Find stolen MacBook - Find lost MacBook

Find stolen MacBook (practical guide and checklist to find your lost or stolen MacBook)

Find a lost or stolen MacBook beyond Apple support

How do I know? Because I got my MacBook back. Use this lifehack!

(Update: Dec. 2016)

Perhaps far worse than having your handbag or wallet taken from you is having your MacBook stolen. After all, if you’re like a lot of people, your computer pretty much contains your life. Photos, passwords, work-related documents—it’s all there. So when all of it goes missing or is stolen, one tends to become not a happy camper. I was not particularly concerned about the data on stolen MacBook Pro as I use FileVault encryption for all my drives and data was being backed up day before on the office time capsule.

Because I use FileVault encryption for all my drives and Time Capsule backed up my data regularly, the crook was only walking away with a brand new MacBook that I desperately wanted back. Luckily, I had a plan to recover for the loss, and so can you. Just simply follow the checklist below.

Checklist: find a lost or stolen MacBook

Below, are the steps I took to get my MacBook back. I hope that you find them helpful.

  1. iCloudfind MacBook
  2. Register MacBook with your Apple ID (in “Devices” section)
  3. Call Apple Support
  4. Precautions:
    1. Use FileVault
    2. Install tracking software
    3. Consider new lineup of MacBooks (apple store)

iCloud – find stolen MacBook functionality

As soon as I realized my MacBook had disappeared, I jumped into action. I immediately went to iCloud and selected the “notify when found” and “display a message” option. The message that I chose to show on the screen simply read, “Please return lost MacBook for reward, no police.”

I was very careful with my wording by inserting the word “lost.” The reason for this is simple. You don’t want the person who finds your machine to think you’re automatically accusing him or her of theft. If a thief did, in fact, steal your MacBook, that carefully crafted screen message will hopefully provide him or her with some comfort and encouragement to return it to its rightful owner.

It’s important to note, this first step will not guarantee your MacBook’s safe return. Sadly, that was my case. After a few days, it was clear that my stolen MacBook would not be recovered. By this time, it was no longer connected to the internet and no location could be identified.

Find stolen MacBook (Find lost MacBook) - iCloud.com
Find stolen MacBook (Find lost MacBook) – iCloud.com (image from support.apple.com)

Register lost or stolen MacBook (important)

Even if your MacBook becomes lost or stolen, you can still register it by adding it to your Apple ID (appleid.apple.com). By doing this, you’ll be able to see if someone brings it in for repair. Keep in mind that the new owner of your MacBook may not necessarily be the thief. In most cases, the thief likely sold it to an unsuspecting buyer.

Register lost or stolen MacBook (iCloud "devices" section)
Register lost or stolen MacBook (iCloud “devices” section)

Apple Support—report your stolen MacBook (important)

Some people would rather have a tooth pulled than deal with a company’s customer support. For whatever reason, some of them have a reputation for feeding you scripted lines from a help manual, keeping you on hold for an ungodly amount of time or never fully solving your problem to begin with. Not knowing what to fully expect with Apple’s customer support, I called them nonetheless. In short, a representative for the company told me that there was nothing they could do and to report MacBook stolen to the police. This, of course, was not a good enough answer for me. After about thirty minutes had passed, the agent finally told me that he could notify local repair centers to alert Apple if a stolen MacBook matching my serial number was brought in for service. Unfortunately, despite what I was told, this never happened.

As time passed, I would later learn that my stolen MacBook had, indeed, been taken to a repair center. The only problem was Apple was never alerted about it. I eventually learned that Apple Support also never had any confirmation agreeing to alert repair centers on my behalf in the first place. Talk about frustrating! While my experience with Apple customer service was not perfect, I still encourage others to contact them anyway: even in the event that your MacBook becomes lost or stolen. Just because my experience wasn’t great that doesn’t mean yours will be. Good customer reps do exist, and I’m sure Apple has more than enough of them.

I decided to try out what Apple support can do about stolen MacBook.  Apple’s official position is (in short) “go to police, there is nothing we can do”, however after half an hour or so communicating with the agent, he said that he can make exception, and notify local repair centres to alarm Apple if a stolen MacBook with this serial number will be brought for service. This was later not confirmed by Apple Support, neither did it work in practice. Going forward it did not happen when it was indeed the case (someone brought stolen MacBook to repair, but the repair centre was not alarmed).

