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My iPad was stolen a couple of weeks ago. I filed a police report, used Find My iPhone to locate the iPad, and was subsequently featured on the local news for a story...sadly, none of these routes did anything to recover my property. (Makes me think Find my iPhone is more of a cool novelty than a useful utility; the police couldn't get a warrant, because the app shows a spot on a map, doesn't give a specific address. But I digress...)

I remotely locked my iPad, but did not wipe it (I consider that route to be giving up), and called Apple. The representative said that they could flag my serial (contrary to what the internet believes), and that when someone tries to activate it, they will notify law enforcement.

No one at Apple Support seems to know how this process works. The latest guy I spoke with said that it is a small department, and there's no way to directly contact any of them. (I pictured like 3 old-time detective looking guys in suspenders, smoking cigarettes and wearing beat up derby hats...but I have problems ::shrug::).

Do any of YOU fine people have any insight into this process? I have an idea, but I'd just like to know if anyone has ever recovered a stolen device by this method.

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4 Answers

Regarding the flagged serial number, I had this done for a client but nothing ever came of it, so either it wasn't ever activated or there is no official procedure for our country.

On a side note regarding tracking down a physical address. If your iPad is set to check email accounts such as google or your own hosted mail. As soon as it's online it'll put the originating IP in the logs which is something the police might be able to get a warrant for. Google actually lists all current active connections and 'recent activity' from IP and how long ago. It's listed in the bottom right corner (details). This could be useful in tracking down an address.

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Thanks for the tip! I remotely locked it, so I don't think it reaches the mail servers. I wish the Find My iPhone app logged IP addresses; when I located it the day it was stolen, I (or the authorities) could have used the originating IP address to find the internet subscriber's name and address. Now THAT woulda been police work. –  Thomas Jul 7 '11 at 5:09
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I've had two iPhones and a MacBook stolen. I gave the serial number of both iPhones to Apple and the police. The detectives told me the only way they ever get someone's stolen device back is if:

a. The thief is positively identified and still has the device.

b. They come across it in a cache of stolen goods and are able to cross-reference the serial number.

I told them I'd given Apple the serial number. They advised me to tell AT&T instead since they could look it up by IMEI. This was no help either. My guess is that Apple takes the serial number of stolen products as a symbolic gesture to pacify distraught customers.

I lucked out since my first phone was purchased with a credit card. It was covered by Mastercard's purchase protection plan. The full cost of both phones was reimbursed. I would highly recommend looking into this if you purchased the iPad with a credit card.

My stolen MacBook was another story. I left it in a cab. After I realized my mistake I called the cab company and left my name and number in case it turned up. Several months later I received a mysterious phone call from someone claiming to be the next passenger in the cab. He told me he had taken the cab to the airport, and had mistakenly taken my laptop bag with him to Serbia. He helpfully offered to send it back if I would only pay return costs and the extra baggage fees he incurred bringing it on the plane with him...

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Sorry to hear about your misfortune as well. I actually got the iPad on the Best Buy card, so yes, it can be reimbursed...still sucks that someone has mine though lol. I wish I had a 3G model; I work in telematics, so I KNOW it wouldn't be hard to find lol. The MacBook, I got used from a friend who had gotten a new one, so luckily I didn't pay a whole lot for it. –  Thomas Jul 7 '11 at 5:04
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Apple does not have a procedure to 'flag' serial numbers as stolen in order to withhold support/assist in the recovery of stolen property. Not only is it a logistically difficult endeavor, but it raises serious safety concerns for individual support personnel. Support representatives may take your information, but it's a purely symbolic gesture. There is nothing they can do.

The best contact for this sort of thing is your local police department. Stolen property is recovered regularly, and many precincts will maintain a registry of this sort of data in order to reunite victims with their stolen property.

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File a police report and/or have a lawyer contact Apple. If you are serious, get a professional to help as it sets you apart from someone crying wolf (I'm not saying you are) and lays the groundwork for proving you are who you say you are.

You'll need this and more to get your property back or hope to shame or enable someone to be punished if they were dealing in stolen property. In the US at least, it's far more likely the device will end up in a pawn shop than an Apple store so getting your details to law enforcement will increase the chance you can recover your iPad and also deter theft for profit by making it harder to sell stolen goods.

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