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View Full Version : Customer purchased laptop from pawn shop, but looks hot to me...


Avgsmoe
04-19-2011, 10:33 PM
This customer I trust enough to not think he had anything directly to do with the theft brought in a system he purchased from a pawn shop. He wanted the password removed. Turns out it's bound to a domain, and has a couple of local accounts without passwords. After looking around for a minute I find it used to belong to a computer repair tech in my area. Ive never heard of him, but google did. All of his data was accessible and intact. Which leads me to believe it's stolen. What's the right thing to do? I plan on calling the local police. Should the data be wiped?

What would you do?
I've had a laptop stolen, and would have loved to have someone catch it, and let me know.

TimJacobs
04-19-2011, 10:41 PM
This customer I trust enough to not think he had anything directly to due with the theft brought in a system he purchased from a pawn shop. He wanted the password removed. Turns out it's bound to a domain, and has a couple of local accounts without passwords. After looking around for a minute I find it used to belong to a computer repair tech in my area. Ive never heard of him, but google did. All of his data was accessible and intact. Which leads me to believe it's stolen. What's the right thing to do? I plan on calling the local police. Should the data be wiped?

What would you do?
I've had a laptop stolen, and would have loved to have someone catch it, and let me know.

I would call the client and let them know that it is stolen, if possible have the client there with the receipt for it from the pawn shop with the local police show up. Then Let the Police know who own the laptop so that they can do their job. From there let the police handle it....

Might turn out to not be stolen after all......

From my perspective, I have an obligation to report all stolen equipment.

vdub12
04-19-2011, 10:44 PM
Thats a tough one because its a good customer.

Bottom of the line is you need to do whats right. Imagine if it was your laptop and that other tech had a customer that brought it in. I would first let the customer know that you have reason to believe the notebook is stolen. I would then contact the other tech and the police. I would make sure you keep your customer out of it though. Because if it wasn't him that stole it I would hate to see him get in trouble for it.

ATTech
04-19-2011, 10:54 PM
Why not call the local computer shop who it belonged to and ask if he's had any laptops stolen?

mraikes
04-19-2011, 10:57 PM
If the only reason you think it was stolen is (in essence) that it wasn't wiped & reloaded before being pawned, I don't think you have enough reason to call the police.

However you might have enough reason to refuse to work on it and inform your customer of your suspicions. Let your customer prove he's the legal owner or report it to the police himself if he thinks the pawn shop sold him a stolen item.

Avgsmoe
04-19-2011, 11:04 PM
If the only reason you think it was stolen is (in essence) that it wasn't wiped & reloaded before being pawned, I don't think you have enough reason to call the police.

However you might have enough reason to refuse to work on it and inform your customer of your suspicions. Let your customer prove he's the legal owner or report it to the police himself if he thinks the pawn shop sold him a stolen item.

This is what I keep coming back to. Only problem is the data is there, and lots of it. Looks like sensitive data too.

16k_zx81
04-19-2011, 11:25 PM
This customer I trust enough to not think he had anything directly to do with the theft brought in a system he purchased from a pawn shop. He wanted the password removed. Turns out it's bound to a domain, and has a couple of local accounts without passwords. After looking around for a minute I find it used to belong to a computer repair tech in my area. Ive never heard of him, but google did. All of his data was accessible and intact. Which leads me to believe it's stolen. What's the right thing to do? I plan on calling the local police. Should the data be wiped?

What would you do?
I've had a laptop stolen, and would have loved to have someone catch it, and let me know.

Thats an interesting ethical dilemma.

Personally, I would just go ahead and do the job. The fact is there's no evidence there that the laptop was stolen - this is pure supposition - even though there are some reasonable indicators that this may have occurred. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that your first duty is to the customer who has hired you to do a job.

I guess if you really wanted to go down the stolen laptop route, you could speak to the customer explaining your concerns and seeking their permission to contact the person who was the previous owner. Personally, I wouldnt contact him without the actual customer's informed consent. As the owner of the machine they have a right to know what steps you plan to take.

I think there is also an opportunity here to do some business with the porn shop. Obviously they are not cleaning up laptops before they sell them. This is bad for them - as it can link them with stolen merchandise and also provides an inferior product for sale. I would approach them, explain the situation, and see if I could talk through offering them some services, which they currently seem to lack in their resold machines. Could be a win-win for both parties.

Paul Rodgers
04-19-2011, 11:26 PM
I think you should give a call to the other tech and inform him that you have a laptop with his information on it. If it is stolen work with the other tech and the pawn shop to return the laptop and get your customers money back.

There is a pawn shop near me that won't accept laptops because of this.

CheerUpPC
04-19-2011, 11:27 PM
Personally, if I thought I knew who the owner was I would call them up and see if they had any laptops stolen. If it is then call the police...if not wipe and move on.

