellosi at 4:39 AM on March 15, 2013

your premiums will skyrocket and it is possible that they will put you in a high risk category for years and make it very very hard to get new/better coverage.
What is the point of insurance coverage then? If the damage is barely above the deductible, maybe. But if you have a substantial loss, make a claim. I did that about 8 years ago when it happened to us, and rates did not rise.
posted by beagle at 5:51 AM on March 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

think looooong and hard before you make an insurance claim.....your premiums will skyrocket and it is possible that they will put you in a high risk category for years and make it very very hard to get new/better coverage

Since we're talking anecdata, I put in two claims in two years with State Farm - both for low four figures amounts stolen. Each time State Farm 1) got me a check within 48 hours and 2) didn't change my rates in any way.

I've heard that a third claim in three years would have gotten my policy dropped, but I didn't have a third claim so I don't know.
posted by arnicae at 6:58 AM on March 15, 2013

Obviously I would change your email and banking passwords.

Apart from the practical stuff... be aware that things might feel weird for a while. Different members of your household (or just yourself!) may react unexpectedly, and/or act out unexpectedly. Some people take this kind of thing in stride; others have prolonged and complicated emotional reactions.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:59 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been through this is once as well.

The police report lead nowhere, though the police were friendly and seemed honestly concerned. They made me double check the following:

Did we have all our garage door openers?
Did we have all our spare keys for the house and for our cars?

The point was that some professional burglars look for items that allow them easy access back into the house at a more appropriate time, at their leisure. One easy way was to take the garage door opener and enter through the service door. Another burglar trick was to take the spare car keys, and come back for the car at a later time for use in another robbery. Steal the car, use it for an hour at a burglary, and dump it somewhere.

Soon after:
We didn't report the break-in to the insurance company because the value of what was taken was low, comparatively.
If you have a neighborhood message board, let everyone know. We luckily had a description of the probable vehicle used, so it was doubly important to let our neighbors know to be on the lookout.

That night:
I slept downstairs with a tonne of lights on, with appropriate defensive items. I did this for a couple days - it helped me feel better, and kept my wife more emotionally stable. The police said in general, if the pro burglars are coming back they will come back within a few days, before moving onto other neighborhoods.

Over the next number of days:
We had the PD Crime Prevention Specialist out to give us feedback on our security situation. She recommended, and we did:

New back door
Window pegs
Cutting back some bushes in the front

Over the last few years:
Even though this was not the cause of the break-in, we always keep the front door locked, and never leave the house with windows open. This was a bit of a lifestyle shift, but a good decision nonetheless.
posted by lstanley at 8:35 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your suggestions. The following is a bit of an update, mostly for anyone who is thinking of asking a similar question.

Cleaning up last night, it was pretty easy to reconstruct the thief's path from the trail of stuff that was picked up and then discarded when it proved to be low-value. I'm pretty sure entry was made through an unlocked window at the back of the house. Then he (sorry, no gender-neutral pronouns here as statistically the thief was probably male) went through the bedrooms, rifling through dresser drawers and closets. When there was too much stuff to carry in his hands, he took one of my pillowcases to put it in. (He also closed the blinds in my bedroom, which has windows onto the street.) Then he took a swing through our family room, liberated some electronics, and left the same way he came in, closing the window on his way out. The whole thing probably took less than five minutes. Our neighbors on both sides were home all day, and neither heard or saw a thing.

I called the police at 7:20 last night. They showed up 13 hours later, at 8:30 this morning. (The police in my city have been very open about the fact that due to staffing shortages non-violent crime is very much not a priority for them.) The officer took our information, asked for estimates of what was stolen, and told us to check nearby flea markets for our items. If we found them, we should call the PD, and present the officer with proof of ownership (serial number, receipt, etc.) when he/she arrives. So along with keeping an eye on Craigslist and local pawnshops, we'll be making a trip down to the local flea market to see if our stuff turns up.

(One interesting thing is that the officer asked what image was on the desktop of the computers - they use this as a way of identifiying equipment if it gets picked up.)

I changed all of my email passwords last night. I did have apps for a couple of banks on my iPad, so I'll change those passwords too although they are set to log out when closed, just to be on the safe side. The only other online services that the thief would be able to access would be iTunes, Dropbox, and Evernote, so those will get changed as well.

As I said, identity theft was not a motivation -- not only did they leave the passports and birth certificates (in folders helpfully labeled "Passports" and "Birth Certificates"), they also pulled my spare checks out of a drawer and tossed them on the floor . I counted them all up and none are missing (whew!) Regardless, I'll set fraud alerts just to be sure.

