Steps to prevent theft of Apple products

Last Modified: Jul 28, 2012 7:56 PM

Hello and welcome to my User Tip



"iCrime" is on the rise, also called "Apple picking" and other names.


Safety Messages from the SFMTA and the San Francisco Police Department

Personal safety


The SFPD has identified a recent trend of electronic devices robberies on Muni.

Passengers   using iPhones and laptop computers on Muni vehicles are being targeted.   Also being targeted are people using these devices while waiting for   Muni vehicles at Muni coach stops, bus shelters, and light rail vehicle   platforms.

Passengers are reminded to   be aware of their surroundings while traveling on Muni. Suspects prey on   victims using these devices knowing they are distracted while texting   or listening to music on PDAs, using laptops, and talking on cellular   phones. Passengers should be careful to limit the use of these devices   and always be aware of other passengers on the vehicle.


How big is the iCrime wave? National data aren't available, but in New York, there were more than 26,000 incidents of electronics theft in the first 10 months of 2011—81% involving mobile phones—according to an internal police-department document. In Washington, D.C., cellphone-related robberies jumped 54% from 2007 to 2011, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.



I'm going to explain some street smart criminal thinking and how best you can avoid becoming a victim of crime with your Apple products.


The criminal mind is mostly basically motivated by the need to acquire items of value to either sustain themselves and/or their drug habit. Some criminals commit crimes for the sheer thrill of it as it makes them feel alive. Some do it to people they know because they don't like them or as a form of psychological warfare.


Some do it because they are very young kids and don't know any better yet or don't have the concept of private property learned yet. Some societies in island nations I have visited are like that, anyone can just borrow anything of anyone's at any time because it's a very small community and they share everything anyway and always work together in groups to acquire food or work on a project.


Most crimes are crimes of opportunity, the criminal, like a hunter, is always on the lookout to gain a monetary advantage. You can usually tell some of these kind of people, they have very little attributes that would make them a ideal candidate for employment and advancement, either by their looks, their age, or their dress or how they carry themselves. However some people act like that sometimes and other times hold down a perfectly respectable job, changing roles as needed or just out with friends for a night on the town. The objective is to mentally gauge if the person(s) are desperate enough to perform criminal activity or not, not what they wear or how they act exclusively.



Apple products are considered luxury items


They have great return value for the work involved acquiring them illegally. They are also highly ascetically pleasing, this often motivates the impulsive emotional based criminal who wants to have "oh shiny" to themselves because they otherwise can't afford it or don't want to separate with the cash even if they do have it, finding stealing it a much better option.


Some people just have a aversion with parting with money in large amounts, so they steal instead.



Crime is usually taking advantage of a opportunity, if you reduce the opportunity, you reduce the potential of crime.




So how do you reduce yourself from becoming a "mark" for theft, burglary or robbery of your Apple products?


You don't let people you don't know, know about your valuables or your security procedures.


You don't make something of value easier for someone to take, even if you do know them.


You reduce the time it takes to take valuable items and cause the persons trying to take them unexpected delays and increase their chances of being caught.


When you trust others, it shouldn't be given lightly, but earned gradually over time in increasing amounts.


Don't assume just because you think something couldn't occur, doesn't mean it won't.




Don't flash  your expensive or desirable Apple product unless in locations you know it's safe to do so.


For instance you don't use your $3500 MacBook Pro in a coffee shop surrounded by people using $400 Window PC laptops. If you do, you cover the logo or dress down the machine as not to advertise your rich or superior or better than others that may motivate a theft or a accidental drink spill on your keyboard which will fry it in seconds.


You certainly don't leave the machine unattended to grab something or head to the restroom unless there is a lock on it to prevent a snatch and grab by some thief who can run away faster than you can catch them, and even if you do likely damage the machine in the process.


I'm sure it's quite illegal in nearly all business locations to lock the doors, in the case of fire or other panic, so basically you can't leave something of value unattended.



