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15/05/2011 by

Identity Theft Prevented By Social Media?

Brilliant true happened Social story today! For those people who are continuously calculating the added value of Social Media, here we have an adventure for you. Imagine that you have a $ 1,000 laptop with priceless amount of data and you lost it, 370 miles from you. What would you do?

Stop writing ‘missing laptop’ leaflets. Don’t bother to CSI the situation. Just make sure you’re connected through the right Social Media. Want to know what happened? Read Along!

It all happened to O’Reilly author, speaker and startup advisor Sean Power. During his stay in New York, NY, he managed to lose some delicate belongings like his Health Insurance card, birth certificate (2x), cell phone and a thousand dollars worth Mac Book.  

The combination of this inventory (almost a complete identity), connected with the Big Apple  and the fact that he lost it all, makes an easy statement: That bag is a gone.


With only his passport Power went back to Canada, probably getting used to the idea that somebody would have a great day at his expense.

But suddenly he received a message on his new iPad that his good old laptop was online. With the use of Prey Power started to get location and live footage from the setting where his laptop was at that moment. Result? Mug shot photos from the person who was using that laptop at the time he turned on the laptop’s webcam.


So now the ‘thief’ had a face, his ‘hide-out’ had coordinates. The new user started to use the laptop like it was his own by making payments, surfing the web and using Skype. So Power now knew his real name. With the coordinates present and the name of the unlawfull user there could only be one place where Power’s belongings were, a restaurant in the Soho area downtown NY.

The person is believed to be the co-owner of the place.


Not knowing that Power was shoulder deep into Social Media the man never had a clue of what was coming now. Power started to reach out to his Twitter network. Twelve thousand tweeps picked up the story. Free and easy, multiple persons within the army of 12,000 were drawing plans of engagement. People who were in the area were strategically going to the spot, closing the net on the man and the laptop.

In order to keep everybody safe and sound, Power decided to call the help of the New York Police Department. Ready with unrevealing evidence and multiple witnesses, the NYPD refused to dispatch. Reason? Power didn’t file a report. Fortunately the situation kept civilized without the help of the police.

The owner of the restaurant, probably feeling the social peer pressure, handed over the belongings with another bag full of apologies and misunderstandings.

This situation shows both the possibilities and the danger of being engaged with social media. Prey allowed the owner to get hold of his laptop. Skype nevertheless revealed the full identity of the person and Twitter was enough to start a witch-hunt.

You can read the whole tweet conversation between Power and his followers here.

There can be many opinions about above situation. Was the story real?  Was it a nifty campaign by Prey?

Does it matter that in these cases you go after your belongings yourself or should you walk the path of the law and deal with the situation NYPD style?

Let us know!


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