Here in Edinburgh someone contacted me for help via my eBay auction:
> Dear markus_winter_nz,
> hi i have a G4 12inch but have lost the first software install and restore
> disc do u have a spare i could buy or have a copy one thanks
so I replied " I know the problem ;-) send me your address and I make you a copy."
He send his address
> hi Markus
> thanks my address is
> Michael Whittaker
> 15 lindsay place
> if u want anything for it let me know i can send it in the post
to which I replied
you are just around the corner then ;-)
If you want to pick it up today then how about 7 pm?"
So he gave me a call, talked about how he and his girlfriend had split and she changed the password on his iBook and came round yesterday to pick it up.
Today I got a call that it didn't work (which didn't completely surprise me) and I suggested he comes round with the iBook.
WELL, the "iBook" was a Powerbook which raised my eyebrow - not everyone knows much about computers, but one should know the difference between an iBook and a Powerbook (there's a few hundred pound difference in price for one thing). So I started it up - and it turns out there are two users as whom to log in: seanferguson and Sean Ferguson. No Michael Whittaker!
So I said "Hmmmm - your name is nowhere on the login."
He answered: "Is that a problem?"
I said "Yes - how do I know it's not a stolen laptop?"
He tried to explain "It was my partner's laptop" (so what is HE doing with it? Why now a "partner"? Gay and not out of the closet?)
So I asked for the "partner's" phone number to which he said they are not really "on speaking terms"
I said "Well, he doesn't need to know you are here."
He started to panic "I really do not want to talk to him. My partner caught me cheating on him with somebody else."
To which I said again: "As I said he doesn't need to know it's you. So you either give me a very good reason why I shouldn't call him or my next call is to the police" and grabbed the phone.
He just looked at me.
I said "ok" and dialled any three numbers (I was so nervous I couldn't remember the number for the police here), waited a moment and said "Police please" while listening to "the number you have dialled has not been recognised"
He now looked really panicky (about mid to end 20, 170 cm tall, a bit on the overweight side - no real match for me) and started to pack up the Powerbook. I moved between him and the exit and said as menacing (slow, deep voice) as I could "Oh no - the powerbook stays. You can leave but there's no way the Powerbook leaves before the police is here!"
To which he takes it out of the bag again, and weasels out as quickly as he could.
I then made myself a coffee and then looked up the number for the police, told them what had happened, and they'll pick it up tomorrow morning.
I don't think Michael is an experienced or "professional" thief (he seems to be working during the day) but that he saw an opportunity at some point and swiped the laptop (he didn't have the charger "with him", and he did seem to have experience with computers at home as well, saying at one point that he too has an external harddisk and "they are brillant").
But the sheer cheek of it! To come here with a stolen laptop after all the scam & fraud warnings that I had on my listed auction! Just goes to show again that thieves are a really stupid bunch!
P.S. After first denying the theft Mike later pleaded guilty to theft in court.
27th of Nov 2006
Funny coincidence - I just got an email from Sean Ferguson (the original owner of the Powerbook) who saw my "leaving sale" ad on the local Gumtree site, followed it to my website, and read here how I caught the thief who stole his laptop :-)
Talk about a small world ...