An expensive lesson

On Wednesday evening I picked up Brad Fallon and Andy Edmonds who were taking me to dinner. I didn’t even notice that Brad left a laptop bag in the back seat, although at that point even if I had I’m not sure I would have said anything (Andy carried his backpack into the restaurant). That turned out to be a very expensive mistake for both of us. As he notes that after dinner we came back to a smashed back window and a missing bag. Luckily they didn’t get into the trunk where I had a laptop and camera. I got the bill for the window: $410. The window itself cost about $185, the rest is labor. I probably could get it a little cheaper by shopping around, but at least Saturn loaned me a car while they are fixing it.

I won’t be leaving my equipment in my car anymore. It was an expensive lesson to learn.

Comments

  1. That sucks. Sorry to hear about that Robert.

    I had an extended test drive of a new hatchback concept car recently and disliked leaving stuff viewable in an urban environment. Fortunately, I completed the test drive without an incident. But your post hits home.

    Thank you for communicating the incident, I hope it prevents someone else from having an incident like it.

  2. That sucks. Sorry to hear about that Robert.

    I had an extended test drive of a new hatchback concept car recently and disliked leaving stuff viewable in an urban environment. Fortunately, I completed the test drive without an incident. But your post hits home.

    Thank you for communicating the incident, I hope it prevents someone else from having an incident like it.

  3. Robert,

    This incident speaks very clearly as to why encryption for laptop hard disks, and any form of external storage, is so critical.

    There are some questions Brad now has to consider:
    1: Is there any data on that machine that could result in client litigation? Was the drive encrypted?
    2: Does he have a backup of his critical data?
    3: Was that backup with the laptop in the bag?

    There are certainly more questions that would need to be asked.

    BTW, a “crash and dash” can take less than 15 seconds to complete from start to finish.

    They happen very frequently.

    They can be mitigated by not having any “eye candy” anywhere in view within the vehicle and the trunk remote release (cabin release), and rear seat access if available, disabled when valuables are in the trunk.

    Philip E.

  4. Robert,

    This incident speaks very clearly as to why encryption for laptop hard disks, and any form of external storage, is so critical.

    There are some questions Brad now has to consider:
    1: Is there any data on that machine that could result in client litigation? Was the drive encrypted?
    2: Does he have a backup of his critical data?
    3: Was that backup with the laptop in the bag?

    There are certainly more questions that would need to be asked.

    BTW, a “crash and dash” can take less than 15 seconds to complete from start to finish.

    They happen very frequently.

    They can be mitigated by not having any “eye candy” anywhere in view within the vehicle and the trunk remote release (cabin release), and rear seat access if available, disabled when valuables are in the trunk.

    Philip E.

  5. Exactly the same happened to me. I always left the laptop on the trunk, but just once I left it in the passenger seat because I was going to be away of the car for less than 5 minutes. When I came back, smashed window and no bag and laptop.

    The worst thing of all wasn’t losing the laptop. It was losing the information. I had a backup, but it was one week old, and I did huge progress during that week.

    Now I do daily backups of my desktop and laptop computers with Synctoy.

  6. Exactly the same happened to me. I always left the laptop on the trunk, but just once I left it in the passenger seat because I was going to be away of the car for less than 5 minutes. When I came back, smashed window and no bag and laptop.

    The worst thing of all wasn’t losing the laptop. It was losing the information. I had a backup, but it was one week old, and I did huge progress during that week.

    Now I do daily backups of my desktop and laptop computers with Synctoy.

  7. Hopefully no personal information is in the laptop
    such as SSN numbers, credit card numbers, etc…
    If you have that type of information, be ready to make some calls to cancel all credit card numbers and put a credit watch on the 3 major credit check houses.

    Good Luck

  8. Hopefully no personal information is in the laptop
    such as SSN numbers, credit card numbers, etc…
    If you have that type of information, be ready to make some calls to cancel all credit card numbers and put a credit watch on the 3 major credit check houses.

    Good Luck

  9. Oh wow. This type of incident really highlights the differences between your society and ours down here in South Africa. We would never leave a laptop visible inside a car for any period of time because there is a high probability it will be stolen. Heck, it could be stolen out of the car when still driving because there are smash and grab thieves all over the place.

    Definitely leave anything valuable in the trunk of your car if you aren’t going to carry it in with you.

  10. Oh wow. This type of incident really highlights the differences between your society and ours down here in South Africa. We would never leave a laptop visible inside a car for any period of time because there is a high probability it will be stolen. Heck, it could be stolen out of the car when still driving because there are smash and grab thieves all over the place.

    Definitely leave anything valuable in the trunk of your car if you aren’t going to carry it in with you.

  11. [...] Scoble experienced something we probably take for granted here. It really highlights some of the differences between how Americans experience crime and how we do: On Wednesday evening I picked up Brad Fallon and Andy Edmonds who were taking me to dinner. I didn’t even notice that Brad left a laptop bag in the back seat, although at that point even if I had I’m not sure I would have said anything (Andy carried his backpack into the restaurant). That turned out to be a very expensive mistake for both of us. As he notes that after dinner we came back to a smashed back window and a missing bag. Luckily they didn’t get into the trunk where I had a laptop and camera. … [...]

  12. South Africa —- USA — Singapore

    Singapore is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Since moving here in 2002, I haven’t experienced a single theft or attempted theft. Nor have I heard anyone in my extended circle of friends and acquaintances *ever* mention a theft!

