Buying a Macbook that MAY be stolen. Bad idea? (yeah, I know, it is)
July 29, 2008 11:02 AM   Subscribe

How do I know if the MacBook I'm buying is stolen and what happens if it is?

I'm considering buying a Macbook Pro from an acquaintance. Its brand new and relatively cheap. My first inkling is that its stolen but I'm not sure where from and I can't really be sure. He's not that kind of guy... or so I thought. What if it is? It is trackable back to me if it is? Am I on the hook for receiving stolen goods or anything if caught? Is it even possible to get caught once its in my possession? I already checked with Apple and they told me that there's not a lot of info they can give me if I give them the serial number before I buy it, even if it was taken from them.

This concerns me...

please don't tell me "If you're not sure if its stolen or not don't buy it." I already know that. I want to know what happens if I do.
posted by Thrillhouse to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
I already checked with Apple and they told me that there's not a lot of info they can give me if I give them the serial number before I buy it, even if it was taken from them.

If you check the serial number with Apple and with your local police, then you have been pretty darn diligent, and so taking action on the reasonably understanding that it's NOT stolen would seem quite defensible to me. IANAL.
posted by rokusan at 11:12 AM on July 29, 2008

posted by rokusan at 11:12 AM on July 29, 2008

If it's stolen, and you suspect it's stolen, you could get in trouble. Even if you don't "think" it's stolen, but pay far less than market value for it (enough less where common sense would indicate it might be) you can get in trouble. That said, there's really no way to track a stolen computer unless the person has sometihng that could track it ('net log on, etc.) installed on it, or you bring it in for warranty repair.

Sleep well.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:13 AM on July 29, 2008

Note that rokusan's "defensible" only applies to the charge of receiving stolen goods. If the item does turn out to be stolen, the police will likely return it to the original owner, leaving you to attempt recovery of the money you spent via civil means, on your own. It seems unlikely that you'd get to keep the item, or that they'd help you recover your money from the seller. Not to say they might not go after the seller for dealing in stolen property, just that they won't help You out.
posted by nomisxid at 11:17 AM on July 29, 2008

If you buy it, and it is found that it is stolen and they can prove that it was stolen and you bought it knowingly, you could be charged with Possession of Stolen Goods, which is typically a misd. However, if you bought it in good faith, it will be seized and returned to the owner. You won't get your money back, but you won't be prosecuted.

My neighbor growing up was given a car from her son - it was super nice, and she was old, so it was a nice gift to his elderly mother. Well, about four months later, her car disappears from her car port. Freaked out, she calls the police. The police show up and tell her that the car was stolen and they had seized it, but she wasn't home to let her know. She then had no car and her son felt like a heel.
posted by banannafish at 11:19 AM on July 29, 2008

What is the story behind it? It's new and it's cheap. There are lots of non-shady reasons...

- If you can find nothing to say that it is (because you are a law abiding citizen and you like to make your own inquiries just to be sure - not because you suspected it was!!).
- And you get a receipt (the more authentic, legal and correct looking the better).
Then IF you ever get 'caught with it' and IF it then does in fact turn out to be stolen - you will loose your cash but you will be in no real danger (IANAL) of being convicted of recieving/suspected/possesion of stolen property type charges.

I think they reserve that for people who "bought it off the back of a truck for $50 off some guy in a pub... Er, no I didn't catch his name or get a receipt..."
Those are questionable circumstances and who in their right mind would be surprised when it was confirmed they were stolen. Buying stuff isn't a crime, knowing you're becoming involved in something you shouldn't - is a crime.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 12:02 AM on July 30, 2008

My boyfriend was in a similar situation a while back, but with a bike. He called the police, checked lost/stolen ads, and even called the bike manufacturer to see if someone had reported it as stolen. It was being sold by an old lady who said her son had died, and she was selling his bike. My boyfriend even looked on the internet, and found out that indeed, her son had passed away. He did everything he possibly could, and could not find any evidence it was stolen. Even the bike manufacturer suggested he buy it, as there was no evidence it was stolen. Well, long story short, he bought the bike, and it ended up being stolen. The owner just didn't report it for some time. So when it did get reported, the police came and took it. My boyfriend called his rental insurance company, and they agreed to pay for the bike. If you have rental or homeowner's insurance, you may want to look into this. It worked for him.
posted by Delfena at 12:03 AM on July 30, 2008

Wow, Delfena. So the lesson is to never trust old ladies!

Nomisxid and Banannafish are right: I meant that you were probably inoculated against criminal charges if you did your diligence. You'll still lose the thing if the police come calling.
posted by rokusan at 6:52 AM on July 30, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. My conscience got the best of me and I turned it down. At least now I have a better idea of how the legal system works (or doesn't).
posted by Thrillhouse at 5:58 PM on July 30, 2008

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