Smashed and grabbed

Smashed and grabbed

Yesterday I drove to my local Apple Store to pick up my Mac Pro, which had had it's processor board repaired. I got there about 6:20pm, picked it up, and returned to the parking lot at 6:40. I opened the rear driver's side door, eased my Mac Pro onto the floor, and then wondered why there was broken glass on the seat. It took a moment to realize the answer -- the rear passenger side window had been smashed open. It took only a moment longer to realize the worse news -- my laptop bag, containing my MacBook Pro and iPad 2, and my camera bag containing my Canon T2i, fast 50mm lens, and 35mm lens had been stolen. Looking around I saw several other adjacent cars had been similarly broken into, and a few minutes later the owners returned and discovered similar theft of their laptops and other valuables.

I called the police. They took a report. They marked it as "will not investigate" due to the lack of cameras in the parking lot. I called my insurance company. Twice. They took a report. Twice. I called all the IT people I work with and had my passwords reset and my keys revoked and replaced.

Because I use Find my iPhone, I could try to track my iPad. (Unsuccessfully; it had been powered down.) I could also issue a remote wipe (though it would be helpful if Apple recorded the location just before it wiped). Because I keep most of my home directory in Dropbox, I didn't lose any data. (Though I dearly wish Dropbox could remote wipe the files of a lost or stolen computer -- or can it and I'm just unaware?) Because I use 1Password I can quickly replace any logins with new ones that are just as gnarly, just in case.

I wish I could just watch GDGT to see who adds my gear, then use Gowalla to track them down, but the truth is most stolen property is never recovered.

My car window will be replaced, good as new. Some portion of my gear will be covered by insurance, though probably not enough to replace it all. The loss of time and the feeling of violation will frustrate for a long time to come.

It did serve to remind me that, despite the inconvenience, security and redundancy are urgently important.

If you haven't installed Apple's free Find my iPhone service, do it now. If you don't have both a local backup (iTunes is fine), make one now. If you don't have a remote backup (iCloud might be fine come iOS 5), make one now. And make it a habit to run it every day or couple of days so you never lose too much data. Unlike gadgets, that's irreplaceable. (I'd also suggest a good password manager.)

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Smashed and grabbed


So sorry man....I can only imagine the frustration you're feeling right now. I hope you'll feel back to 100% sooner rather than later. And may the thief rot in tech hell for stealing your stuff! :(

Sorry to see Rene, but why don't ppl use their trunk at malls and similar locations? I always store my gear in the trunk. I know ppl can get in there but it's less a risk of it being seen.

After reading through all the comments so far, I find it amazing how many people are reproving/critisizing Rene for leaving his gear in sight when early on he plainly said it was under the seat with shopping bags on top, and that his trunk is useless for hiding things. Come on people, go back and read through! The thieves obviously knew there'd be a good chance in an Apple store parking lot that folks would have stuff; several other cars were looted, and unfortunately Rene's car was there in the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm also amazed that police are thinking that way now; good luck society - if they kill you better hope it's caught on camera

Exactly! In the country I live in right now, this type of crime is almost unheard of. (I live in Oman.) Still I wouldn't leave a laptop bag in clear view in the car. That's just asking for trouble, where-ever you live!

Not sure his car has a trunk, per se, but there are certainly locations where it would have been out of sight. Always best to put stuff there.

I disagree, how about people mind their own business and earn what they get instead of stealing it? What a novel thought that would be. ( understand what you are saying, I just don't think that should have to be the answer.

I think you'er assuming that Rene did not try to hide the items. We don't know if he did or not, so we should not assume one or the other. Besides, many cars where broken into, so they were 'searching' in the cars, not just this or that one.

Tell me - "rear window" smashed, laptop bag be the one to decide if the stuff was left out in plain view. Notice it didn't say "My trunk was open."

Wonder if the parking lot is the Apple Store lot or just a lot at a mall? Seems like the thief knew that there would be laptops and tech. stuff in the cars parked there.

Sorry to hear that man. I've had friends who have been in similar situations. The horrible feelings will pass with time. Everything will be ok.

