Lost+Found: Case 20SM – Panama City

Lost+Found: Case 20SM – Panama City

panama-laptop-theft-handlebar

Matthew’s story is one of our best yet. This Expert Vagabond got robbed during a trip to Panama and recovered his computer that was sent back to the US, three months later, without even having to call the police. Matthew’s heart sank when he lost his unique source of income, but then he turned from a victim to a hunter thanks to Prey. He traced the possessors of his laptop, learned about their lives, discovered some disgusting details about them and with that information he had them to willingly give back the computer to avoid further public humiliation. That’s what we call a happy hunting!

  • Location: Panama City, Panama
  • Date Stolen: October 22, 2011
  • Date Recovered: January 25, 2012
  • Theft: Robbed in a bar
  • Missing items: MacBook Pro
  • Police reaction: They didn’t seem very optimistic. Panama City receives over 1,000 stolen property reports a month
  • Time it took for first report to arrive: 3 months
  • Once received, time it took for police to recover it: They didn’t have to

Full story below:


matthewThis amazing story happened to Matthew Karsten, an American professional traveler who makes a living out of taking pictures around the globe, doing some freelance writing and maintaining his website. Everything Matt does comes from his computer, a MacBook Pro that goes with him wherever he travels. You can imagine his desperation when he found out his laptop was stolen.

Matt knows he made some mistakes. He didn’t have to carry his laptop to that Cuban bar in Panama City. He didn’t have to drink either. But when he did, he should have used some zip-ties to secure his bag pack, or been a little more cautious about who was around him taking a closer look at his belongings. And he also should have backed up his latest work. His life was on that computer and it was suddenly slipping away.

Short of money, without his MacBook Pro to work with, just a week before his first travelversary, Matthew had to return to the US and put his things back together and get a new computer, by buying a new laptop.

And then Prey awoke !

ChongaThree months after the theft, Prey sent its first report. The long wait was probably caused because of what we call the “thieves hour”, which is the lapse of time a thief takes or tries to sell the stolen device. When the laptop finally got an Internet connection, Prey worked its magic. Since Prey needs to connect to the Control Panel to check its status, the first report captured a man in the first photo, called “Handlebar” by Matt. Reports started to came in every five minutes and Matthew upgraded to a Pro account to be able to store up to 100 of reports. You won’t believe what he got.

The people using the expert vagabond’s computer constantly logged into Facebook. Could it be any easier to know somebody’s real name? But that wasn’t all. Matt also knew their relatives’ real names, what they did, what they liked, where they worked and a bunch of creepy things you shouldn’t know about other people… unless they’re using your stolen computer!

Handlebar shopping for sexThe most interesting thing of all was the guy’s behavior on the computer. Besides Facebook and Skype, he was very fond of online shopping, particularly looking at sex sites. But it wasn’t just sex sites, not sir! His favorites were hooker sites!! And that was captured on a report!

Matt was surprised with the images that were coming through but delighted with having more evidence. And as you may already know, “with great power comes great responsibility”. So he made a choice:

If they simply hand over my computer without incident, I have no problem keeping the police out of it and minimizing their humiliation. I just want my property back and be done with it.

But if they decide to be difficult, well, all bets are off…

I’ll hit them with everything my twisted mind can come up with.

Yup. Matthew’s laptop was once a prey but later became a hunter. From feeling desperate he came to hold absolute control over the situation. From having lost all hope, to enjoying every part of the game. From tragedy to comedy. All with a little piece of software that takes two minutes to install. Prey literally takes less than two minutes to install.

Getting the laptop back

Matt’s site is quite popular. He posted the story and quickly received comments from people who knew the possessors of his laptop. Their pictures and names weren’t censored back then, so you can guess how ashamed they were after seeing their identity published online. Specially Handlebar’s sexual behavior! They finally agreed to give back the MacBook Pro if Matthew removed the pictures.

Matt talked to some friends in Panama City who met the possessors, which had supposedly bought the stolen laptop off the street for $750. They got the MacBook Pro back and one of them bought it from Matthew, who was back in the United States by then. This was a happy recovery with no police force needed, and shows that Prey can recover your stolen device even if it ends up in a different country.

Read the whole story at Matt’s website for details: The theft | The recovery