Operation Gringo Revenge: Tracking My Stolen Laptop in Panama

Tracking Stolen Laptop with Prey

Panama City, Panama

Three months ago my Macbook Pro laptop computer was stolen by hookers in Panama. Join me as I attempt to recover it from over 2000 miles away.

Read about the initial theft here: Robbed in Panama City!

Before my computer was stolen, I’d installed a special tracking program called Prey Project. I first learned about Prey after following Sean Power’s amazing laptop recovery story on Twitter — downloading the free tracking software that same day.

When my own laptop was taken while traveling through Panama in October 2011, I quickly activated Prey from an internet cafe, hoping I could catch the thieves. I also filed a police report [click here to see it] with Panamanian authorities.

Now it was time to just wait for the software to start working it’s magic.

But it never did. After over 3 months of no action, I assumed the thieves had disabled or replaced my computer’s hard drive before turning it on. With no tracking information, my computer would be lost forever.

That all changed last night.

Suspect A

Suspect A: ‘Handlebar’

Surprise! You’re on Candid Camera

On Friday night Prey suddenly notified me by email that I had a new tracking report. You can imagine my surprise! I’d assumed that recovery was a lost cause at this point, now 3 months after the theft. At the moment I’m back in the United States.

I logged into the site. The report contained photos from my Macbook Pro’s integrated webcam, screenshots showing what the suspects were doing on my computer, and WiFi location information displayed on a Google Map.

Jackpot!

These reports came streaming in every 10 minutes. After upgrading my account to Pro for $5, I’m now able to get reports every 2 minutes, or on demand with the click of a button.

I suddenly felt like a kid in a candy store!

Spying on the people using my stolen computer is soooooo much fun…

Suspect B

Suspect B: ‘Chonga’

We’re All Watching

I’m actively tracking the incoming reports on a regular basis. Saving photos and data that I’ll be able to use to recover my laptop. It’s incredibly entertaining to watch what these people are doing without their knowledge.

There’s a lot of information coming in. The software only allows me to save 100 reports though, so I’m deleting the ones that don’t contain useful information. Building up a case against them should I decide to go to the police.

I’ll be updating this post with new information as I receive it.

This is going to be exciting. I hope you’ll follow along with me on the hunt.

Suspect C

Suspect C: ‘Adidas’

What Are They Doing?

Chonga has been most active on my computer so far. She’s logged into Facebook for hours at a time – chatting with friends, bragging about her new “Apple Mac” computer, viewing ridiculous photos, and repeatedly picking her nose.

Through the screenshots I’ve learned her real name, names of her family members & friends, the name of the cafe where she works, and her birthday. I also know the street where she’s living in Panama City. But not an exact address yet.

I’ve censored out all personal information for now.

I believe it’s very important that I secretly record as much evidence as I can before they discover they’re being tracked. I may change my mind about this in the future though, and share all their details with you. I’m still not 100% sure what my recovery plan will be.

I might need your help.

Suspect B

Chonga Picks Her Nose

Suspect B

Chonga Mines for Gold

Suspect B

Chonga Hunts for the Green Monster

Criminal Masterminds??

Now it’s quite possible that these people have purchased the stolen computer from someone else. I don’t recognize Chonga as one of the 3 women involved with the theft, but I’m also not sure I’d be able to remember their faces from that night. It was dark, we were trying to ignore them, and I’d had a few drinks.

But either way, they are now in possession of stolen property. In most countries that in itself is illegal.

If they simply hand over my computer without incident, I have no problem keeping the police out of it and minimizing their humiliation. I just want my property back and be done with it. But if they decide to be difficult, well, all bets are off…

I’ll hit them with everything my twisted mind can come up with.

Suspect B

Chonga’s Facebook Account…

Suspect B

More Crazy Shit (scary photos from an ER)

UPDATE: Prey Capabilities

So after digging into the program a bit more, I’ve learned about some fun things I can do with it. One option is to remotely trigger an audio alarm that sounds like a police siren. Could be fun if unleashed at the right moment…

Another option is to send them a custom message through my computer. An alert window will pop up over whatever they’re doing and display a message of my choice.

But the best option yet: I can deliver a custom message via audio. Apple’s Text-to-Speech program will relay any message I want using a robotic sounding voice.

The possibilities are endless!

Suspect A

UPDATE: Shopping for a Tranny!

Handlebar has been on the computer all day. He spent hours on Skype talking with someone who seemed like a possible girlfriend. While I couldn’t hear what was said (Prey needs to work on live video feeds!), they also used Skype’s chat feature so I could read some of the conversation.

While talking with this girl, he’s also browsing through photos of girls in lingerie on Facebook. Because he was logged in, I now have his real name.

But that’s not the best part…

Eventually I catch him shopping for local hookers escorts online! And not just any call-girl…

Upon closer inspection of the profile, I see that she (he?) is advertising herself as a transexual!!!!!

A short translated excerpt from the profile:

“…to taste this true delicacy of tranny sex.. you will not regret it from Colombia to Panama.”

There’s a phone number on the profile and everything. I couldn’t make this shit up.

Suspect D

Suspect D: ‘Rico’

Suspect E

Suspect E: ‘Dark Eyes’

UPDATE: New Suspects

Wow. There are a ton of different people using my stolen computer. I’ve discovered 2 new people, so this makes 5 total now. But after spying on Rico & Dark Eyes for a while, I’ve decided they are probably not involved.

They are from Chile, and it seems they just arrived in Panama the other day. Handlebar is also from Chile. So these two might be friends or family crashing at his place while on vacation.

I caught them uploading touristy looking photos on iPhoto. I also know they are traveling to Cuba next week.

Facebook sure gives away a lot of personal information!!!

Suspect A

The Money Shot!

UPDATE: Secret Internet Celebrity!

So it’s only been 3 days since I first posted this story, but Handlebar has just learned that we’ve all been watching him. A friend of his quickly recognized him after discovering the story on Facebook.

It sounds like he’s desperate to give the computer back quickly to avoid further humiliation. Smart choice on his part. I was just getting started.

Thank you everyone for helping to spread the word via Social Media!

I’ve been contacted by email to get everything worked out.

Prey Laptop Recovery

Operation Gringo Revenge is a Success!

UPDATE: Mission Accomplished!

I’m ecstatic to announce that Operation Gringo Revenge is a smashing success! After scheduling an evening rendezvous at a well-known Parisian cafe in Panama City, my secret agents (code-names “J-Dog” and “V-Man”) met with our suspect to collect the fenced goods last night.

My agents have moved the stolen Macbook Pro to a safe-house within the city. It’s now guarded 24 hours a day by a professional team of beautiful female assassins from Colombia & Brazil.

I plan to compensate my international team (and former Couchsurfing.org hosts) for their heroic actions that day with sushi & bottles of cheap rum.

The Full Story

So it seems Handlebar purchased the the stolen computer off the street from a woman named Maria del Carmen for $750. Maria del Carmen happens to be the name of the user account that’s been active on the computer. Why he never changed the username, I don’t know. I also don’t know why the Prey tracking program never caught Maria on the computer over the past 3 months.

Maybe his story is true, maybe it’s not. I really don’t care. It’s not my job to play judge. If the story is true, I’ll let him take it up with Maria del Carmen.

I gave him 2 options:

A: Hand over the computer.
B: Let the police deal with it while I post everyone’s personal details online.

He chose option A.

As a courtesy, I agreed to censor the photos of his face and those of his acquaintances. I’m sure he’s been humiliated enough.

Thousands of people know he enjoys shopping for transexuals online.

Because this computer was stolen 3 months ago, I’ve already had it replaced. Now that my friends have recovered it, I’ll probably sell it and use the money to help fund some charity projects.

I really want to thank everyone who helped share this story!