You can deauthorize devices in dropbox's menu system.
That SUCKS man. Sorry. Hope this has a better outcome!

Damn dude, really sux and sorry to hear, but REALLY? Left all that in a cab of a vehicle??? If ANYTHING in the damn trunk! Wow, in today's day and age people still don't learn... BTW, remote wipe tells you that the location will not be able to be determined, you should have used remote lock if anything.
To learn these and more basic rules in life, follow me on twitter @Bababooey13 lmao!
And check out my BUUF4 series of themes on Cydia including BUUF4iPad "all FREE" :-P

My car has been broken into about 5-6 times - about 4 weeks ago, no less. I usually feel like I want to take a bat to the thieves heads. I feel your pain.

People sometimes ask why I carry my backpack (or messenger bag) everywhere I go, and it's because I simply can't leave it in the car--laptop, iPad, camera, gun, headphones and other audio gear, miscellaneous supporting gadgets and doodads, etc., etc.
I had a security guy at Best Buy ask me once (as I was walking into the store) why I was bringing my backpack in, and I told him, "Because there's stuff in here I absolutely cannot afford to lose," and that was that.

I didn't post that there's a gun in my backpack to make a political statement, or any other statement about guns, other than that it's one of the primary reasons (in addition to all the other valuable gear in whatever bag I'm carrying) that I don't want to leave my bag anywhere but with me (and certainly never in the open in my car, which is, in my opinion, an invitation to thieves).
Like I also said in some other comment here, I've had my car broken into before, when I left some gear out in the open, and I won't make that mistake again. I feel terrible for Rene (knowing full well what it feels like), and hope he also never makes that mistake again--and that anyone else reading his piece never makes that mistake again.

America is scary so please stay out. As for guns I keep one in my car at all times, one concealed inside my waist at 3 o'clock and one strapped to my ankle. Better not catch you smashing and grabbing out of my car.

Maybe living in Canada made you over confident. Nobody would ever leave both an iPad and a MacBook Pro in a car in Brazil. I wonder who's losing...

I've had my car broken into once before (many years ago), and some gear I had out in the open was stolen. This happened in a nice neighborhood in a very safe city. Many years hence, and I still haven't forgotten, and the gear comes with me (or, only if absolutely necessary, goes into the trunk, or covered hatch, depending on what I'm driving). I can't imagine Rene is going to make this mistake ever again either.

i'm confused. you write you put your macbook pro on the seat then wondered why the rear window was broken. i'm assuming time past between 640 when you put your laptop in the car and when you noticed the window broken.

That's terrible. So sorry to hear about the incident. I agree with Pinky; it's very important to keep valuables out of sight. We use plain backpacks (not ones that look like laptop bags) and stash them in the trunk. If for some reason we have to keep them in the back seat, we usually toss a towel or blanket over them.

That sucks for sure, Renè.
We all have times when we can be too trusting, but I make sure my iPhone is with me wherever I go, and I put my iPad into my satchel bag. I never leave anything on a car seat, even if it's invaluable(scumbags see something on the seat and try to grab it, regardless.)

That's an awful story. I had a camera stolen once, like you say I could just buy a new one, but I was never gonna get my precious photos back. And the sense of violation and injustice is really galling.
I never under any circumstances leave tech gear in the car, not even the boot/trunk. Rural Ireland has little crime but it's not worth the risk.
I imagine most robbers are wise to Find My iPhone. But once you request a location fix, if they ever do turn it on and connect without wiping, Apple will send you an email to notify you. Activating Remote Wipe probably stops that though.

Sorry that happened, Rene. :-(
It'd be cool if just before the wipe, the iDevice would snap a front-facing picture and send it! Better than just a location, you have a bona fide lead and suspect!

Sorry you got ripped off but anyone with that much gear should no better than to EVER leave it in your car. If I have my gear with me I take it with me no matter what, no exceptions. No matter how inconvenient it is at the time.
I'm kinda surprised people still do this?

so wait, if i smash car windows and steal stuff the police wont even investigate? well guess who's going to get a bunch of new stuff tonight!!!