    As a knowledge-worker, I feel this makes a huge difference to my ability to be creative. I can take a walk at 2am to brainstorm with a colleague, anywhere in the city, completely worry-free.

    Any other knowledge-workers out there feel that the possibility of crime impacts your ability to generate ideas?

  13. South Africa —- USA — Singapore

    Singapore is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Since moving here in 2002, I haven’t experienced a single theft or attempted theft. Nor have I heard anyone in my extended circle of friends and acquaintances *ever* mention a theft!

    As a knowledge-worker, I feel this makes a huge difference to my ability to be creative. I can take a walk at 2am to brainstorm with a colleague, anywhere in the city, completely worry-free.

    Any other knowledge-workers out there feel that the possibility of crime impacts your ability to generate ideas?

  14. Ouch

    My boss at BT had a similar experiance all the Level 3 managers and above where sent of to a conference to be talked at by the CEO.

    Some one had worked out what sort of cars a Level 3 had and they had systematicaly smashed the back windows of around a dozen hatchbacks and made of with the managers laptops.

    I did see at a show a safe that you could install in the Boot (Trunk) of a Car to store valuables like laptops etc.

  15. Ouch

    My boss at BT had a similar experiance all the Level 3 managers and above where sent of to a conference to be talked at by the CEO.

    Some one had worked out what sort of cars a Level 3 had and they had systematicaly smashed the back windows of around a dozen hatchbacks and made of with the managers laptops.

    I did see at a show a safe that you could install in the Boot (Trunk) of a Car to store valuables like laptops etc.

  16. Be careful even leaving laptop in your trunk.There was an article in Dutch newspapers a couple of weeks ago about thieves picking up bluetooth signals from laptops etc then breaking into trunk to steal them. Apparently some devices send out bluetooth signal even on stand-by / hibernate.No idea how true this is but better safe than sorry I’d say. A couple of dollars to the coat check staff is cheap insurance.

  17. Be careful even leaving laptop in your trunk.There was an article in Dutch newspapers a couple of weeks ago about thieves picking up bluetooth signals from laptops etc then breaking into trunk to steal them. Apparently some devices send out bluetooth signal even on stand-by / hibernate.No idea how true this is but better safe than sorry I’d say. A couple of dollars to the coat check staff is cheap insurance.

  18. Trunks aren’t very helpful either – especially if you have a rental (or other new car) with the remote controlled trunk.

    I was with a colleague last week who’s computer bag was stolen out of the trunk of a rental car and the thieves left another computer bag on the backseat alone. How? The claim (from the police) was that people are roaming parking lots with frequency generators and looking in trunks that pop. Works really well on university campuses during visiting-student weekends.

    It became a running joke: let’s leave our stuff in Steve’s trunk.

    [Note: I have the sneaking suspicion that there is some urban legend to this. How easy is it _really_ to open cars this way?]

  19. Trunks aren’t very helpful either – especially if you have a rental (or other new car) with the remote controlled trunk.

    I was with a colleague last week who’s computer bag was stolen out of the trunk of a rental car and the thieves left another computer bag on the backseat alone. How? The claim (from the police) was that people are roaming parking lots with frequency generators and looking in trunks that pop. Works really well on university campuses during visiting-student weekends.

    It became a running joke: let’s leave our stuff in Steve’s trunk.

    [Note: I have the sneaking suspicion that there is some urban legend to this. How easy is it _really_ to open cars this way?]

  20. I had a similar experience just over a year ago where my four-hour old car (yes just had it four hours) was broken into to steal the laptop on the back seat. Police told me these thieves will steal anything left visible on the back suit, including gym bags with sweat-enhanced gym clothes.

    I then learned my new Volvo has an extra security arrangement for the trunk. Basically there is a security lock that can only be switched on/off (on a panel switch) with the ignition keys inserted. Avoids those frequency sweepers that can pop your trunk.

    Fortunately there was not trace of any identity theft; did help that I had a Windows password.

  21. I had a similar experience just over a year ago where my four-hour old car (yes just had it four hours) was broken into to steal the laptop on the back seat. Police told me these thieves will steal anything left visible on the back suit, including gym bags with sweat-enhanced gym clothes.

    I then learned my new Volvo has an extra security arrangement for the trunk. Basically there is a security lock that can only be switched on/off (on a panel switch) with the ignition keys inserted. Avoids those frequency sweepers that can pop your trunk.

    Fortunately there was not trace of any identity theft; did help that I had a Windows password.

  22. That’s a lesson I learnt long time ago (well, relatively speaking). It is safer to always put everything you can in the trunk for several reasons.

    1. of course this will prevent or slow down thieves.
    2. you will not put everything in the “living” part of the car
    3. in case of car crash, car accident or whatever that kind, you and your passengers will not suffer (at least) from any flying laptop, camera and so on. Even a small camera can be a killing object when you have to break hard.

    I know it is not always possible to put everything in the trunk (my fellow Europeans know what I am speaking about… what about Twingo cars, or the Smart one ? where there is no trunk?).

  23. That’s a lesson I learnt long time ago (well, relatively speaking). It is safer to always put everything you can in the trunk for several reasons.

    1. of course this will prevent or slow down thieves.
    2. you will not put everything in the “living” part of the car
    3. in case of car crash, car accident or whatever that kind, you and your passengers will not suffer (at least) from any flying laptop, camera and so on. Even a small camera can be a killing object when you have to break hard.

    I know it is not always possible to put everything in the trunk (my fellow Europeans know what I am speaking about… what about Twingo cars, or the Smart one ? where there is no trunk?).