It's not quite as uncommon as you think for businesses to pawn off machines and not bother to wipe them. I have numerous customers who buy machines at auctions all the time and they are still attached to domains, still have passwords and still have data. Probably IT people telling their boss they will make sure the machine is wiped and then they are just lazy figuring their boss will never know.

GoHighVoltage
04-19-2011, 11:45 PM
I would first call the prior owner of the laptop and ask if he had a laptop stolen. If he did, I would explain to him that you are obligated to turn it over to the police. I would not touch any data on the laptop, I would have the police come by and pick it up.

I would let your client know that legally you are required to turn it over to the police, if in fact it is reported stolen.

We as professionals need to do the right thing.

Think about this, that laptop could be one that was stolen from a fellow computer repair store. Like our good friend here who had his shop robbed 2-3 times.

I would make sure to clear it. If it is dirty, I would turn it over to the police. Good client or not.

PS: Keep this in mind, I am willing to BET it is stolen for the simple fact that NO computer tech, or even corporation with a domain accessed laptop is going to sell or pawn a machine without wiping all the information.

bdhageman
04-20-2011, 03:16 AM
I think that the advice to call the other tech is the best route. He may have even pawned it. If there is suspicion that it is stolen then I stop work. One does not want to get the reputation for shady business dealings.

NETWizz
04-20-2011, 05:00 AM
1. Call the other tech and find out if it was stolen or Pawned. If it was stolen, ask him or her to fax or email a signed statement indicating it was stolen... this is an affidavit needed by the police.

2. If it was pawned, you don't even need to pester the customer for a receipt... do the work as requested... it is legit. Perhaps contact the Pawn shop and explain what happened though to see if you can work-out a business arangement with them.

3. If it is said to be stolen, DO NOT tip the customer off. Instead, contact the police and tell them what happened and that you have a signed affidavit as well as the details on the suspect. Tell the customer you need him (or her) to come in and show you the Pawn receipt or pick-up the laptop because otherwise you can't work on it... make sure the police are there in the back room (out of view).

4. If they show you a pawn receipt it gets trickier because you have a pawn shop selling stolen goods... the police can follow up and get your customer back his or her money from the pawn shop as well as return the laptop to its owner.

5. If the customer doesn't have the receipt but is in possession of a stolen laptop, the police can make an arrest and also return the laptop.


Either way, property and money are properly returned to their proper owners. The only downside is that you loose a sale... but it IS the right think to do. You MAY be required by law to act, too as knowingly servicing stolen merchandise might make you an accessory to the crime.

Just figure it all out but get statements in writing and do it in such a way to presume innocence of your customer while investigation. i.e. A call to the other tech may very well indicate it is NOT stolen and you can go about your business with your customer never knowing.

MHCG
04-20-2011, 05:19 AM
I think there is also an opportunity here to do some business with the porn shop. Obviously they are not cleaning up laptops before they sell them. This is bad for them - as it can link them with stolen merchandise and also provides an inferior product for sale. I would approach them, explain the situation, and see if I could talk through offering them some services, which they currently seem to lack in their resold machines. Could be a win-win for both parties.

So, your advice is to call the pawn shop and offer to help them hide the fact that they purchased stolen goods?

Cadishead Computers
04-20-2011, 06:47 AM
1. As a victim of thefts of laptops, with clients personal data on them, I would contact the tech first. Check to see if the laptop actually was stolen.

2. If it was, then I would not touch it with a 10ft barge pole.

3. I would then contact the police and your client. (Obviously its not your clients fault that he has purchased a stolen laptop). Inform them of your findings, and let the police deal with it.

4. The police may have to keep hold of it for a while, whilst investigations are carried out.

5. Then let the police, and the tech deal with the issues at hand.

Do pawn shops keep a record of who they bought things off in the US?, I know they do in the UK.

6. If it wasn't stolen, then I would ask the tech why did he pawn a laptop knowing that personal data was still on it to begin with. Doesn't he know about privacy laws etc.

7. Do the right thing. As NetWizz has mentioned, yes you lose a sale, but is that sale worth it in the long run?

8. You could potentially earn out of this. Look at it this way, you find out that a laptop has been stolen, you inform the original owner. Owner would be grateful, and may even offer a reward. You could contact your local media, and get a story out of this.

9. If it was pawned, ask the tech if the data on the drive was important. If it was, then ask if he has backed up the data on the drive. If he hadnt, then offer to do so, and sell it back to him.

gikstar
04-20-2011, 07:18 AM
Why not just call the police and ask if 'tech'- (who name is in the laptop) has reported a stolen laptop?

TimJacobs
04-20-2011, 07:40 AM
Do pawn shops keep a record of who they bought things off in the US?