UPDATE: Holy shit! It turns out Chonga is actually a man!!! And also a transvestite hooker. Thank you karma gods. A reader shared this fact with me in the comments below — even providing proof! NOT SAFE FOR WORK!Click Here for Proof
Software: Prey Project
Cost: Free! (upgrade for $5 if your computer is stolen)
Useful Notes: Make sure to include a password-free guest account on your computer. This acts as a “honey-pot”, luring criminals into using the computer immediately.

This is a true story. Prey Project and I have no relationship whatsoever. Their FREE software saved my ass. So understandably I’m excited about promoting them to anyone who will listen.

Matthew Karsten is the Expert Vagabond. Addicted to adventure travel and photography, he's on a mission to inspire your next journey with entertaining stories, beautiful images, and useful tips. Vagabonding around the world since 2010. Follow along! Email Updates | Facebook | Twitter |

Want to travel more? Learn how with my favorite Budget Travel Resources.


Tell Me What You Think!

Comment Rules: Critical comments are fine, but rude ones will be deleted. Have fun, and thanks for adding to the conversation!

  • http://www.travelbudgetcouple.com Carlo Medina

    OMG. This post is classic. If we see these folks in Colombia. We’ll drop you a line or just run away from them. haha.

  • http://www.kaypachatravels.com Mica

    If I was close by I would totally try to recover my laptop. For sure. Get some help, and bust them.
    Why not? It’s still your laptop!
    Take it back! I will share this!

  • Julia b

    Haha :) steal your computer back! Follow them and when they are not home replace the computer with embarrassing photos of them and some wisdom words :)

    Good stuff for the positivness.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      That would be too funny Julia!

  • http://www.christymemos.blogspot.com Christy

    Holy Cow! Funny. Yet that girl kinda grosses me out now. And then the ER photo came. lol I hope you get it back as entertaining as this might be! Good luck and now I’m interested in the stories to come!!

  • Julian

    Hey, send me the fb account and we’ ll see if we have friends in common

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Will do Julian. I may need your help with recovery.

  • kadri

    So funny! i’m squeezing my thumbs for you… and i need to start checking myself for subconscious nose-picking.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      You never know who might be watching Kadri! 8O

  • http://www.off-the-path.com Sebastian @ Off-The-Path.com

    Mate, that is amazing… going to download this software first thing tomorrow morning!!! Have you called the police to see what they can do now that you aren’t in the country? What about some friends you have there?

    I wish you would have a second external camera to see their face expression once the police sound and the computer voice turn up… haha It would freak me out…

    Good luck with the recovery and I can’t wait to read more… this is epic stuff :)

  • Carrie (@PipeDreamJunkie)

    Just saw this, and I’m really glad that you have a lead on the case! Make sure that when the time comes that you get the Mac back, that you bring a huge case of Clorox wetwipes!! You never know, you could end up discovering gold on your keyboard… ;)

  • Trevor Wolverton

    Matt this is freaking hysterical – I can’t wait to see what you decide to do lol

  • http://dustyrope.com/ Roman

    Matt, it’s incredibly useful post. 2 weeks ago i was robbed in chicken bus in Esteli, Nicaragua. Later this day, doing inventarisation of my gear, I discovered that also other gadgets are absent, it total for 900 usd.
    I will share this post on fb for sure and offer my travelmates do the same. I thought that ready for being robbed, but when it happened – emotionally I wasn’t ready at all!
    And I was very blind in my anger and hated all ppl around.
    But what do u think, just imagine, that u’ve lost ur laptop in Panama, and a week later dacided to buy another. and after a few months of using it someone tell u: u have to return it because it was stolen before u bought it. but u bought it for ur money.
    I don’t have the answer, in fact it’s very complicated, what to do with the revenge. maybe this girl bought ur stolen laptop in second hand shop, how could she know is second hand laptop stolen or not?

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      You are right Roman, that is possible. And I’m keeping it in mind when I decide what to do.

      If I unknowingly bought stolen property, sure it would suck to give it back without compensation. It would suck to get arrested for it too. But that’s the way it works.

      Frankly I’d much rather have embarrassing photos go up online than get arrested. Which is why I’m leaning towards avoiding using the police if possible.

      We’ll see what they do when I confront them. Their actions will determine mine.

  • http://www.VagabondQuest.com/ Dina

    When you finally talk to Chonga, ask her to share the gold nuggets she’s been mining!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Will do Dina! Looks like she’s got plenty to go around. :D

  • http://www.backpackingmatt.com Matt

    So glad that a little bit of joy can come from having lost your Mac. :)

  • http://www.livingthedreamrtw.com Jeremy

    If you do not care about getting your laptop back, I would seriously start messing with her. Could you trick it in such a way that she wont know you are the owner of the computer? Like could you have it pop up and act like it is a message from God? I’m assuming she speaks Spanish? Definitely mess with her.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      I’m loving that idea. :)

      Yes, I actually tested how it works on my current Macbook Air.
      The message won’t say I’m the owner unless I make it…

  • http://roymarvelous.com Roy Marvelous

    Hope you get it back! Surely, once you get her home address you will have enough proof for the police to intervene?

  • http://www.ouroyster.com Jade – OurOyster.com

    Can you not just send these details to the police and have them recover the laptop? It seems like you have more than enough evidence!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      From what I’ve read, the WiFi tracking can be a few blocks off sometimes. Many people use fake names on Facebook too. Chonga has logged into 2 different accounts, with different names and email addresses.

      I want to be absolutely sure with an exact address if I can. No harm in waiting a few days to make sure it’s done right.

      Central American police don’t always do things the same as police in the United States. I have first hand experience with that. I won’t go into details, just in case I do end up asking them to help. Don’t want them mad at me. ;)

  • http://www.manonthelam.com Raymond @ Man On The Lam

    Those shots of Chonga are hilarious! I worked for a company in Guatemala that has offices in Panama — maybe I could convince someone to go on a reconnaissance mission for you if you get an exact address.

    Oh, and I’m downloading prey right now!!

  • Cavan

    Set up a second Facebook account in one of their names, friend their friends, and start revealing hidden secrets regarding sexual orientation, new careers erc

  • http://www.theworldofdeej.com The World of Deej

    I can not wait to see where this goes…

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Should be fun…

  • http://www.ligerodeequipaje.com Claudio @ LigeroDeEquipaje.com

    Actually, if you are a good faith buyer you can buy a stolen item without consequences. (Bona fide purchaser defense). The thing is that you have to prove the “new ownership” by a receipt, an invoice or by giving the seller’s name and contact information! If not, you are going to jail!

    I’m Panamanian, a criminal lawyer, and a traveler. I’m right now in my hometown preparing for my next trip so, if you need any help down here just let me know.

    “Que gonorreaaaaaaa parceeeee” + big butt tattoo… oh pal, she is not even Panamanian. And by the way they stole your laptop at Casco Viejo, I bet she IS involved. It’s a common modus operandi.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Colombian? :)

      I’ve learned that “Handlebar” is from Chile.

      Thanks for the info Claudio, I may take you up on that offer.

  • http://www.runawaybrit.com Runaway Brit

    This is absolutely hilarious! If you can live without getting your laptop back then I thnk you should just continue blogging about what they get up to, I’ll definitely be a regular reader. If you really want it back then let me know, I’m in Panama City until next Tuesday, I could go round and have a word!!

  • Rolando

    I really sorry about your mac, Matthew. and it’s good you’re making all things calm enough to take the best decisions.
    I also loved the idea of prepare some messages, maybe some “spooky” ones. Can you imagine if that woman believes in santery, witchcraft and all those stuff? but make sure just the woman to read them.
    And when you get all the good details, try to get some help from tourism authorities. Maybe they can help you with that. In El Salvador, we get a special police department calles “POLITUR” (Policia de Turismo), decidated to make all visitors feel safer all the time. I don’t know if they have this kind of help in Panama, but Tourism authorities would know better.
    Success!!
    @RolandoPeralta

  • http://www.familyonbikes.org/blog Nancy Sathre-Vogel from Family on Bikes

    This is HILARIOUS! I almost hope you don’t get it back, but continue to post about what they’re doing! I’m sure you’ll end up with a gold mine here!