My guess is you will need to claim almost all of this under your homeowners, or renters policy and with the amount of money you lost in your hardware it would easily exceed the cost of your deductible. Sorry to hear about your awful luck, I would be absolutely livid.

That is the worst. At least insurance will help with some of it. With all your passwords and find my iPhone security that is designed to protect your gear it's strange that you relied on the most un-secure thing go protect your gear: glass.
Of course I don't mean to kick you when you're down. I know what it's like to have that broken glass moment. When I lived in San Francisco and parked on the street it was a semi-regular occurrence for me. Of course the only thing they could steal were floor mats and maybe some change in the ashtray- and they would.

Sorry you were a victim of theft Rene. I had the same thing happen to me. I wanted to keep all my valuables with me at all times after the crime. I know you feel violated and angry.

Sounds like the thief/thieves were casing the parking lot and saw you put it in your backseat. If this was the case, even putting it in a truck wouldn't have prevented this seeing how they could simply break in to the truck through the backseat.
Take your valuables with you next time.

yeah.. im sure you would love to tote an ipad, laptop and expensive heavy professional camera everywhere you go?

Well if you want to make laziness the issue, you probably deserve having your valuables stolen. It's not like this is THE-FIRST report of a smash n grab. It happens all the time. You can't be too careful these days. Hard to feel sorry for something that could have been so easily prevented. Sometimes experience is expensive. Chalk it up to lesson learned!

yes and no..its an assumption you're making and its wrong..He may have needed it for work.. He did try to put it out of sight but that didn't help.. who is to say that even if he didn't have that stuff in his car they still would not have broken in and just done damage out of spite for not finding anything? You never know so to say it was TOTALLY preventable is inaccurate.

Taking valuables with you prevents this incident from ever occurring, hence it really was totally preventable, Einstein.

A person once lost their fingers by a thug grabbing their Apple bag from them while walking out of an Apple store, Einstein.
Good luck carrying your valuable with you in life. You're totally clueless about the world around you.

Just like you're clueless about what the world looks like outside your parent's basement. Thanks for trolling. Come again.

Hey Rene: I have a laptop bag, with MacBook Pro and iPad 2, camera bag with Canon T2i, fast 50mm lens, and 35mm lens for sale - CHEAP!!!! ;-)
Sorry that you got hit! Sux that azzholes can't just leave other peoples property alone...

How exactly should I do that? Hammer-proof glass? I wouldn't say anything of significance was stolen each time if you are implying that somehow people who have their cars broken into are at fault.

Sorry to hear that Rene. I was silly enough to leave a camera on the back seat of my car, and had it broken into. Took my favourite Cleveland Indians ball cap as well. Luckily they didn't find my wife's purse under the seat.
Joke was on them (and me). The camera was broken.
Was still vacuuming out the broken glass 4 years later when I sold the beast.
Worst part is the loss of innocence and loss of the sense of security. Expensive lesson.

As someone who has had an iPod stolen from my car, I find the only thing more frustrating and annoying then the theft itself is that everyone lines up to takes turns telling you it's all your fault and you're an idiot. Cmon, we can't be the only two people who hide our electronics under the seat to run a quick errand.

You make it sound as if his belongings up and disappeared as punishment for his "foolishness".
Fact is there was another party involved in this crime that you all forget about: the SOB who actually stole it. It's his fault as far as I'm concerned.

Ifeel your pain. My car was smashed-and-grabbed last month, and I was very lucky. The cops saw the a**hole in the act and he ran, getting only my 12-year-old electric razor. It's the trunk for me now.

Hey Rene I'm sorry to hear that. Two quick ideas -- both untested but perhaps they might help you in this painful situation...
About remote wipe via Dropbox: how about set up a new dropbox account, copy your files into it, set up all your devices with this new account, then delete all the files in the old one? If/when your stolen MBP (which is still set up with the old account) syncs, then the data should be wiped.
Tracking the stolen computer: if you had a Gmail account set up, try logging in to Gmail on the web, and look at the bottom right corner of the screen, where "Last account activity" is available. You might be able to track the IP address of your devices that way, if/when they sync.
Best wishes.

Mine was a classic case of "it can't happen to me". Well, now I know it can and I have changed my habits about leaving stuff in my car.

