I've been burglarized, and I have a lot of questions!
November 6, 2013 7:05 AM   Subscribe

I live on the first floor in an apartment building in a very heavily trafficked and busy urban neighborhood. It's not a terribly dangerous place, but it definitely has its illicit activity going on - it's a college town. You don't see a lot of bars on the windows or anything. At some point yesterday, somebody broke into my apartment by forcing a window open, and they weren't in my apartment long. They didn't really ransack the place, it was almost hard to tell someone had been there. I am frankly puzzled by how very little they took and what they did take as it wasn't very valuable. They did rifle through my filing cabinet and they did steal my laptop which they will need a password to use, but if they are able to get past that, they will have access to all of my online accounts and my financial information (which I have already locked down). I'm trying to work out a checklist for everything I need to do now, and I have one complicating factor about ID.

I am assuming they are able to get what they need out of my computer, and I am assuming that since they had access to my filing cabinet, they were able to write down my identifying information, as it's all filed away, but they didn't take anything.

So this far I have:

- Called the police and filed a report
- Frozen all of my bank accounts, and will be going to the bank today to change them all over
- Reset all of my email passwords and social media passwords
- Called the company I purchased the laptop from and gotten the serial number, and shut down support for it
- Called the landlord and asked if I can install some sort of security system (I'm waiting to hear back)

Here are the things I intend to do next, but I have some questions:

- Call the three credit agencies and put a fraud alert on them

BUT - will this cause me difficulty in using my own cards? How much drama and pain am I signing myself up for long term if I do this? I am already concerned about my bank accounts being so hard to access for a while.

- Call the RMV and passport agencies

Here's where things get really sticky. I live in MA but I am from CA. I have a CA driver's license and I realized very recently while getting carded at a bar (I can't believe I got carded because I am 110 years old, but whatever) that my license expired on my recent birthday. So... should I report this breach to the RMV or whatever agency handles passports? Will it make it impossible for me to get a new ID? What is the right order here?

I am not terribly freaked out, but I am concerned that the burglar will come back. I have a lot of valuable items that they did not take, but I am sure they noticed and may come back with a friend. I have called the landlord, but I do need to leave the house and go to work at some point - I have taken the day off to handle the aftermath but I certainly can't stay here all of the time.

It is a risky break in, someone could see you at any time, so I am surprised it happened, but now that they have found a way in, I wouldn't be surprised if they came back for the better stuff. Obviously that would be devastating. How can I help shore my defenses up against them returning? If my landlord says yes to some sort of security system, what should I look into?

Also, one other question, I had a Dell laptop, and I used it very heavily for 3 years. I have a back up, but only of files. I have no idea how many passwords and different sites I have stored on that thing. I was thinking of rifling through my very disorganized email to see all of the different sites I may have signed up on and if I registered with them, but... is there a better place to start to try to figure this out? And how do I better centralize/log my accounts so that I don't feel so blown open by a laptop loss again?

Thanks for any advice you can provide.
posted by pazazygeek to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You've done more than one could ever hope the average citizen would after being burglarized. Major points to you for composure and clear thinking in the immediate aftermath.

You've protected your bank accounts, your credit cards, your computer, and changed your passwords.

At this point, you have the options to change your locks, get a renter's insurance policy/alarm/motion lights if applicable, make sure your car keys were not compromised if applicable - and then relax and carry on with your life.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:23 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I had my house broken into, similar situation. Almost 2 years ago to the day, in fact. It's an awful feeling. Burglar stole our laptops and my underwear. I lost everything on my laptop...years of photos and my portfolio. I still cringe when I think about it. We didn't really get any help from the police...I guess this sort of thing happens all the time. We filed a report and we didn't hear from them again. I think you've done almost everything else. We called local pawn shops etc, but they didn't have the laptops.

Right after it happened, we put bookcases in front of the windows (lol) until we could get everything sorted out.

We ended up getting an alarm system from Frontpoint. We're really pleased with it. It's very easy to set up and appropriate for rental units...and you can easily move it to a new place. The sensors use removable strips...and it'll set off the alarm if it's been tampered with. You can get as many sensors (motion, doors and windows) as you need, even a camera (we didn't go that far, but it's an option). It also has a computer and smart phone app. I set it up to text me whenever someone opens the doors and windows. You can arm it like a traditional alarm too, it's really loud. It's about $50 a month with a $200ish equipment fee.

We had rental insurance, which covered most of the cost of getting new laptops. We installed Witness, which will send us a push alert when whenever the camera detects motion. My cat sets it off sometimes, which made my heart jump into my throat the first time, but it's hilarious. You can point your camera sensor in a strategic location. And we also have Find My Mac set up. If you aren't a Mac fan, you could get LoJack or something similar.