  • http://www.gaijinjapan.org tunimaal

    I didn’t know that ou can track down a laptop by this way… Hope ou will get it back and have fun while track it down….

  • http://twitter.com/#!/belizepost Lorenzo Gonzalez

    This is better than anything showing on TV… Lol

  • http://www.captainandclark.com Tawny- Captain and Clark

    Thank you so much for sharing! Chris downloaded Prey on our Macbook Pro and then had me get on it so he could test it out from a computer in another room. His customized message exclaimed, “This computer is stolen! You are being tracked. Good luck, dick”. Amazing.

    You should probably keep track of all of the photos of “Chonga” with her fingers up her nose. Those are priceless.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      I’d probably recommend that you don’t use the alarms right away, so they don’t freak out and ditch it before you get plenty of juicy info. :)

  • http://www.gqtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQ trippin

    Can’t wait to see which option you pick! haha

  • http://travel-junkies.com Jason

    The ultimate reality TV show! I would be so mad if someone stole my Macbook. I plan to download that software tonight and really hope you can recover your laptop.

  • http://www.ordinarytraveler.com Christy @ Ordinary Traveler

    This is hilarious! I love that you are finding a way to make light of the situation. This software sounds amazing. I may even use it to mess with friends. :)

  • http://www.thespainscoop.com nancy todd

    Excellent advice on how to recover computers, not boogers. Thanks!

  • http://www.mommosttraveled.com CanCan

    as someone who was robbed AND burglarized while abroad, this is the best thing I have ever seen. Ever.
    But can you change those nasty gruesome photos?

    Chonga is an awesome nickname.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      It is a pretty nasty photo, probably should have warned people. :D

  • wendy wallach

    you should contact Apple…There might be a free replacement computer for you..either through them or the prey program that you are now giving all this free advertising for!

    Seriously..contact some reporters..great story!

  • http://www.blackchickontour.com Black Chick On Tour

    Getting robbed sucks, but this retaliation is awesome. I love it!! I would definitely torture them as much as possible (via the “fun” things you mentioned), and hopefully you’ll be able to work out a way to get your computer back.

  • http://www.goseewrite.com/ Michael Hodson

    I love this. That is all. :D

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Thought you might Michael!

  • http://freedoniapost.com Joel

    Matt – interesting software and a great story.

    Out of curiosity, was your computer password protected? It seems like Prey’s usefulness would be minimized if the computer was protected with a password? I know there are ways to hack through those, so I’m wondering if that was what happened.

  • The Curmudgeon

    There once was a song called “May the bird of paradise fly up your nose.” It looks like Chonga is trying to find it, but looking at the beach picture she may need to look elsewhere. It may be a Vulture, it’s certainly not a Chickadee is it?

  • http://www.matt-gibson.org Matt Gibson

    So entertaining. Almost worth having your computer stolen in the first place!

    I’m so going to download Prey.

  • http://inspiringtravellers.com Andrea

    Was having the worst day until I saw this – totally cheered me up. I see they attended the same Slayer concert we did (poster in the background of first pic)…keep the laughs coming =)

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Great to hear Andrea! Sure cheered me up pretty quick too.

  • http://www.twoandahalftravellers.blogspot.com Suzi

    This is priceless! What a fantastic piece of software, and although it’s frustrating losing your laptop, the story is hilarious! I can see this going viral. Can’t wait to see how it unfolds…. keeping my fingers crossed for you!

  • http://www.pinayonthemove.com Grace

    Wow what a story! Chonga and Handlebar look like they were made for each other. I think it’ll be amusing to see how they would react to random messages on text and audio suddenly popping up on the screen. Ha! I hope you get your payback.

  • Anthea W

    Hello Matthew,
    I wish l’d known about the tracking software in 2011, as my Macbook was stolen from my hotel room in Cusco, Peru and l have no doubt it was the hotel staff as on-one else knew l had a computer. The biggest problem for me was they also stole my external hard-drive back up, which meant that l lost 20,000 photos and 2 years of travel photos.
    The hotel refused to call the police and nor would they give me a line out to phone them directly.
    Eventually l made my way to the Police station at 12 midnight.
    The Tourist Police took my robbery seriously as they could see the broken locks and the suitcase was slashed by the thieves.
    Unfortunately for me, I was made out to be the liar and the Hotels defence to the DDP was that l never owned a computer as l’d never asked them for a wifi password. Wrong!
    I spent an extra 2.5 weeks in Cusco preparing a formal application against my Hotel and Travel Agency ( they also didn’t help) and paid the 36/s to submit the application to Indecopi. Indecopi is the Peruvian’s answer to Consumer Affairs, whereby both the locals and tourists can submit applications against service providers and ask for restitution.
    After 3 months of waiting on the Secretary’s decision as to the outcome of my case, l was provided with what l can only call “a Joke” of an outcome. The Secretary came down on the side of the Hotel and Travel Agency and made a ruling that no robbery had occured since l had not asked for the wifi password ( to prove l had a laptop) !!!!!
    But….. more importantly Apple Mac told me there was no way of tracking my laptop as it wasn’t like the iphone…..
    Thus 20,000 photos down the drain later, and one new MacBook Pro, l now back up my photos on iCloud.
    I sincerely hope you retreive your MacBook but unless you physically go down to Columbia and know a Police Officer there, l doubt that you’ll get it back.
    But l do hope if you can’t get it back in one piece then you can remotely disable it so its rendered useless to anyone!!

    l wish l’d had that software though as l was still in the country and would have demanded the Police retrieve it and take the perpetrators to court.
    Best wishes,
    Anthea

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      That sucks Anthea, I feel your pain. I can’t imagine losing all my photos. I backup all my finished images with Smug Mug just in case that kind of thing happens in the future.

  • http://justchuckinit.com Ryan

    Ha, wow, this post is hilarious! I can’t believe you can see everything they are doing, that is wild! Must be addicting watching their every…interesting…move. Hope you get your laptop back mate!

  • http://www.reclaimingmyfuture.com Toni

    Oh my God, this is hilarious! It sucks that you had it stolen in the first place but, as they’ll find out, payback’s a bitch! Also, thanks for the sharing this story – I feel like we’ve all just become part of the Scooby Gang =D

  • http://adventureswithben.com adventureswithben

    Let them keep the laptop. I wouldn’t want it back after it had snots all over the keys and who knows what else from looking at lingerie.

    You should post a daily photo of the perps and perhaps someone will recognize them and mail the laptop back!

  • http://marketingwithsergio.com Sergio Felix

    Hilarious!

    I don’t think I’d try to recover my laptop after watching all that it has been done on it with people like that but I sure well damn miss it!

    I did a little bit of research on “parce” since I thought she wanted to say “parece” which in Spanish means “looks like” so the whole sentence from her would be something like “looks like gonorrhea”.

    However, “parce” -or “parcero(a)- is actually a common low-class Colombian term mostly used by hookers, narcs and drug addicts meaning close friend in intimacy.

    The term got very common and now it denotes close friendship, partnership or even family related (I’m guessing the same thing that happens in the US with “bro”).

    I’m sure that you’d be able to do something about it, if you decided to go and track them down merely with the GEO location capabilities as in renting a near by place and just watching people on the street.

    It wouldn’t be that quick but you would certainly bump into these guys.

    However, while this may seem like fun to us here, it is still a delicate issue and could get ugly in less than one second after explaining to any of them, that they have been using stolen property.

