How to find stolen MacBook beyond Apple support guidelines.
How I recovered a stolen MacBook Pro in a foreign country.
(Update: November 2016)
My MacBook was stolen during a business trip (in my case a MacBook Pro laptop). 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. However given that it was a new machine, I wanted to find stolen mac using any reasonable means.
Find lost or stolen mac – Checklist
- iCloud – find MacBook
- Register MacBook with your Apple ID (in “Devices” section)
- Call Support
iCloud – find stolen mac functionality
First things first – I went to iCloud and selected an option “notify when found” and “display a message”, which was saying “Please return lost mac for reward, no police” (I suggest writing “lost”: in case someone found it – he/she may become nervous about being accused in theft. If it is indeed a thief who reads it – it will give him/her more comfort). After a few days it was clear that the stolen Mac will unlikely be recovered – it was not connected to internet, no location identified.
Apple Support – report stolen MacBook
I decided to try out what Apple support can do about stolen mac. 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 mac 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 mac to repair, but the repair centre was not alarmed).
Register lost or stolen MacBook (important)
Even if the your MacBook is already stolen or lost – register it by adding it to your Apple ID (appleid.apple.com). This way you can see whether someone brings it in for repair or it surfaces on support call with Apple. Keep in mind, that the new owner may not necessarily be the thief: most likely stolen mac was sold.
Apple repair centre notification about stolen MacBook brought for repair
One morning while reading my overnight emails, I’ve noticed a message from Apple in foreign language. The only words I could understand in English where “service” and “MacBook Pro”.
Using Google Translate, I’ve got the wording, which was 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 1 question “Was the repair executed by #Name of Service Provider#? Quick Google search revealed location of service centre (which was in the same city where my mac was stolen).
Call to service centre about stolen MacBook
Without delay I’ve called the service centre and quickly got hold of its supervisor. After I have dictated my mac’s serial number, I was told “Yes Mr. XXX(XXX = not my name), the mac was repaired and returned last week”. I explained the situation as it is (stolen mac, I have a proof of purchase with my name and serial number on it). The supervisor explained that they couldn’t disclose any information about the person who brought in the machine to me, I would have to go through Apple or local police. However, I was able to confirm that they have a record of the person, who brought stolen mac into service.
Call with Apple – how to resolve situation on stolen MacBook
By the time I’ve got all this info (and did some work as well) it was evening, so I’ve decided to give Apple support a go first. My advantage was in the fact that my company is Apple’s Business Partner and a Joint Venture subscriber (last was of use). I was connected to 3 different tiers of support agents, and finally ended up with Steve (I will not disclose his full name here as I can imagine Steve does not want to receive a flood of calls from people, who got their equipment lost/stolen, asking for him specifically, and to prevent comments on this – it was not “Jobs”).
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 stolen mac. Next day I’ve got a call from Steve, and (short version) got advice to take the proof of purchase, contact local police, and ask them to assist in recovery.
Police – retrieve stolen MacBook from the suspect
It seems to be universal that police officers don’t want to create new cases by default. So at first I was sent to 2 different district offices (first – because it was not in a district where the theft happened, second – because although the theft happened there, the repair centre was located in a different district). After I’ve had enough of this, I simply went to the senior officer of the second station and said that I was sent to him from the first station.
Luckily this officer was just trying to solve some issue on a business side (don’t laugh at this point), and I was able to give some recommendations, which I hope where useful. After spending an hour or so discussing his business, we finally shifted to my issue. The officer explained that he does not want to have another theft case on his shoulders, and suggested me to give a person, who was recorded by Apple’s Centre, 24 hours to return the computer.
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).
MacKeeper – tracking of stolen MacBook
While searching for solutions on how to find my computer, I’ve stumbled upon MacKeeper, one of the functions of which is to track your computer if you report it stolen, take a picture of a person, once the lid is open and send to your email address. Was no use for the already missing MacBook, however a useless option for you to consider.
You can use my 20% discount code to get MacKeeper: use this link.
- Always register your apple product (Notebook/iPad/iPhone etc.) with your iCloud account.
- Keep your proof of purchase (usually it’s being emailed to you even if you purchase in store).
- Secure your data by encryption (in case you will not find stolen mac).
- Report theft to local authorities immediately (even if they say that it’s useless).
- Optionally install MacKeeper’s find stolen mac recovery tool.