We haven't decided whether to file an insurance claim yet. We'll make that call after we pull our documentation together, do a better estimate of our total loss (current value of a 2008 MacBook?) and compare that to our deductible.

All of our house and car keys are accounted for, but just in case I'm wrong about how the thief got in the locks are going to be re-keyed this morning. Within the next couple of weeks I'm also going to get some estimates on upgrading our home security. The neighborhood we live in is pretty safe, but there is a fair amount of property crime and I've been thinking about it for a while anyway. Over all our losses could have been much much worse, so I'm treating this as a wake-up call. Nobody was hurt and the stuff that we lost is not that important in the grand scheme of things, so I guess I'll chalk it up to an expensive learning experience/loss of naivete.

Even though the loss/damage wasn't huge, the point about emotional repercussions is a good one. I can already tell that it's going to resurface for my 5-year-old -- probably not in a bad way, but we're going to be answering questions for months to come.

Anyway, thanks again for your responses. If there's anything else I can contribute I will update before the question is closed.
posted by harkin banks at 9:43 AM on March 15, 2013

Even though you didn't register with Apple's tracking service, if you happen to have the serial numbers for the MacBook and iPad, Apple may still be able to track those devices if they make any wifi connections. If your PD isn't putting a high priority on your case because of staffing shortages you might as well call Apple on your own and see if they can help you.

In my experience with these things, the burglar is likely to have the computers wiped clean either by himself or through a connection of some sort before selling it. The items you described as stolen is what burglars take 99.9% of the time because it is quick cash to support their drug habit. Identity theft isn't worth it for them.

If you have photographs of your jewelry, provide copies to the PD and to area pawn shops. Some states (I am assuming your are in the United States) have laws requiring pawn shops to hold onto jewelry sold to them for a period of time and also keep a log of the items, along with the identification of the person who sold the items. This is something the police should be working on if your state has such a law.

I recommend getting a home security system, and also a surveillance system which actually writes the data to a hard drive.
posted by Sarcasm at 10:43 AM on March 15, 2013

As for the iPad... if you registered it in iTunes and then the thief (or the person he sells it to) tries to plug it into another computer, I believe iTunes will at least log that if not flat out deny access if he can't figure out your Apple ID's password. (Though that password is likely crackable.) I hope the stolen MacBook wasn't the computer you registered the iPad on.

Another thing you can do is report the iPad to your cell carrier as stolen (give them the police report number if you have it), and ask them to disable its cellular access. I have no experience with this, but they may be able to find its location. In any case I don't think you'll be responsible for the monthly data bill.
posted by tckma at 1:00 PM on March 15, 2013

Apple may still be able to track those devices if they make any wifi connections.

They might, but they won't. Some guy in Hawaii is STILL trying to crack my password 4 years later. It can't be that hard to track him down. I filed the police report. I sent all the data to Apple, and they won't do anything about it.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:06 PM on March 15, 2013

Best answer: One thing I don't think has been mentioned - watch out for a return visit. The thief now knows a household that's down a few gadgets and could be buying new ones. Possibly less likely since you didn't furnish them with a whole TV/DVR/etc suite, but worth a mention.

We have discovered two simple things to do, unfortunately due to two different breakins:

Put wooden dowels in the track of any sliding windows/doors.

Install metal security plates on outside door jambs. Normal deadbolts set in wooden jambs are really easy to kick out.

I know the sucky feeling that someone's been in your place, but on the bright side - a daylight burglar isn't likely to be violent, they just want your stuff.
posted by HaveYouTriedRebooting at 5:11 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You mentioned your stolen computer had dropbox attached. Assuming they don't wipe the drive, you should cut the computer out of your dropbox account. Go onto Dropbox.com, log in, select the pulldown menu from your username (top right of website), and select settings, then the Security Tab. You can cut off devices here, and in case the other avenue of using dropbox to find your mac doesn't pan out, you should definitely do this.

Changes they make to your files will sync (in a recoverable fashion, must likely, but inconvenient), and you don't want to lose your stuff. Likewise, they'll probably get announcements when you make changes to the dropbox, like moving files.

At least get your Wallet file out of there until you've cut them off (if possible, let it sync at this stage; the mac dropbox will keep the file in a hidden recovery folder, if it's anything like Windows), but at least it won't be obvious if they don't know to look for it), and then re-add it once the link is severed.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:15 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

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