    I would first file a detailed report about the software you have been using, pictures, names, zone in which they have been logging to the internet and go there for a few days if really interested in recovering it.

    Or, don’t do anything and just mess with them like it has been suggested.

    I really wouldn’t have an issue having to disinfect the computer completely before using it again but just by looking at them, the mere idea grosses me out! haha

    Good luck with your hunt man!

    Sergio

  • http://www.thetravelchica.com Stephanie – The Travel Chica

    This is awesome! Almost worth having your laptop stolen. Please, please keep the stories coming.

  • dusty

    Nice! Bet that was a nice surprise after all that time. Tucking my tablet in the pillow case at night in Costa Rica now. No prey sftwre for Android, but looking for something different.

  • http://www.ishouldlogoff.com Jillian

    Well this is getting VERY interesting…. :)

  • http://www.angieaway.com Angie Orth of Angie Away

    Go get ‘em!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Thanks Angie! Will do!

  • http://loribarber.com/ Lori Barber

    Awesome post! Although I have enjoyed following Chonga and Handlebar’s activities, I agree with Angie – it is time to go get ‘em!

  • http://www.dangerous-business.com Amanda

    NICE! Amazing what technology can do, eh? I’ll be interested to follow along and see how this pans out!

  • http://www.tourist2townie.com Gareth Leonard

    Oh man, automated audio messages would be so much fun to mess with them! Only if you could see their reaction live. Good luck with everything, this is a great/sad/awesome/frustrating story.

  • Delphine

    Love this new “trip” Mat’ !!!! ;-)
    Please, keep the story going on as long as you can !!! Love Chonga’s gold mining !!!! Take care

  • http://www.thetravelapprentice.com/ Jeremy (TheTravelApprentice)

    Wow, amazing story! Hope you get your lap-top back and throw the book at them…

    …on a side note, i could have done without the picture of that guys femur sticking out of his leg lol!

  • http://paddyinba.blogspot.com/ Quickroute

    I love the mug / bugger shots – saw this a few days ago which might give you some ideas http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=f03_1327071465

  • http://TravelingCanucks.com Cam

    Hah! This is incredible. Ah the wonders of technology!
    What a story… sorry you lost your laptop,, but hopefully things will work out. You should totally keep messing with them… hah! ;-)

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      I really want to mess with them, and try to catch their reaction on camera. :D

  • http://thejungleprincess.com Abby

    This is beyond. My laptop was stolen in Costa Rica a few years ago, and having this program possibly could have changed my life! There, I guess it is not illegal to hold stolen goods, because my guy got off, despite wearing sneakers that I proved were mine. I got the sneakers back but could not get a search warrant for house, down the street from mine. And he was let of jail after one day, because he said the sneakers were a present from his sister. Even though they were Nikes, which aren’t sold there, and she’d never left the country. Even though I proved they were mine enough (pics of me zip-lining!) to get them back. I can’t wait to see what happens!!

  • http://turkishtravelblog.com Natalie

    I like the idea from Jeremy – Send messages claiming you are God and she will go to hell for her deceit and lies :) Anyway, you can get their attention by sending a link to this post via Facebook. Keep me updated on the outcome

  • http://andysitchyfeet.blogspot.com/ Andrew

    Sorry , I can’t help but laugh at these clowns . I hope you get your laptop back and they get what they deserve . And thanx for the tip on the software .

  • Lee

    See if you can friend them on Facebook – call them by their real names… tell them you met them at some place you know they’ve been. It’ll drive them crazy trying to remember who you are and how you know so much about them. Then see if you can get them to give you any more info on where they live, how they got the laptop, etc.

    If you can mess with them via Facebook, maybe they won’t suspect that the computer is the source of all the info you have.

    Once they figure that out and ininstall Prey, you’re window into their world will close, and that would be a shame!

  • Lisa

    It totally bites that your laptop was stolen. I hope through your Prey program you are able to recover it. In the meantime the post is hilarious! I agree with one of your other readers you should contact a reporter, this would make a GREAT story. They may be able to get your laptop back.

  • X-man

    Matt,

    you should call police so they can catch em. I saw this on FB and probably they will too. if u take more time, the will probably split and loose ur laptop.

    better have police on their ass and u get ur pc back, unless u are enjoying the pics on their FB.. LOL..!!

  • http://countryskipper.com Sabrina

    Never knew about this program, but will download it for sure. Hope you get your computer back!

  • Joey Lennon

    This incident is epic. If I were on your shoes, I don’t know what to do with these people but I will gather as many pieces of evidence as much as I can so I would have solid proof about the grave criminal act they did. I was really reading the post til the end because I’m so intrigued by the outcome. What did you do next?

    Can’t wait for the next post!

  • http://joostschuur.com Joost Schuur

    Question regarding the effectiveness of Prey Project: If I password the only account on my laptop wouldn’t this force any thief to do a reinstall of the OS, and wipe Prey?

    Or are they using a maintenance mode/boot disk to create an additional account, thus preserving the OS install?

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      I don’t know. In my case, I had a single password-protected account.

      Somehow they bypassed it without wiping the hardrive. They are not logged into my account though, there is a new one. I have no idea how they did it. But Prey is still on there. :D

  • http://HowToTravelFit.com Tracy Benham

    Thanks, so much, for sharing the updates. I have Prey installed, but never needed it (thankfully). Glad to know it works so well.

  • archer

    i know you’re finding this entertaining, as am i, but if it were me these low-lifes would already be in jail. i don’t get why you don’t contact the police.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      I will if I need to. There is no rush. The more info I learn about them, the better my chances for recovery will be.

  • Kerri aboard SV Marquesa

    Thank you for a truly unique travel blog entry, although I’m sorry it was at your own personal expense.

    I will never buy a secondhand laptop again.

  • Nick

    When my laptops camera is on it is always lit up. I’m wondering if yours does the same thing? If so I would think that they would catch on.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      The camera light quickly blinks once when a photo is taken. I tested it. Very easy to miss actually.

  • http://laavventura.wordpress.com Jennifer Avventura

    Ha. Brilliant post! And I can’t believe there is software like what you have downloaded! Im eager to hear the end of this story.

  • http://TheTravelBite.com Rachelle

    WOW! I can imagine you’re having loads of fun getting these bizarre nose-picking-internet-porn-searching updates and posting them live on the web for all to see. Looking forward to see how this goes!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      It’s been one fun roller-coaster ride Rachelle!

  • http://somedayillbethere.wordpress.com Someday I’ll Be There – Mina

    This post classic! I love it and looking forward for further updates :D and hope you get your laptop back soon :) goodluck

  • http://flipnomad.com flipnomad

    hope you recover your mac… very entertaining story though hehehe

  • http://travelingted.tv Traveling Ted

    This is simply amazing. Great post and incredible use of technology and social media. You should become Prey’s spokesperson.

  • Kobe

    Hi Matthew,

    I enjoyed reading your post (and actually might come back to your blog), especialy since I have a personal interest in it.

    Unfortunately, about 5 days ago, my Asus laptop machine was stolen whileI was at a public library. I’d left it unattended for about 4-5 minutes, and when I got back it was gone. They had left me with the charger and the mouse :-(

    I am very happy for you, and also filled with hope regarding my case.
    Since I only had one password protected account, I was sure they would simply erase the whole thing (including the Prey sofware copy I had installed)and
    reinstall the operating system. however, I read your situation was similar, and still they managed to work around it. I’m really crossing my fingers that my thieves are also password hackers…

    I was wondering why do you think it took 3 months for them to start operating it?
    Did you get any hints regarding that on the reports? I´m very curious.

    Good luck to the both of us…

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      My guess is that the thieves didn’t know how to break into it, so it took awhile for them to figure it out.

