VUWER Recovery Stories
Š Jan. 13, 2012: VUWER Helps Recover a MacBook Pro in Germany
I just want to thank you for keeping up the VUWER project! VUWER played the major role in retrieving my stolen MacBook Pro from the hands of a thief. Two or three years ago I installed VUWER and in the moment I needed its features, it worked flawlessly.
The MBP was stolen from my car on 7th of December. Four days after the theft I received a bunch of mails on my iPhone with pictures of the thief, the screenshots, geo-data and SSID-information. Although the IP and geo-data didn't help (has to do with the thief's German Internet provider), I could finally trace him thanks to the pictures, screenshots and WLAN information.
Friends of mine recognized his Russian-like appearance. In Leipzig (a city in Saxony-Germany with a population of 500,000), immigrants from eastern European countries often settle down in certain areas of the town. Luckily I could trace his WLAN in one of these city areas and provide the information to the police. They arrested him (a 17-year-old) and found about 15 more stolen laptops in his flat. Needless to say, they were thankful since they were able to solve at least three more thefts in the days after the arrest. I have my MBP back now but unfortunately not the bag it was in, or the power adapter, or the other things that were in the bag. Oh well.
Since I'm the co-owner of a TV media company, we made a 6-minute film about the story, which was broadcasted this Wednesday on public TV. VUWER and the way it works gets explicitly described in this feature. Afterwards there were lots of phone calls from people who wanted more information on VUWER.
If you are interested, here is a link to the movie clip. Although it has a German narrator, you might understand what is happening ;-).
So again I want to say THANK YOU for all your work in maintaining this project!
All the best,
(In case you’re wondering why Sven had so much difficulty locating his computer, it’s because he was using an old version of VUWER without wireless geolocation. Keeping your VUWER installation up to date can save you a lot of effort! – Tim)
Š May 1, 2013: VUWER Helps Recover a MacBook Pro in Detroit, Michigan
My house was broken into early morning in September 2012. The thieves were stopped by my neighbors coming home, but not before they got away with my DJ bag and some other small electronics. I have two close DJ friends that had recently had their laptops stolen in and around the D, and also had come across a recovery story that a friend had posted on Facebook. Due to these occurrences, I had just installed VUWER on my MacBook Pro.
After surveying my home, I recalled this fact (in the moment, it wasn't the first thing on my mind) to find that indeed, my computer had sent a transmission! I was sitting on my porch with all my neighbors and had a GPS location of 2 blocks away, and a photo of the perp. The Detroit cops that came to my house wouldn't take a report (I had to phone it in) and when I gave them all the information, they simply said they couldn't just go knock on the door, because nobody would probably answer. Awesome. So even with all the information (my neighbors identified the perp, knew that was his home and were aware of them having hit a few houses in our area) I knew it was going to be a rough road to get it back, if ever.
VUWER photo sent by Kyle’s MacBook Pro on the morning of the theft.
After reporting my case, I ran into the detective that had recovered some iPads in the story I had read on Facebook. What luck! Or so I thought. He was a homicide detective and tried to help me because he was sympathetic to my story, but he was consistently too busy or caught up in court to pull a warrant. I tried all my police contacts and kept running into walls. The detective that was actually assigned my case was older, about to retire and was practically impossible to reach. I finally gave him all the information and VUWER transmission data in December 2012 and pretty much chalked up my laptop as being gone forever, as it had been missing over 2 months.
Fast forward to April 2013. I'm at work and used to seeing my new laptop’s VUWER transmissions, but this time the transmission was from my old check-in address! I had to look at it 10 times over to make sure I wasn't seeing things. (A sidenote: I know if you have multiple computers you can use the same Gmail site/address to set up VUWER but I highly recommend doing different sites/emails for each computer, so if heaven forbid your laptop gets stolen and you have to replace it, you can differentiate between the one in your possession and the stolen one.)
My MacBook Pro had shown up at a residential address in West Bloomfield, Michigan (an upscale suburb of Detroit.) Again, I had a photo of the woman who was now in possession of my stolen laptop, including GPS info and WiFi network info with confirmed names, addresses, etc.
Kyle’s MacBook Pro reports in again after 7 months!
(Another sidenote - TIM is AMAZING!!! He personally helped me through this whole ordeal, from scenarios that could be occurring with my computer to what to tell the cops, etc. He was always encouraging and had more info about my computer than any detective could have received. He basically did all the footwork that was needed and would respond almost instantly to any of my questions. Sure there are other theft tracking systems out there, but I'm not sure you would get the personal custom service the way you do with VUWER.)
I contacted the West Bloomfield police department and was advised to go in personally to file a report (they claimed they couldn't retrieve something that was taken in Detroit and my Detroit contacts said the reverse…here we go again…). I had my original police report in hand and the new VUWER transmission data when I went there. My Detroit police contact had some friends in West Bloomfield that he called, and while I waited they went to the home and tried to retrieve it. Nobody was answering. This went on for a week. The case was then given to a detective and I was in constant contact with him as well. He had tried 3 or 4 times the following week as well. Just as he was about to need more info to pull a warrant, a car pulled up, he retrieved my laptop and I was on my way the next morning to pick it up!!
The backstory - my laptop was sold to a pawnshop in Hamtramck, Michigan (a city within Detroit's city limits) and had an administrative wipe of the data/hard drive done by a local computer shop the same day it was stolen from my house. It must have sat on the shelves that entire time, and then the owner of the shop gave it to his stepdaughter to use. They were pretty innocent in the whole matter (outside of the shop owner buying stolen property and demanding the $370 back that he spent on it…ha) and the West Bloomfield police closed the case on their end. They were able to get the information on who sold it to the shop (name and driver’s license #), and gave me that information to pass along to my Detroit detective. When I got the new VUWER transmissions I had called the Detroit police department to let them know about the updated information, and I found out I have a new detective who is new in the department. He was excited for me and took the info so he can get to the bottom of the case and get the original perps on breaking and entering charges.
Be persistent! Don't lose all faith and if your laptop is as important to your job and wellbeing as mine was, it might just end up back in your hands!
Thanks again to VUWER and Tim!!
Kyle and her MacBook Pro … together again!