Also, if you're concerned about losing your files again, get a wireless hard drive (hidden somewhere in the house) with auto backups, and/or use cloud backups.

If you don't have rental insurance, you should get it now (it's about $30 a month), and take pictures of all of your valuables. It makes it easier to file a claim if you have proof of ownership. Keep all receipts from valuables from now on and keep those somewhere safe (scanned on a cloud drive, etc)

And make sure to reclaim your space. Invite friends over, play music, burn some sage or...whatever. This is a traumatic experience.
posted by hotelechozulu at 7:41 AM on November 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

If you used the same password as one that was on your stolen laptop in any other account, change it immediately.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:04 AM on November 6, 2013

Cut your laptop off from dropbox and other auto-synching file stores (Copy, Tresorit, Box, Google Drive, Skydrive, iCloud, etc.), but first remove files from the share. If the person is synching files currently, removing the files should delete (if not really erase) the files from the stolen laptop.

Use the service's settings to cut the laptop out of the service (which would force them to re-log into the service if they want to restore synch, which they can't do sans password).

If you have any other services that remain logged in on your laptop, consider finding out if those can be forcibly logged out from the service's website (if anything beyond a password change is required).
posted by Sunburnt at 8:34 AM on November 6, 2013

I don't think the RMV or State Department care about your break-in or identity threat; the ID requirements for passports and state ID/Driver's Licensing are high enough, in their opinion, that information on a computer isn't enough.

Now might be a good time to consider switching to KeePass another Password Manager. The encrypt the file in which passwords are stored, so you just need to remember the password to get to that file (say, in your dropbox) and the password to open it.

You can also look at TrueCrypt or other encrypted-partition options for storing your financial information in the future.

I know you have fears about your identity and private information, but chances are that the person who stole it just wants cash, and the person who buys it from them just wants a laptop. Hopefully that's the worst that comes of it.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:41 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Filing a fraud alert or freezing your credit files, as I recently did, won't prevent you from using your existing cards / accounts. It will simply make it more of a hassle for you (and more importantly, someone else) to obtain new credit in your name. As long as you're not looking for new credit cards, loans, etc. you won't even notice the alert exists. And if you do, just be prepared for providing some extra information / documentation to prove you really are you.

As you have checking accounts, I would also contact ChexSystems and put an alert / freeze on your file there too. If you don't write checks at retailers and don't open up new bank accounts, again you probably won't notice it's there.

I would be surprised if there was anything really to be done regarding your driver's license or passport info, assuming you still have them in physical form - I seriously doubt there would be an issue in renewing. But it would probably be prudent to ask when you go down to the RMV just to be sure.
posted by SquidLips at 8:59 AM on November 6, 2013

That really sucks and I'm sorry.

Can you move your most valuable but still portable stuff to a friend's for a while? Until you get your locks and security system and insurance in place.

Unless it was a very personal burglary, it's doubtful your laptop information will be seriously compromised. More likely it will be wiped to be sold without traces of its provenance. Probably cold comfort, I realize, and either way better safe than sorry.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:10 AM on November 6, 2013

Sorry this happened to you, pazazygeek.

how do I better centralize/log my accounts so that I don't feel so blown open by a laptop loss again?

You need an app like 1Password which will store all of your passwords for you. All you'd need to do is make a strong master password and memorize that; let the password app keep track of all of your other accounts (and sign you into your accounts when necessary) and then sync it via Dropbox or a similar service. This way, even if the thief were able to logon to your laptop, they wouldn't be able to sign into any of your accounts because they don't know your master password. I'd also sync a copy locally on an encrypted USB drive and hide it somewhere in your apt.

I strongly suggest you not keep passwords to your accounts stored in email -- especially any financial accounts -- because anyone who gets into your email can cause you a world of pain.

Also, setup multi-factor authentication on any of your accounts that offer it.

If you can't have someone house-sit when you're gone, leave the tv on to make it seem like someone is home. Let your neighbors know that you've been robbed and ask them to keep an eye out, too; they'll be on high alert for any loud noises or suspicious activity to protect themselves as well.

Put some type of secondary locking mechanism on your windows. Even if you do get a security system later, it's still a good idea to secure your windows and doors.

More tips here. Be well.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 1:59 PM on November 6, 2013

If you do have dropbox, check your logs to see if your laptop has been connected to the internet lately, and take screenshots of any unfamiliar IP addresses.

My laptop was stolen and before I thought to remove the sync to it, the thieves had connected to the internet twice. We gave the IP addresses to the police but the officers on our case either didn't have the skills or the resources to make use of this information. But maybe you'll be luckier.
posted by escapepod at 10:19 PM on November 6, 2013

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