      In the future I’ll be including a password-free guest account too, so if it’s stolen, they can start using it right away (but my personal info will still be protected in my own account.)

  • http://whileoutriding.com Cass

    Matt, amazing to read about your detective work! So glad it all worked out! All the best. Cass

  • http://www.worldlynomads.com/ worldlynomads

    This is brilliant, I’ve been following this story since the beginning and I’m amazed how quickly they found out about your posts! Just goes to show eh? I’ll be setting up a guest account on my laptop just in case then…

    Off to download it now, thanks for the heads up!

  • http://amandaelsewhere.com/ Amanda @amandaelsewhere

    I’m so glad this story has a happy ending! I’m definitely going to download Prey onto my Macbook. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  • Shannon

    Wow it seems Prey has a 100% recovery rate; why aren’t other companies that offer this service jumping on this? :D

    I think this has been one of your best stories ;) you might get a bonus charity sale for the laptop for the story it has made out to be.

    You might consider putting a bird of prey wrap on the macbook as a token for the buyer or something.

  • tunimaal

    Awesome story… I’m gonna get this software…. It’s amzing how it works pretty well, and your story is so much fun!!!

  • http://theroadforks.com Akila

    Yay! Congratulations on getting it back. That’s awesome.

  • http://www.midlifepassion.com Peggy McPartland

    Just can’t make up something as entertaining as this! I’m so happy it all worked out and you got your computer back.

    I downloaded Prey on my laptop and Android as soon as I found out how incredible it is. Thanks for the heads up!

  • http://leahtravels.com/site/ Leah Travels

    I’ve been waiting with bated breath regarding the computer. Excellent job!

  • http://www.baconismagic.ca Ayngelina

    What an insane story, I am so glad it turned out well for you.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Thanks Ayngelina! :D

  • http://www.thetravelapprentice.com/ Jeremy (The Travel Apprentice)

    Wow, best $5 bucks you ever spend, what a deal! Make sure you sanitize that keyboard too, i can only imagine what you’ve seen the various hands doing to that lap-top. That mac might need some counseling lol… what a great story!

  • Roy Marvelous

    Wow. Glad to hear you got it back. I’m downloading Prey now!

  • http://lifechangingyear.com Tracey – Life Changing Year

    This story has had me entertained for days. So glad you are a twisted soul with enough of a sense of humour to share with us all!!! Possibly the most original travel post I’ve read in ages!!!

  • http://www.findingtheuniverse.com Laurence

    Wow, great to hear you got the laptop back. Good work!

  • http://www.livingthedreamrtw.com Jeremy

    Glad the ending worked out great. I will be installing Prey on my next computer before we travel again.

    One question – Did you use your travel insurance to recover the cost of the laptop or fund it on your own? If it is with insurance I know many have the stipulation that if stolen equipment is ever recovered it is their property. Just thought I’d throw that out there for you.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      My travel insurance had recently expired before this happened. It wouldn’t have covered much anyway, because the policy had low per-item limits. One of the reasons I was searching for a new provider actually.

      I had help financing the new one from generous readers who purchased photography prints or made donations after the incident.

  • Abby G$

    Awesome story and even more awesome outcome! How much are you selling the famous laptop for? I might know someone who may know someone else who would be seriously interested in a LEGAL TRANSACTION… :)

  • http://www.vagabondinglife.com Greg Rodgers

    Congrats! You exercised a lot more patience and discretion than I probably could.

    I think PreyProject software owes you something for all this publicity!

    Cheers,
    Greg

  • http://www.tourbackpacker.com Norm

    Awesome post, hilarious mug shots, good going. I will definitely run prey on my laptop. Thanks for the tip by the way.

  • http://www.llworldtour.com/ Lisa | LLWorldTour

    Amazing story Matt. I saw this on Twitter, I think, and already have a tab open with Prey. I wondered if they could see your info and eventually your website…
    In a way I’m surprised it all went down so easy in the end. I thought they would just get rid of it, but I guess you had enough of their info. Incredible!

  • Bon

    Just amazing, I almost felt like cheering at the end – way to go Matt!!!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      I ran around cheering when it was over. :)

  • http://www.diwyy.com Jerri

    Awesome, awesome story! So glad you got it back. I totally think Prey should sponsor your website now for all the publicity you have them. I, for one, downloaded it as well.

  • http://blog.travelreportage.com Giulia

    I’m totally buying Prey too! I am too scared of losing/having my Macbook stolen… This story was a lot of fun to read but I can understand your excitement! OMG thieves should all get public exposure so that they would stop stealing to avoid the shame… They deserve it!!! Well done Matthew :)

  • Carlo Medina

    Has Prey made you a spokesperson yet?haha. Damn, I got a friend who just got his laptop stolen in the safest place in San Pedro. Just curious. How much are you selling the laptop for?

  • http://www.littleaussietravellers.com.au Ree @ Little Aussie Travellers

    Oh boy how funny! So glad I checked in to see your update! So glad you returned it, and I’ll be installing Prey on my own laptop for sure, even just for the fun of it in case it ever gets taken!

  • http://www.toursinpanama.com Pavel

    Congrats bro…. what you did was awesome!!! I’ve been sharing this story with everyone in my circle of friends.

  • http://dimensionalhearttraveler.com Philip

    Matt,

    I have been enjoying this unfolding story on FB all along. There has been compassion for your loss as well as moments of unbridled hilarity as I view the perps various antics, nasal and otherwise. Congratulations although I am saddened to see such an entertaining tale conclude. I hope this story has driven much additional traffic to your already successful blog and I would like to option the film rights. Let’s do lunch.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      LOL. Thanks Philip.

      I’m thinking of creating a new reality TV show. Just leave laptops lying around with Prey installed and record what happens. :)

  • http://BillMills.net Bill Mills

    It was an entertaining and enlightening story. It was also the kind of story that allows a world of victims to feel, voyeuristically at least, some sense of sharing in your victory and feeling a bit less helpless and pessimistic about being so powerless against the greedy and criminal individuals in the world who are always on the hunt for easy prey. We spend much less time in our lives trying to protect ourselves from such people, than those people do devising ways to selfishly and lazily take what isn’t theirs and searching for new victims.

    Thank you for so articulately and throughly documenting this event in your life. It was edcuational, a ‘cautionary tale’ and generally just a good read. You have done more to convince laptop owners to follow your example and get the Prey software immediately… as extra insurance against permanant lose of their computer as a result of theft.

    Respectfully Submitted,
    Bill Mills

  • Sailor

    Great job man! I have been following this story in FB and glad to see that you got it back. Also I downloaded Prayproject and it is active now :D

  • http://nomadicsamuel.com Nomadic Samuel

    This is just brilliant…what more can I say? I’ve got quite a few nose picks myself in my travel galleries. Shall we combine on a joint photo essay sometime? What say you? :P

  • http://www.blogdiviaggi.com Chris

    That is an incredible story; I will immediately install the program in my computer. This post is so cool!! Ciao

  • http://wordsonwaking@wordpress.org Scarlett

    My computer was grabbed in Brussels in April 2011. I did not know about this program then but I really wish I had. I assumed my password protection would keep anyone from accessing my private stuff but now I’m concerned. I thought they would have to wipe it to gain access. I just put Prey on this computer but I had several chapters of a book I’m writing on my Mac and a lot of stories that were ready for publication. I feel like an idiot for not having those on a flash drive and now I feel like more of an idiot for not knowing about this program. Glad you had a happy ending.

  • Patrick

    Congrats, I LOL’d numerous times! Especially when “Chonga” was mining for gold! Good on you!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      This story pretty much wrote itself. :)

  • http://www.tendtotravel.com Amer @TendToTravel

    I’m glad you’ve got everything sorted out! Thanks for sharing, now am thinking of installing the same software.

