Customer with stolen MacBook Air

tgpctech

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 13, 2013
3
0
Hey everybody,
I work at a computer repair shop and we have a customer who will be bringing in in a 2012 macbook air that I'm 90% sure is stolen. He called us because of the firmware lock, and he did his research on how to get past it. After he couldn't figure it out he asked if we could do it.

I initially said we'd try because I've never dealt with that problem before and there are legitimate customers who have this issue. He doesn't have the restore disk, doesn't want to call apple support, and has since the initial call he has called us about 7 other macbooks he needs help fixing/restoring.

My boss wants to have him drop it off, search the drive to ensure it is stolen, and then report him to the authorities and contact apple to find the owner. This is a wonderful idea, but since the world isn't perfect I'm worried about what will happen if we do this. The guy is driving to us from an hour away, who know what he is involved with, we don't need to have gang members hitting our store. I want to report him, but am just nervous about some kind of retaliation and being that we are in Chicago, its a serious issue. What would you do?
 

zioxide

macrumors 603
Dec 11, 2006
5,737
3,711
Isn't there some way you can look up and see who purchased it by the serial number?
 

firedept

macrumors 603
Jul 8, 2011
5,606
454
Somewhere!
I would be concerned. You have the option of just telling them that you're shop is incapable of doing that kind of work and sending them on their way without referring them to anyone else. As much as I would love to tell you to report them if the computer is stolen, what if they did not do the stealing. What if they bought them legit without knowing they were stolen. You also have to consider retaliation.

Tough decision you have to make.
 

ucfgrad93

macrumors P6
Aug 17, 2007
17,612
8,253
Colorado
I would be concerned. You have the option of just telling them that you're shop is incapable of doing that kind of work and sending them on their way without referring them to anyone else. As much as I would love to tell you to report them if the computer is stolen, what if they did not do the stealing. What if they bought them legit without knowing they were stolen. You also have to consider retaliation.

Tough decision you have to make.
Agreed. Since you aren't 100% sure it is stolen, but it appears dodgy, I'd tell them you can't fix it and send them on their way.
 

famous600

macrumors 6502a
Apr 8, 2010
705
1
I'm going to assume you are not an Apple authorized repair facility by your question. There is nothing you can do unless you are an apple retail store or an authorized repair facility to resolve this issue. You can call Apple but they will just refer you to law enforcement. Let the thief drive an hour to waste his gas and time ;)
 

davideotape

macrumors 6502
Nov 16, 2012
442
73
dumb question-- are there general policies that you can put in place as a rule that you can say like "ok-- we can probably do this, for these type of repairs we do need proof of ownership"

as much as you might want to play good samaritan and flag every suspicious computer, unless you're aware of a specific computer being stolen (like someone calls or flyers the shop or you see a posting on craigslist with the specs) i don't know if it's practical, or even ethical, to make it your policy to collect all suspicious computers and start digging for proof it's stolen.

but yeah i agree its suspicious though- the fact that he's even going an hour to meet you raises some flags. why wouldnt he go somewhere more local?

----------

oh and haha i missed the "7 other macbooks" thing.
 

DisplacedMic

macrumors 65816
May 1, 2009
1,411
1
if it were my laptop that was stolen, i'd be pretty pissed off if somebody helped him get into it. of course, i'm not going to break the law and commit an act of violence against someone who does me wrong so looks like i lose twice.

i can't tell you what to do, but when i worked IT in college I definitely turned people in that i thought had stolen laptops. No idea what happened, never came back to me. This is obviously a LOT different as for all its charms Chicago is crime infested so your concerns are perhaps not unwarranted.

You might not want to turn them in, but you don't have to help them either.

I'm sure you'll do what's right.
 

techn0lady

macrumors regular
Apr 10, 2010
105
0
1. Take the machine to the Apple store and ask them to bypass the lock - they will charge you and you can pass this on to the consumer. Using a subcontractor is a perfectly legitimate business practice.

2. Next is not so legitimate :( - If you are successful in getting the lock disabled then access the user's email and determine the original user. Send him a message asking if his laptop has been stolen. If it has then arrange for the owner and police to be onsite when the thief picks up the laptop.

If it has then you will be out the price of Apple's firmware bypass - which the original owner will probably (??) refund to you for recovering the laptop
 

Lunfai

macrumors 65816
Nov 21, 2010
1,378
274
Sheffield
I'd create an excuse like you're not allowed to service Macbook Air's because of new policies. Just create something along the line of this, just don't get involved either way.
 

ugahairydawgs

macrumors 68030
Jun 10, 2010
2,678
1,291
Hey everybody,
I work at a computer repair shop and we have a customer who will be bringing in in a 2012 macbook air that I'm 90% sure is stolen. He called us because of the firmware lock, and he did his research on how to get past it. After he couldn't figure it out he asked if we could do it.