Don't wear the signature white Apple earbud headphones of iPods, iPhones etc., in areas that tell the criminal you have a pricey Apple device in your pocket, only in environments where you know your safe to do so.


Use a black case cover to hide the shiny metal signature back of a iPod or iPhone so it looks like any ordinary crap phone.


Use black headphone cables, even those cheap looking over the head ones, in public places where you could become a victim of crime. If your in such a location you shouldn't use anything that advertises you have anything of value, even if it's only worth $5. Crackheads will steal or rob even items of small value amounts items to support their habit.




While your sizing up the potential threats around you


The criminal hunter is also sizing you up for potential for attack and profit. They will gauge your behavior, and your clothing, your hair cut, the roughness of your hands, even your tan level to try to figure out what you are so as to see if they can frighten you or make you act in a response method they are familiar what the outcome would be or assess your personality and their chances of success.


They also want to know if it's worth the effort too, people who are wealthy usually carry only credit cards, however if they are carrying a iPhone and/or a nice watch or jewelry, then would make a inviting target. The very poor are not worthy targets, the young middle class worker may be prime as they tend to carry cash more often than not and not established credit yet to have cards.


The criminal is looking for cash or items they can quickly sell for profit at the local drug dealer or fence, this could even include expensive liquors one buys at a local store, which is highly sought after by fences as it's consumed and the evidence is then gone from memory. Tide laundry detergent is a another highly sought after item because say a dozen bottles gets the crackhead a $5 rock, the fence can sell the Tide to the poor masses for a profit. Some of the Tide actually winds up back on the stores shelves again as crony store owners buy the stolen goods cheaper than they can wholesale.


Criminals may beg you for a dollar to see your cash ("sorry I only carry credit cards" or "I used the last dollar in the store there"). They may pretend to be a Apple fan to get you to take out your precious. Some may pull the trick where they motion to you to lower your head phone volume, even though they can't hear it, just so you take it out or sheepishly comply with their illogical order to test your resolve.


If you see something isn't right, you should take the headphones off as to have all your senses on alert and start slowly placing some distance between you and the other, but not in a manner that conveys  fear, just act like this is your next stop or other normal behavior, but your actually trying to get around others for protection or better your physical position to defend against a attack. 


Do not eyeball a challenger or deranged person directly (which is challenging or conveys fear depending how you hold your eyes), or turn your back to them (which conveys disrespect or contempt and also makes you vulnerable as you can't see them), rather keep them in view out of the corner of your eye and remain disinterested, they might grow disinterested too or distracted which would be your opportunity to quietly leave the area.


The aggressive criminal may realize the prey is street smart and starts thinking this person may have a hidden advantage which could prove fatal to them, especially if your hands start disappearing behind clothing or other objects and stay like that, like your reaching for a weapon. However do start placing some distance, saying nothing, that conveys you really don't want trouble, but your prepared to inflict substantial damage if attacked.


Don't try bluffing a aggressor, threatening them, reasoning with them or communicating with them if possible. Actions speak louder than words.


When you jockey your physical position to avoid a potential attack, do so in a manner that others are watching your back so the full 360º view is covered, in fact if around strangers, ask them to watch your back too. As soon as you "herd up" you have greatly improved your physical tactical advantage and safety.


One should be consciously making sure one doesn't wind up in situation where their alone and vulnerable to attack from a single attacker. It's rare to see groups of people attacking as it takes the entire group to be highly motivated, it's mostly one highly and desperate person trying to find a easy mark.




In one's home,  don't leave the computer or device out.


In a fashion that it can be quickly taken in a burglary or by a visitor with a problem unknown to you who can slip it into their pocket and then claim ignorance or threaten to sue you for defamation of character when you accuse them of stealing once they have left.


Don't have the device(s) viewable from the front door, or via a window, or entryway, like a lot of home offices are located right near the front door where delivery people arrive and thus can inform others of potential targets. Burglars often "case" a location for it's reward potential before attempting a break in as they don't want to get caught, some just go ahead and do it the first time they know your not home and grab whatever they can and run as the alarm is blaring.