  • Ian [EagerExistence]

    Amazing that you were able to install this software, setup the guest account, all “in case” something happened.. then when it did, you were ready.

    If only I had a similar paranoia before my laptop (passport, and phone too) was stolen in Florence.

    I will have to setup something similar on my shiny new replacement laptop.

  • http://www.pousadajoaopessoa.com Joao

    As a hotel owner in Brazil I’ve heard my fair share of horror stories regarding stolen laptops. I think I may pop a link to Prey on our welcome screen that shows on guests TVs when they arrive.]

    It’s pure genius and I’m almost tempted to start wandering around town in the evenings with my old Dell under my arm ;)

    Thanks for this post seriously. It’s been a hoot Matthew.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      That’s a great idea Joao!

  • http://www.nomadbiba.com Bianca

    What a great story! I’m glad it has a happy ending :) Off to download Prey….

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      You won’t regret it! :)

  • http://www.viajesycosasasi.com Osvaldo

    It will be nice you show us how to configure Prey in a worst-case scenario :)

  • http://www.activebackpacker.com Tom

    Hah, this is the best post I’ve read in a while for pure entertainment value! Awesome! Remind me if I ever get a Macbook Pro (bit out of my budget range atm) to install Prey on it haha!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Hi Tom! They actually have it for PCs and smart phones too.

  • http://www.travelfunnytravellight.blogspot.com Claire

    Man you’re good!!! My laptop got stolen 3 months ago as well and it would be so sweet if I could have tracked it. Good for yOU!!!! The bad guys finally lose one.

  • http://www.thewrongwayhome.com Izy Berry

    This is absolutely hilarious! I’m going to download Prey now, so on the off chance my laptop is stolen… well, at least I can have some worthwhile entertainment!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Yup. The $5 I paid to help get it back was WELL worth it. Way better than any movie. :D

  • edgy_mph

    WoW! I can imagine you while watching them what they’re doing…very entertaining! But I am glad these people were reprimanded and you get your laptop back :)

  • Ryder

    An amazing story. Enjoyed reading it! Had few laughts for today.

  • http://yourenotfromaroundhere.com/blog/ Steve

    Great story – glad you got the laptop back!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Thanks Steve, it was quite an experience, and I hope other people will learn from it too.

  • http://www.hopscotchtheglobe.com Kristen – Hopscotch the Globe

    This post makes me really happy. It’s hilarious and it’s amazing how you actually got your laptop back AND you had quite the show haha. I just installed the software on my laptop. It’s such a great application that everyone should have installed.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      It was certainly VERY entertaining for me as well Kristen! Hope you never have to use the software, but it’s nice to know it works. :D

  • Roland F

    You are the shit dude! I do not think I have laugh so hard in a good while. God bless you man. Please send your email if you can I like to add you to my friends list in facebook and also in CS.

    Keep up the good work!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Glad you enjoyed it Roland! Kind of wish I could have messed with them a bit more… :D

  • http://two4travel.net Claire

    Let me just say this is by far the most entertaining blog post I’ve ever read! Hahaha wow.. and thank goodness you got it back.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      haha. Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did Claire! :D

  • Green

    Great story, glad you got your laptop back. One request, though: **please** consider deleting the ER photo, or warning people, or at least blacking out the worst part. I was eating breakfast as I was scrolling through your post. Gack!

  • Jeremy P

    Got my laptop jacked two months ago, and sadly it was 110% my fault. Left it in my *unlocked* car in a shitty neighborhood at night. Shockingly, it walked away during that time. To my credit, there may have been more than a little alcohol responsible for that massive lapse in judgement, but that doesn’t get my computer back.

    On my new computer, the first thing I did was install Prey and get a Kensington lock. I vow never to let it happen again.

    Kudos for the international rescue of your MacBook!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Yes, sometimes all it takes is a few simple mistakes. But at least you learned from it, as did I. :D

  • http://www.nextstopwhoknows.com Carlo Cretaro

    A classic! What a wonderful bit of technology right there. I always wondered did those programs really do a good job, well now I can see the huge benefits!

    Anyone know if there is a windows equivalent of such a program?

    • http://www.nextstopwhoknows.com Carlo Cretaro

      Should have known it was available for pc as well! Have it downloaded an also on my android. Testing it out now and its an amazing piece of software.

      • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

        Sure is Carlo. Hopefully you’ll never need to use it though. :)

  • Olle Larsson

    This story is amazing but I´m scared to use my laptop fo banktransactions. If its so easy to watch what i`m doing.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      I don’t blame you Olle! I actually use something called LastPass that hides my passwords from prying eyes. Highly recommended. Here are some other money related tips: Travel Banking 101

  • http://www.shoestringbackpacking.com/ Hana @ Shoestring Backpacking

    Matthew,

    This is one of the most unique and hilarious (sorry — I mean that in a good way) posts I have ever had the pleasure of stumbling upon!

    For safer online banking (as Olle mentioned above), check out Neo’s SafeKeys (www.aplin.com.au) or caféKlysm (www.tokezone.net/cafeklysm) — both free software.

    Cheers again for the laughs. So glad you had a happy ending! :-)

  • Olle Larsson

    Hi again and thx for tip for LastPass.
    I downloaded it but then I start think.
    My account name on PreyProject is the same as my E-mailadress.
    Now, if I use LastPass then it´s easy to log in to my account and change my status from “Missing” to “OK”.
    It´s easy for a thief to find out my e_mailaccount. It´sjust to check my outgoing mailboax and there it is.
    Therefore I´ll opened a brand new Gmailaccount and connected that adress to all sites where my Email adress is my accountname. Hope this information will be helpful.
    From a grumpy old man in Sweden!

  • Mike Wong

    instead of picking your laptop to steal….she should’ve been taking her time picking all those boogers from her nose before anything.

  • http://www.jt76.wordpress.com Wends of Journeys and Travels

    I wished I had this one installed on my laptop too when it got stolen right inside my own room while I was sleeping in my home country, in the Philippines. too bad, I read it just now, I could have been feasting on them too like you did.

    This is a good lesson to be taught that we need to secure our laptops with this kind of software. It is smarter than the local police and one which do not also bribe us to get out property back.

    Unfortunately for me, I lost my laptop, DSLR camera and 3 mobile phones in just one robbery and inside my own room while I slept.

  • Sidney

    Hi Matthew:

    I wish I had seen this sooner. I am a teacher and my laptop was stolen in the Latina University just a couple of days ago. I have back-ups of many things, but I have lost a lot of valuable info. I will use this software in the near future and thank you and congratulate you for your efforts. My husband also lost his mac when we first got here in 2008… so this is valuable info for anyone and everyone. Thanks again.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Sorry to hear that Sidney. I know how much it sucks…

  • Emma

    Oh my GOD! I’ve heard of Prey but no advertising can trump this story. I’m downloading it as I write this. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! For including all of this information and telling your story! I’m sure you’ve saved countless laptops! A backpacker with a new (VERY new, otherwise I would include a link) travel blog, I am so anxious about my electronics at all times.

    I couldn’t be happier I’ve found this blog!

  • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

    Glad I could help Emma. Hopefully you’ll never need to use it!

  • http://www.energiesneuves.com FredericDESBONNET

    La revanche du Grigo . Excellente histoire .
    Great story , Greetings from Paris.
    Frederic

  • http://twotravelingtwits.wordpress.com Terri Smart

    all I can say is your my hero. this was pee your pants funny. wish I had been in on it while it was happening.

