Prey Labs: These are places your stolen laptop will most likely end up at

Stolen laptop?: These are places your device will most likely end up at

Theft simply happens, and you better be ready to face and get what’s yours back.

Nobody is off limits when it comes to laptop theft. We use these portable devices for a myriad of things: to take notes at school (or randomly browse the internet at a boring lecture), for work, to store our important files, music, memories, and more. Sadly, no matter how much time or money we invest in securing them, the chances of your laptop getting stolen are there, and according to your lifestyle, they can vary quite significantly.

We reviewed our recovery stories archive, in addition to our support forums, Twitter feed, and Facebook page, trying to find a pattern, and so we did. We got some obvious results, such as that the possibility of exposing yourself to robbers increases if you travel a lot or if you use your laptop outside frequently. Also, we confirmed what we wrote a while back, that the most common places you are likely to get your laptop taken without permission are mainly your car, public Wi-Fi hotspots, passing TSA at an airport, and at a library.

Listen to the story of a user who caught a thief with his Mac at a cafe! (Dramatized from original).

But what happens to your dear laptop after it is stolen? Where does it go? Basically, what do thieves do with it?.

With all the mentioned above from the data received from you guys, we compiled the most recurrent places your laptop might end up once it reaches the hands of a thief. In no particular order:

Pawn shops

One of the most common places these poor orphaned laptops can find themselves at are pawn shops. Yup, they get pawned! OK, that was most definitely not funny. Puns aside, pawning laptops can be a very efficient way to get rid of stolen goods since the cash amount they receive is very easy to spend. You can read some examples herehere, and here.

If you know a pawn shop around your neighborhood, and Prey is even slightly reporting near it, go and check it out. Tell the owner you’re looking for a laptop, and roughly describe yours, but be subtle: you don’t want to raise any suspicion. If you’re lucky enough, you might find your stolen device, and the worst thing that can happen is having to buy it back for a modest price.

Immediately sold to the highest bidder

Once your laptop gets stolen, thieves will want to get rid of it as quick as possible. They might sell it right out on the street to anybody willing to pay—money and the risk—for a suspiciously cheap laptop. Sometimes, they even do it around the corner from your own home, and you could even get a report with a picture of someone you know.

When things like this happen, better be ready, get Prey for Free.

This is difficult to trace, specially for devices stolen by people who had the chance of snatching an unattended good, and aren’t regular thieves. Once the police recovers a device, offenders claim they bought it from someone on the street, and only face charges for buying stolen goods instead of thievery. Anyway, there’s a pretty good chance of recovering devices this way.

The black market

We have records of people recovering their devices up to a year after they were stolen; this is most likely because they found their way into the black market. Sometimes they end up almost anywhere in the world, so the possibilities of recovery decrease dramatically.

Countries where these goods are desired and very expensive are ideal destinations for these objects, and it’s very hard to track how or where they operate. Devices in the black market might be recovered using Prey, but only if the police is willing to help, and after the new owner starts using the computer.

Social media: @buyer Very cheap laptop on sale #totallystolen

Laptops can also be found online being sold in places that host freely advertised classifieds, like Craigslist. Furthermore, thieves also use social media to contact possible buyers willing to pay the price. All thieves need is to put some fancy hashtag on Twitter, or post it on a popular page or group on Facebook.

Devices sold this way can be recovered just like any other case we just mentioned: someone buys the laptop, uses it, and gets busted by Prey. Even if that person didn’t know the computer was stolen, you will still get it back.

Professional crime gangs

The members of professional crime gangs might have not studied to become criminals, but they are a group of people who have become pros when it comes to stealing electronic devices, cleaning them, and then selling them. They are dangerous because of their organization and computer skills; usually, one of them knows how to wipe hard disks, delete all traceable data, install operating systems, all of which makes it almost impossible for you to track and get your device back.

There’s little hope of retrieving your device if it was stolen by one of these gangs. Good news is that this is not something that happens very often.

Now you know where your laptop will probably end up after it goes missing, in addition to where it’s most likely to be stolen. You can follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or you can subscribe to our RSS feed to know more about our future findings.

Share your story with us! What’s the strangest place you lost your stuff at?

data protection and anti theft

Fabián Núñez


Head of Sales and Customer Happiness at @preyproject. I love tech and Asian food. Headbanging since 2002. Overall badass.