You,my friend, are one of the many customers that this happens to on a regular basis at most stores. People should really use better sense when it cones to their valuables.

Ummm, duh, you wouldn't need to waste all these technological resources to track your crap if you were smart enough not to leave it in your car in the first place.

Sorry to hear it, but I think leaving your gear in the car on the street isn't a smart idea (even for 2-3 minutes)
Trunk is much safer

Hmmm...are they casing parking lots adjacent to Apple Stores?
When something like this happens it's disheartening. Thank you for posting about it, and giving fore & hindsight suggestions regarding security and redundancy.
I have to admit, I was looking forward to a live, updated ride around Canada tracking your iPadPhoneMacBook though. ; ) Of course reading the various perspectives posted below was a wild ride by itself.

Rene, u don't need to tote around a iPhone, iPad, Macbook and a Camera. The world contains crappy people! Lesson learned! Take your phone and iPad or iPhone and camera. Never all 4. Leave the rest at home or at the office. You really needed to carry all those items to the Apple Store?

As a police officer I have one major piece of advice; photograph every item of value in your household and make sure you photograph every single serial number. Upload the photos to some secure site that you can access from any computer (at a police station or your insurance company's office). The absolute main reason we can't catch burglars/thieves is the victim's lack of documentation. I can't tell you how many times we've served search warrants on a house only to find tons of stolen property that we can't prove is stolen because none of the serial numbers come up in the national database. Also, when they try to pawn the items, if the serial numbers are listed as stolen then we get alerted and can catch the bad guy AND recover your stolen property. Writing down your serial numbers and/or photographing them won't stop the theft but it will dramatically increase our ability to catch and prosecute the bad guys as well as get your stuff back.

"The loss of time and the feeling of violation will frustrate for a long time to come."
Sorry that it happened Rene. At least it's all replaceable stuff, except for the time and stress level that the theft created.

Chalk it up to Shit happens, Unless you want to be a hermit and not go anywhere sometimes you just have to leave valuables in the car. Yes you take chances but life is full of chances.

Then may I suggest you always keep a dark colored blanket in the trunk.
Hiding the actual shape/size/nature of the valuables may at least prevent the thieves from making a proper risk assessment (resale value of stolen goods vs risk of being caught during smash-in).

I feel your pain Rene. My worst nightmare having equipment stolen and most importantly the information that the thief could access.

Hey rene. DROPBOX can remotely unlink your devices from accessing your account. heres how.
1. log on to the dropbox website
2. select the "account" link on the upper right hand of the web page.
3. From the loaded link, select the "My computers" tab. this will display all the devices linked with your account.
4. From there you can manually unlink each device from your dropbox.
Hope this helps!

Damn man i feel your pain, had a macbook pro stolen in a ebay scam of which i called ebay and paypal while standing in fedex and they assured me that the transaction was ok.... the next day the money was gone out of my account and my laptop in the hand of lowlife scum, and ebay and paypal both said that it was my fault and nothing they could do....even worse i financed the laptop so i was still paying for it months after. The sinking feeling you get when you realize your FUCKED (excuse my language) is unbearable, i called the police and they all but confimed my loss was unrecoverable.....hard lesson learned. Will never use Ebay ever again. total loss of $1680. Very sorry to here that scumbads got you, dont wish this on anyone.. Sucks when you bust your ass everyday at work just to have a piece of shit take whats yours....makes you not even want to have anything nice.

Sorry to hear it, Rene. A person can be as secure and careful as possible, but eventually someone is going to be one step ahead of you, or you're going to ease your defenses and something will potentially happen. I don't have any words of advice for you that you probably haven't already heard - so I'll just offer my condolences.

The simplest and the best defense against theft is hiding the gear from plain view in the car trunk.

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Sorry to hear about the theft but this serves as a good reminder for everyone about personal security of their property.

Sorry if this sounds bad or rude but in my mind... Anyone that would leave that much value in a car is asking to have it stolen, and doesn't really value the items anyway. My bag/laptop is my life. I care more about it than my wallet. I wouldn't even leave it in my trunk.