Yep they do..........

Cadishead Computers
04-20-2011, 09:01 AM
Yep they do..........

Thanks for that Tim. Should be a easy enough trace for the police then, if it is a stolen laptop.

K007
04-20-2011, 09:17 AM
The guys at the pawn shop are not computer experts,
you are short of cash and you live your laptop there for some cash they give you.
If you don't bring back the cash they gave you plus interest, they sell your laptop.
It is normal the guy didn't erase the data on his own laptop, because he intended to go and pay the loan and collect his laptop.
On the other hand, the pawn shop guys, were interested only to sell the goods to recover their money.
I don't see any problem here in principle.
What you can do is call the guy who owned the laptop and offer him to give his data back on a DVD for a small price.
You will find out for sure if the laptop was stolen.
You may even make an extra score or two by backing up his data and selling it back to it's owner.
for our American colleagues, "score" is an old English language word meaning 20.00 (pounds)

StringTech
04-20-2011, 01:26 PM
Personally, if I thought I knew who the owner was I would call them up and see if they had any laptops stolen. If it is then call the police...if not wipe and move on.

A couple of years ago, we had a student come in and asked us to remove a password. One of our techs suspected that it was a stolen laptop since it belonged to a domain and had a company sticker in the back.

The tech took it upon himself and did his own "investigation". In the end we found out that the laptop belonged to the client's father. The father bought it at a discount price as a refurbished laptop which was offered to the employees at work when it was time to refresh the company's old laptops.

We offered to wipe and reload Windows and the client agreed.

Offer to wipe and load Windows instead and see if he will agree to it, if not maybe something's up.

lightningguru26
04-21-2011, 02:32 AM
First thing i would do it take it to the local PD and see if it has been reported. If it has, turn it over to them and have them call the customer. If it hasn't been reported stolen, contact the customer and explain your suspiciousness to them. Then if they agree, contact the owner of the stolen machine. If everything checks out, continue your repair. Honesty is the best policy. It will never fail you.

cpalmer2k
04-21-2011, 02:44 AM
I agree with most of the others here... If you've identified the tech it previously belonged to I'd call them up and ask if they've had anything stolen. If so, ask if they filed a police report. If they did it's very simple, you call the police and they take over from there. If they didn't file a report then you can contact the police yourself and turn the case over to them. It wouldn't be unusual to find a used system that wasn't wiped in a pawn shop, at least not around where I am. However it would be VERY unusual in my opinion to find a system that previously belonged to a tech that wasn't wiped.

I had a similar situation recently, a shady computer shop around me sold a "used" laptop to someone a buddy of mine works with. They demonstrated the computer in the shop and sold it dirt cheap. He took it home, then found out it had a hard drive lock password on it. He took it back and of course the guy didn't have the password.

m5online
04-27-2011, 11:40 PM
Keep it Simple.

If it doesn't feel right, don't work on it.

Don't call the police. It's not your laptop, you didn't buy it, and it hasn't been gifted to you. Unless you know for sure it's stolen, then everything else is speculation and assumptions, and everybody knows what happens when you ASS U ME :-).

I wouldn't go playing inspector gadget either with the Googling and calling around trying to find the "owner". That tactic might get you in a weird situation you don't want to be in, and also may portray a stunning lack of basic trust in your customer who quite possibly unknowingly bought a hot laptop.

Give the laptop back tot he customer and simply explain that after looking it over, you found data and security settings that makes you uncomfortable about performing invasive repairs. If customer asks why, then tell them what you think.

Otherwise keep your hands clean of it as much as you can.

NETWizz
04-28-2011, 02:28 AM
You have to go with your gut instinct... usually it is right.

I almost always blindly trust people, but when I feel something about someone it is usually more than right.

GoHighVoltage
04-28-2011, 02:31 AM
The simplest and righteous thing to do is call the tech who owned it and ask him if he had a computer stolen. If he did, turn it over to the police.

I do not believe for an instant, that a tech sold a laptop without wiping it first. This has stolen written all over it.

K007
04-28-2011, 06:45 AM
The simplest and righteous thing to do is call the tech who owned it and ask him if he had a computer stolen. If he did, turn it over to the police.

I do not believe for an instant, that a tech sold a laptop without wiping it first. This has stolen written all over it.

Hey you guys, do you know the meaning of pawn shop?
What is a pawn shop?
You don't sell stuff to pawn shop.
You leave your stuff there for money, and when you bring back the money you get your stuff back.
If you don't bring back the money they sell your stuff.
WTF? Where are you living guys, in what country?

If you intend to get your damn laptop back, you don't wipe it, full stop.