  • Stacey C

    Good 4 u >B-D
    But I’ve also read on a forum if u havn’t installed prey yet, u can still have your ISP company track down the IP, but seems like a court warrant’s necessary. They also mentioned u could ask your local police to contact cyber crime specialists who most usually hunt after kiddie porn but they can do PC-stolen case, too. I’m not sure the details involved but I assume knowledgeable ppl will grasp what those ppl are suggesting here: http://tech.slashdot.org/story/08/07/04/1247249/best-way-to-get-back-a-stolen-computer

  • http://www.Latinabroad.com Maria Alexandra @LatinAbroad

    how long it took me to discover this gem of a story is beyond me. Regardless, that is AWESOME! OMG, I can’t imagine the expression of those Latino faces! XD

    By the way, does the Prey software work with PCs?

    I just bought a new Lenovo laptop yesterday and would love to install Prey once I hit the road later this year. Please let me know! :)

    Love THIS type of happy endings! ;D

    -Maria Alexandra

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      I believe it does Maria. Definitely worth having. Especially because it’s free. Just remember to include a password free “guest account” on your computer too, so if it is stolen, they can get online with it.

  • http://alwaystrekking.com Natalia | Always Trekking

    Wow! This is truly extraordinary. What an amazing story, I’m glad it had a happy ending.

    I will install that software on my new travel laptop.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      You’ll be glad you did Natalia. I’m not the only success story, there are many.

  • http://thebarefootbeat.com Mariah

    I died laughing so many times during this post! How awesome and cool that your tactics paid off! Well done :)

  • http://www.adventureunderwear.com Nigel Clifford

    HAHA! This is one of the funniest posts I’ve ever read on the internet…EVER!
    Way to have fun with it Matt!

  • http://www.mosaffer.com/ Mo Draj

    This is just Classic! :D
    I cannot believe you got it back! Wow, great stuff! :)

  • Karen

    Hola?? this site is so hilarious! want help in writing a book????? It is very early here……how close are you to Panama? the country???????

  • http://dontstopliving.net Jonny Blair

    Can’t actually believe I have only just come across this story tonight Matthew – didn’t even twig it before in your interview with me where you mentioned the stolen laptop. WHAT A STORY, just love it!!

  • Sadye Writer

    Brilliant post and absolutely hilarious! I’ve just posted this on my Facebook page along with a recommendation to install Prey to all my friends. I just had laptop and phone stolen in Barcelona and sadly I did not have Prey (or any other antitheft software) installed. Of course, I had Find my iPhone but that seems to be pretty much useless! Really happy for you and great travel stories too!!!!!!

  • http://youshouldgotoo.com Barbara

    Awesome story! I’m so glad you got your computer back with a few laughs along the way!!

  • http://www.foreignerinphilippines.com Cody

    Amazing story, I can just picture your eyes gleaming with the fire of revenge as you, almost obsessively, tracked the thieves’ every move online, and pieced together your plan, hehe.
    I’m curious…if they had reformatted your hard drive before they used the laptop, would Prey still have worked?

  • Josh

    Lucky, my macbook was stolen and I know who took it. I can’t track it though I don’t think. Any suggestions?

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Did you have Find My Mac enabled? I believe it comes included with all Macs… just not as detailed info/options.

  • http://www.traveltipsandhacks.com Christoffer Moen

    I had such fun reading this post, literally kept me on the edge of my seat from the suspense and also almost fell off my seat from laughing. Like the others, I’m so happy this has a good ending. There are some bad people out there and there are some really good people out there, kudos to the people who have helped with the “investigation” and retrieval. And god bless Prey.

  • http://www.escaping-london.com Andrew Davison

    This is great stuff. Kind of makes we want to become a PI spy who does the hard work sitting down using Prey to discover the fate of peoples stolen laptops worldwide and dispatching a hand picked team of ninja recovery experts when the times calls for it :-D

  • http://distintas.net Fuentes Fidedignas

    By the way, Chonga is actually a tranny. She’s a – somewhat – famous tranny, ultimately recognizable by the ugly ass tattoo of the wings on her butt cheeks.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      No way!! That’s hilarious. Thanks for adding that detail Fuentes. :D

      • Fuentes Fidedignas

        Here’s Chonga’s “business page” – http://dist.sistemairis.net/model/lorenafonttini – in case you’re interested in finding out what “touched” your laptop. Hope you had it “sanitized for your protection” :-)

        • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

          ha!!!! You just made my week. Thank you karma gods! :D

          I think I almost pissed myself there.

        • anon

          Since you’ve caught them,recovered your notebook and had the forgiving thought of “not being the judge”, why leave their pics still on the net? Suppose there’s that small chance that they really did buy from a thief? They did hand it over even though its no defence that they bought it(stolen goods)

        • http://ActivePlanetTravels.com Ron | Active Planet Travels

          Hahahaha That’s so great! Thanks for the share…I think this is the best story I’ve read in ages.

    • Trucker Stacey

      My name is tucker stacey.This is a very joyful day of my life because of the help Dr.Trust has rendered to me by helping me get my ex husband back with his magic and love spell. i was married for 6 years and it was so terrible because my husband was really cheating on me and was seeking for a divorce but when i came across Dr.Trust email on the internet on how he help so many people to get thier ex back and help fixing relationship.and make people to be happy in their relationship. i explained my situation to him and then seek his help but to my greatest surprise he told me that he will help me with my case and here i am now celebrating because my Husband has change totally for good. He always want to be by me and can not do anything without my present. i am really enjoying my marriage, what a great celebration. i will keep on testifying on the internet because Dr.Trust is truly a real spell caster. DO YOU NEED HELP THEN CONTACT DOCTOR TRUST NOW VIA EMAIL: Ultimatespellcast@yahoo.com or call +2348156885231 or ultimatespellcast@gmail.com. He is the only answer to your problem and make you feel happy in your relationship. ./

  • http://wetravelandblog.com Gabriel

    Great story, very happy to know that you have your gear back. Although 3 months later you got to go ninja style on some computer thieves =)

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Yes, the whole ordeal ended up becoming pretty satisfying Gabriel. Good or bad, it usually turns into a good story in the end!

  • http://goatsontheroad.com Nick – Goats On The Road

    hahah, wow! one of the best travel stories/posts i’ve read to date. I love the title, love the story and especially love the ending. Good for you and thanks for the tips. I’ve got to download that program asap in case my mac ever gets stolen.

  • http://GreenGlobalTravel.com Mary @ Green Global Travel

    I have heard of similar software, though none that was quite so effective – although no doubt your strategy and persistence had a lot to do with getting your laptop back.

  • http://ActivePlanetTravels.com Ron | Active Planet Travels

    Holy Shit!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Dude this is such good new, congrats bro on getting your stuff back! I’m going to look into it now…I wonder if they’ve got something similar for iPhone..? Either way, thanks for the tip on the software!

  • http://www.nikoniko.nl/ Niko

    Hey, looks like Handlebar is actually Morgan Spurlock after he got waaaaayyyy supersized!! Congrats on your story, Prey is definitely for me
    nn:-)

  • http://www.laviajeramorena.com Chanel @ La Viajera Morena

    I completely forgot that I had Prey, and I just installed it on my MacBook Pro in case things go awry. :D

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      It’s good to be prepared Chanel. This situation would’ve been a lot more depressing without Prey installed. Now it’s one of my favorite travel stories!

  • http://www.chickybus.com Lisa @chickybus

    Holy crap–this is an amazing story. Love it!! I’ve never heard of Prey, but I sure want it now. I am SO happy for you…not only did you get to have some fun humiliating these jerks (I would have done the same), you’re getting your computer back. Yes!!!

  • http://www.bewicked.eu Lindy

    Thanks for sharing that last update, not sure I’m too happy having clicked that link though ;-) what a story!

  • Marla

    LOL This has turned out to be a hilarious story!! Not the stolen laptop part but all the rest. Thanks for sharing!

  • katty watson

    oh that’s amazing… this is the sophisticated way of finding thefts. Thanks for the post. I really enjoyed reading this stuff.