Apple repair centre email: stolen MacBook brought for repair

Just when I was about to give up hope of ever getting my MacBook back, I received a sign of sorts. While reading my overnight emails the following morning, I received a surprising message from Apple in a foreign language.Using Google Translate I got something close to: “Thank you for using Apple Service Centre for your recent MacBook Pro repair. We would like to know how satisfied you are…” After clicking on the link provided, I landed on a website with a question that read, “Was the repair executed by #Name of Service Provider#?” A quick Google search revealed the location of the service center which happened to be in the very city where my MacBook was stolen. Things were beginning to turn around after all.

Apple repair centre email: stolen MacBook brought for repair
Apple repair centre email: stolen MacBook brought for repair

Call to service center about the stolen MacBook

Without wasting any time, I contacted the service repair center and spoke to the store’s supervisor. After providing him with my MacBook’s serial number, he confirmed that my machine had been repaired at his business and returned to the new owner last week. After explaining that my MacBook he repaired had been stolen, the supervisor informed me that he couldn’t disclose any information about the person who brought the computer in for repair. Instead, I was told that I would have to either go through Apple or the local police—which is exactly what I did.

Another call to Apple regarding how to resolve the situation with stolen MacBook

Based on my previous experience with Apple’s customer support, I was a little hesitant to reach out to them again. However, the second time was the charm. I was connected to three different tiers of support agents, and finally ended up with a really nice guy named Steve. (I will not disclose his full name here as per Steve’s request – I think he does not want to become a go-to person for everyone who got their equipment lost/stolen, asking for him specifically, and to prevent comments on this.) Steve very patiently and carefully listened to my story, asked me to forward him an email I received, checked my credentials, and went back to Apple’s magic box to find a solution on how to find my stolen MacBook. The next day Steve gave me a call that was very promising. In a nutshell, he advised me to take my MacBook’s proof of purchase, contact local police and ask them to assist in the recovery.

Police – retrieve stolen MacBook from the suspect

After making contact with law enforcement, I felt confident that they were going to be a big help in getting my stolen MacBook back to its rightful owner—ME! When I arrived to the police station, I met with a senior officer who, believe it or not, wasn’t exactly thrilled to have another theft case on his shoulders. This was somewhat annoying to say the least. He suggested that I give the person who had my MacBook 24 hours to return it.

If I chose to go that route, I would have to correct the wording of my statement from “stolen” to “missing.” On my behalf, the police officer did contact Apple’s customer service center and was provided with the suspect’s name and phone number. After running a background check, the suspect apparently had a criminal record. Because of this, the officer told me he or she would not likely want to get in trouble with the law over stolen property. He proceeded to tell me what would happen next if I chose to press charges rather than give the suspect time to return the stolen MacBook on his own freewill.

To do so, I had to correct the wording of my statement from “stolen” to “missing”. The officer called the Service Centre (not sure how the identification went), however the result was that he was given a phone number and name of the suspect. It seems that the officer spent a little time, and checked the person’s background (he told me it was not good, and likely this person does not want to get into trouble), and very patiently explained the suspect what will happen if I go ahead and report theft (3 days jail, bail, court, jail, bail, court and so on).

Rather than demand that the thief be charged with a crime, I decided to wait and give him a chance to return it without facing consequences. After telling the police officer my decision to wait, he moved forward with reaching out to the suspect. Believe it or not, the individual agreed to return my stolen MacBook to police. Officers later contacted me and informed me that it was now in their possession. Of course, I was eager to get it back, so I arranged a time to meet with police face-to-face. Once I arrived at the police station, I presented the officer with a receipt proving I had purchased the Mac. The officer matched my computer’s serial number with one in MacBook’s settings. Finally! The machine was then handed back over to its rightful owner.

MacKeeper – tracking of your stolen MacBook

While searching for additional solutions on how to find my computer should it disappear again, I stumbled upon MacKeeper. Its advanced security features protect your Mac from phishing scams, malware, spyware, adware, and viruses. It also lets you track your Mac directly from the mobile app and gets a snapshot of the thief via the Track My Mac app. It would have been no use for my already missing MacBook, however, it’s a useful option for you to consider.

MacKeeper – tracking of your stolen MacBook
MacKeeper – tracking of your stolen MacBook

You can use my 20% discount code to get MacKeeper: use this link.

Conclusions:

  1. Always associate your apple product (MacBook/iPad/iPhone etc.) with your iCloud account.
  2. Keep your proof of purchase (usually it’s being emailed to you even if you purchase in store).
  3. Secure your data by encryption (in case you will not find stolen MacBook – you will at least be confident that your data will not be used).
  4. Report theft to local authorities immediately (even if they say that it’s pointless).
  5. Install MacKeeper’s find lost or stolen MacBook recovery tool.

Thanks to Apple Support, Apple Service CentreJoint Venture program, and the Police.

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