TimJacobs
04-28-2011, 07:13 AM
Hey you guys, do you know the meaning of pawn shop?
What is a pawn shop?
You don't sell stuff to pawn shop.
You leave your stuff there for money, and when you bring back the money you get your stuff back.
If you don't bring back the money they sell your stuff.
WTF? Where are you living guys, in what country?

If you intend to get your damn laptop back, you don't wipe it, full stop.

I have pawned my laptop before and well I didn't wipe it. It was also Password Protected...... So Yeah I would have to agree here. If you pawn it, you have every intention on getting it back so why wipe it?

Now IF I was going to sell it yeah I would wipe it out but not to pawn it.

K007
04-28-2011, 10:54 AM
I have pawned my laptop before and well I didn't wipe it. It was also Password Protected...... So Yeah I would have to agree here. If you pawn it, you have every intention on getting it back so why wipe it?

Now IF I was going to sell it yeah I would wipe it out but not to pawn it.

That reminds me of a friend of mine from S.A .back in 2004.
He is a chef, not a tech guy. I was the pawn shop for him.
Gave him 300 and he insisted I kept the laptop until he gave me back the money.
There were plenty of pawn shops around, but with me he didn't have to pay any interest.

GoHighVoltage
04-28-2011, 10:33 PM
Hey you guys, do you know the meaning of pawn shop?
What is a pawn shop?
You don't sell stuff to pawn shop.
You leave your stuff there for money, and when you bring back the money you get your stuff back.
If you don't bring back the money they sell your stuff.
WTF? Where are you living guys, in what country?

If you intend to get your damn laptop back, you don't wipe it, full stop.

Yes I am well aware of what a Pawn shop is and how they work. I have a client that owns a Pawn Shop.

I still don't think a tech would pawn a laptop with his information on it, whether he planned on picking it up or not, at least I wouldn't.

And you should still call the guy and see if he had it stolen, and if he did, hand it over to the police.

If he didn't have it stolen, then wipe it clean, but at least you did what ever concerned citizen should do for the community.

Period.

K007
04-29-2011, 12:43 PM
Yes I am well aware of what a Pawn shop is and how they work. I have a client that owns a Pawn Shop.

I still don't think a tech would pawn a laptop with his information on it, whether he planned on picking it up or not, at least I wouldn't.

And you should still call the guy and see if he had it stolen, and if he did, hand it over to the police.

If he didn't have it stolen, then wipe it clean, but at least you did what ever concerned citizen should do for the community.

Period.

You really missed my point, because you didn't read my previous posts.
In general lines I was saying the same thing ....
As for wiping the info when you intend to get it back in a week, I don't think I would do it.
Encrypt it, password protect it, yes, but not wiping off my dear data.

gikstar
04-29-2011, 04:56 PM
If you have your doubts as to whether the tech has pawned his laptop or not, I don't think it should be our concern unless we know the tech.

The information you have from the laptop has provided you with the techs name and City... if you have concerns, call the techs' local police department and ask if that person has reported a laptop stolen. I don't suggest you get anyone else involved unless it was reported stolen.

END OF STORY.

norm1320
04-29-2011, 06:04 PM
Hey you guys, do you know the meaning of pawn shop?
What is a pawn shop?
You don't sell stuff to pawn shop.


People sell stuff to pawn shops all the time. There are many pawn shops where more items are sold to them outright than are actually pawned.

There is really no way of knowing whether someone sold it to the pawn shop or pawned it to them, so any speculation as to whether they would have left data on it planning to retrieve it later is just that: speculation.

K007
04-29-2011, 07:13 PM
People sell stuff to pawn shops all the time. There are many pawn shops where more items are sold to them outright than are actually pawned.

There is really no way of knowing whether someone sold it to the pawn shop or pawned it to them, so any speculation as to whether they would have left data on it planning to retrieve it later is just that: speculation.

And that is why you should think twice before you call the police or the previous owner based on pure speculation :)

Tony_Scarpelli
06-12-2011, 07:28 PM
My client trusted me to do a job for him and I think my duty to him is paramount. I know he is not envolved so no reason to betray his trust.

I have a brother that pawns crap now and then. Drives the whole family nuts because he lost $2000 tool set once for $400. This is the way it goes.

This could be a very ligitimate deal the guy got behind, intended to pickup the laptop but things didn't get better for him so he lost it.

If really concerned, I would burn a dvd or few dvds of all the data. Then send it anonamously to the old owner. But not before looking to see if there was any intelligence or information that would benefit me.

I would then format the drive and reload the os for my client and get paid so that I can feed my family.

A. I have no real evidence that its stolen so I am just being a busy body here.

B. I have a paying client who trusted me and I want to keep him happy.

C. The laptop is small potatoes in the scheme of things and if I do the extra step of sending the man a free backup then I have given him $100-$140 worth of free service so my mind is clear.

Everyone is happy or should be.