I initially said we'd try because I've never dealt with that problem before and there are legitimate customers who have this issue. He doesn't have the restore disk, doesn't want to call apple support, and has since the initial call he has called us about 7 other macbooks he needs help fixing/restoring.

My boss wants to have him drop it off, search the drive to ensure it is stolen, and then report him to the authorities and contact apple to find the owner. This is a wonderful idea, but since the world isn't perfect I'm worried about what will happen if we do this. The guy is driving to us from an hour away, who know what he is involved with, we don't need to have gang members hitting our store. I want to report him, but am just nervous about some kind of retaliation and being that we are in Chicago, its a serious issue. What would you do?
Not saying all is well here, but a 2012 Air doesn't come with a restore disc.

And I'm not really sure where it is your business really to be searching someone's hard drive for incriminating evidence without any sort of cause other than a funny feeling in your stomach. If you have legit concerns call you local police station and ask them to run the serial number to see if it is stolen. That is the one and only step you should take if you do anything.
 

scaredpoet

macrumors 604
Apr 6, 2007
6,627
342
I want to report him, but am just nervous about some kind of retaliation and being that we are in Chicago, its a serious issue. What would you do?

Tell him the truth: not being an authorized Apple service center, you can't override the firmware lock on a mac that has been put in lost mode. Your customer should save himself the trip.

he needs to go to an Apple store to get his 7 locked macs under suspicious circumstances unlocked. There isn't any way around this. There's nothing he can do to change this, and nothing you can do to change it either.

If he can't or won't do this, then what he has is 7 aluminum paperweights.
 

old-wiz

macrumors G3
Mar 26, 2008
8,320
221
West Suburban Boston Ma
1. Take the machine to the Apple store and ask them to bypass the lock - they will charge you and you can pass this on to the consumer. Using a subcontractor is a perfectly legitimate business practice.

2. Next is not so legitimate :( - If you are successful in getting the lock disabled then access the user's email and determine the original user. Send him a message asking if his laptop has been stolen. If it has then arrange for the owner and police to be onsite when the thief picks up the laptop.

If it has then you will be out the price of Apple's firmware bypass - which the original owner will probably (??) refund to you for recovering the laptop
The apple store is unlikely to bypass the lock without some proof of ownership. If you show up and Apple finds that the MBA is stolen, you can be arrested for possession of stolen device.

The smart thing is to just say we can't do it. Having SEVEN Macs with lost firmware lock is a sure sign of stolen equipment in my book.
 

ApfelKuchen

macrumors 68040
Aug 28, 2012
3,227
1,912
Between the coasts
Your boss is interested in taking on the role of detective. I can see counseling him/her on the wisdom of that choice, but in the end, the boss sets the policies. However, if you're uneasy about being caught in the middle, explain this to the boss. Since criminal activity is suspected, I don't think it's appropriate for the boss to put employees at risk.

It's a tricky situation. I can spin circumstances that add up to "perfectly legit" plus "source of steady, multi-machine repair business." Of course, the opposite seems even more likely, considering the travel times involved.

There's also a legal/business risk in being a "good samaritan." If the customer turns out to be perfectly legit, snooping into the contents of the hard drive may be actionable, could result in negative publicity for the shop, etc.
 

MeatRocket

macrumors regular
Jun 9, 2013
142
0
In the Sandbox
Isn't there a database out there of report stolens?
You'd think since Apple controls the software and the hardware, this would be rather easy for them. I'm very disappointed that Apple has shirked this responsibility for so long. Paying double for a similarly equipped PC should warrant a higher level of service in this front, especially since Apple products are so prone to being stolen.

I am glad to see Apple introduce the lock on the new iOS, but in my opinion it's too little, too late. They've had the means to do this forever ago, just not the wherewithal.
 

KPOM

macrumors G5
Oct 23, 2010
14,496
3,035
My boss wants to have him drop it off, search the drive to ensure it is stolen, and then report him to the authorities and contact apple to find the owner. This is a wonderful idea, but since the world isn't perfect I'm worried about what will happen if we do this. The guy is driving to us from an hour away, who know what he is involved with, we don't need to have gang members hitting our store. I want to report him, but am just nervous about some kind of retaliation and being that we are in Chicago, its a serious issue. What would you do?
I think the best thing to do is to have your boss contact the police first, before you take possession of anything. See what they recommend if you think you received calls from someone part of a crime ring. One firmware lock could be an accidental activation of Find My Mac. 8 sounds like a crime ring.