The objective is to reduce their reward potential and their time limit, also the knowledge of who knows what about your possessions.


The iMac and the MacPro has a nice large holes in the rear where a  thick chain can be employed discretely to anchor the machine down to a wall stud or concrete anchor out of view. The burglar may give it a tug and notice it's chained down, not even bother, rather opting for another object they deem is of value and they can carry off faster instead.


If they don't see another object and get upset they can't get the computer, they may smash it, but at least you will still have it's data and can make a insurance claim. Leave out some bait objects like some dead  X-Boxes in a pile that looks perfect for the single burglar to carry them all away, haha.


The MacBook Pro and other small computers should be locked in a non-movable safe and/or hidden in some fashion where it takes longer to find it. The thin security cables used to lock MacBook Pro's are just about worthless and only used to keep honest people honest, or having observed machines from being moved around. A thief see's that thin cable and just goes and shoplifts themselves a pair of cutters they can hide in their pocket and use in a few seconds to cut the cable and make off with the machine.


Since computers can be replaced and are usually of less value than your data, you should also make multiple backups like bootable clones of your entire boot partition on a external drive and keep it in a safe or other locations like bank safe deposit boxes. Reason for this is simple, if they take your computer, they are going to take the TimeMachine drive hooked up to it as well, you will be glad to have a bootable clone and other backups in a safe someplace off site.




In one's vehicle,  don't leave the computer or device out.


In a fashion that it can be seen by those peering through the windows.


If your data is extermely sensitive and you must leave the computer in the vehicle, I'd advise a car alarm and a metal chest bolted from the inside to the floor, perhaps behind the drivers seat for easy access and storing of laptops. One can use a floor mat to cover the box for passengers to rest their feet on it.


The trunk is another good location for a car safe. The object is to make it harder for smash and grabs to occur. Delay their access time while the alarm is sounding a alert.



Colleges are famous locations where a lot of theft occur.


It's because people who have come from safe environments where they trusted everyone not to steal meet people who come from places that do. Combine that with the fact that a lot of young college students are on limited budgets, the large amount of people involved making finding the person responsible difficult, makes theft of pricey Apple objects a highly often occurring behavior on campuses.


Another potential for theft is having your iPod, iPhone or GPS mounted on the dashboard of your vehicle, sometimes those electronic remote unlock buttons get hit accidentally when you place them into your pocket, popping open your doors and even your truck as you walk away. Had a iPod stolen that way and I was right inside the house,10 feet away, when it occurred, that's how brazen thieves can be.


When evaluating your location security, consider what can be done and the time it takes to do so. For instance, windows large enough for someone to fit through, walls soft enough to tunnel through or doors easily jimmied with a crowbar; how to you defend your items inside after that has occurred? How much time does a burglar have before the police arrive to grab something and run away?


Think like a criminal who is trying to get inside,  undetectable, grab as much value, with the least amount of confrontation and getting away successfully, all as easily as possible. Place unexpected barriers to all those actions they can potentially take, without jeopardizing yourself in the process, as you can't always be around all the time to protect your valuables.



About recovery efforts after the fact with stolen Apple items.


You should file a report along with the serial number etc., with your local law enforcement. There might be a good chance it can be recovered along with other items if the thief or fence is caught, but don't place your hopes too high on recovery, you likely won't want it back anyway as it's likely to have been damaged.


Don't place great faith in the "find my computer" other attempts at recovery after the theft occurred. It can sometimes catch the local dumb thief, it's really used as a deterrent but won't stop a seasoned pro or one smart enough to remove themselves several times away from the stolen device, or wait until the "heat" is off.


Your best bet is to practice preventative measures in all aspects of your life and not rely too much upon measures after the fact, just if you get lucky it can be returned by a slip-up by the crooks.



note: work in progress