  • http://www.backpackerbanter.com Chris

    hahaha epic skills! Stoked you managed to get your laptop back though and you’re right – you couldn’t have even made up the crazy stuff you found out through this!haha!

    I’ve just downloaded and installed Prey onto my macbook too – cheers for the tip!

  • http://www.kristytolley.com Kristy

    Such determination! So glad you got your laptop back! I do hope you had plenty of disinfectant wipes on hand to erase anything left by booger girl.

  • http://www.suitcasestories.com Michael

    This is just hilarious. Great way to turn a negative experience into some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever read.

  • http://demochilaebota.wordpress.com Mauro Brandão

    Hey Man, very nice and hilarious this history !!!! Nice to know this program exists !!!!
    Good blog, i’m already addict !!!

    I’m thinking do a hitchhiking trip from de south to the North of my country ( The Big Brazil) !! Now i am got safe a little money then i’ll hit the road !!

    You are a great inspiration for me !
    Take care and good winds for you !

  • Chris Chiang

    Hey, very interesting operation and I’m glad there is a happy ending that you can recover your Mac. Really don’t know the Prey Project program before and will install it in my Macbook pro as well.

  • http://acouplesodyssey.com Peter

    Hey I really enjoyed your storytelling!

    installed prey on my mobliedev’s right away. but not on my chromebook, firstly on a chromebook it can’t be installed, secondly chromebooks are cheaply replaced (without data loss)

    Otherwise perfect :)

  • zomgpizza

    the best part was the ending!
    …no i dont mean the recovery of the laptop, i mean the discovery that Chonga was a transvestite hooker. yikes!

  • http://seductionsextravel.com Sebastian

    This is a really crazy story! It is amazing how modern technology enabled you to track your stolen laptop.

    Weird story and what is even weirder than the story is that big tattoo that the senorita has on her ass cheeks ;-)

  • http://seductionsextravel.com Sebastian

    okay I just realized that the “girl” with the tattoo isn’t really a girl :-D

    I can just quote a friend of mine from Bangkok: “Sebastian, keep away from the most beautiful girls…they are men.”

    Sometimes life is unfair.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Don’t worry Sebastian, we all thought he was a woman at first. ;)

  • http://www.thehopelesswanderer.com Jeska

    This is probably hands down, the best stolen property story I have ever read! Congrats on being such a good investigator and getting your macbook. On top of that, awesome job at updating everyone as the story progress!!! =D

  • Tony

    Wow.. that’s a nice one! Following your suggestion, I just downloaded Prey, but when I was trying it out and put it as “Missing”, the Mac’s camera LED lit up when it was taking a picture for the reports. Any suggestion on how to turn the light off?

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Don’t think you can, but it’s less noticeable if you’re not expecting it.

    • Katie

      I tested it out as well and honestly didn’t notice it (probably because I got distracted by Facebook while waiting for the 10 minutes). I think if
      someone did see it they would think it was random since it only happens
      for a second. Even if they figured out what was going on a couple
      pictures before it was disabled would be better than nothing. Maybe you
      can try emailing the development team at Prey to see if they can work on
      that.

  • Kelvin

    If only I had known about this software a year back, when my gaming computer got stolen.

    I do miss it, but did install the software on the computer I am currently using. Let’s hope I don’t get to use it.

    Also, my bithday is in a few days, so wish me luck when I solicit at my rich granddad to replace the US$800 piece of equipment.

    Thanks for a good post!

  • http://www.facebook.com Nima

    This is Classic, Dude well done, you have just made my day! hahahahahahahahahah

  • http://TravelFashionGirl.com alex

    WOW – i’m downloading this on my laptop right now. Thank you for sharing your experience in such detail! Incredible you were able to get your laptop back from a continent away. Congrats!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com Matthew Karsten

      Glad you enjoyed the story Alex, hope you never have to go through it yourself though. :)

  • Alexandra Canedo

    This was ridiculously entertaining…AND I just downloaded Prey since I’m traveling through Colombia right now…you never know! Thanks :)

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      You can’t go wrong with “free”. Enjoy Colombia!

  • The Lost Londoner

    This is hands down THE BEST blog post I’ve ever read!! I literally laughed out loud in a boarding queue, now everybody on the plane will think I’m a lunatic.
    I am installing that as soon as I can, it somehow makes losing the Mac a joy! Dude you are a true legend, I love your blog even more now.

  • Jaca

    It’s amazing story you shared with us! My laptop was stolen at the conference at University of Barcelona last week. The room was even under video surveillance and the thief has been seen (a well dressed latin-american guy). Unfortunately I don’t have any tracking software like Prey Project installed. The funniest (or saddest) thing is that I would give a present owner the reward just to return my 35 GB of photos using some cloud storage…

  • MikesRoadTrip

    This is an unbelievable, and, entertaining story. Is it really true? Wow!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      Really is hard to believe isn’t it. But yes, all true. That “gal” is actually a dude. Which makes this even more funny. And the fact that he’s also a prostitute makes me think they were totally lying about not knowing it was stolen. Maybe “Handlebar” is just a pimp, and the women who stole it work for him. Who knows.

      • MikesRoadTrip

        Oh, okay…I recall reading that and was wondering if that was who you were referencing. Great story…well done sir! :-)

  • http://www.sexholidayasia.com/ Rocco

    Cool story!

    I never knew the existence of softwares able to take photos from the mini webcam.

    Transvestite are a real issue, they are theft addicts. In Asia, especially Thailand, there are theft stories almost everyday on local newspapers about ladyboys stealing from tourists.

    Here mine safety tips:

    - Don’t speak and get stopped by transvestite.

    - Don’t let them to be close to you

    - Don’t take them in your room, LOL

    Matthew, I am happy you got it sorted out. Well done.

    Rocco

  • Jessica Voigts

    This would be a GREAT movie. just saying…

  • http://backpackingwithchad.com Chad Thomson

    You should be more careful with these Central American hookers, man!

  • Matthew F

    Wow, this is sad, i am in I.T (System Admin) and first thing i do with new laptops for anyone i know, format, reinstall, and these are legit purchased computers!!!!. Really goes to show that thieves are stupid! Why prison’s are over populated!

  • Bobby Poot

    That’s the best blog i read so far Matthew, awesome!! thanks for sharing. I copied the link to my facebook as i am traveling since the end of 2012 and met loads of other travelers who defintly read it. Cheers Bobby

  • Erik Blair

    Awesome! Oh what fun it is to ‘prey’ on a one-whore’s open network :)

  • Sofie Couwenbergh

    Crazy!
    I read something similar a while ago, but I think that person had his phone stolen.
    If only I could remember.

    Does make you hope no-one ever hacks into your computer and webcam.
    I really should pick my nose less :D

  • http://www.davestravelpages.com/ Dave Briggs

    That’s the best thing I have read in months!!

  • Sojourn Safaris

    Its amazing how fast they handed back the computer after they were revealed. Good detective work there albeit by remote.

  • travellingforfun

    Thats a brilliant story. I’ll be more careful about what I steal in future!! Handlebars really got his comeuppance in the end. Pity you couldnt get back at Chonga as well

  • http://www.bankerinthesun.com/ Rashad Pharaon

    This just might be the most entertaining blog post of all time. Aaaaaaand off to download Prey NOW.

  • http://www.addictivebackpacking.com Aaron @ addictivebackpacking

    I wish I had not pressed the proof button! I can delete my internet history but I can’t get that image out of my head!

  • Matt

    Brilliant post, and very helpful; immediately installed Prey on all of the devices I’m taking with me later this week. Thanks for sharing!

  • Nora Martini

    This post reminded me of a similar experience when our backpack was stolen with our netbook inside while doing laundry in Florence, Italy. If someone is doing something stupid infront of you look for the accomplish behind them. We didn”t know why a gypsy was backing us into the corner of the laundry and waving his wallet until we turned around to get the backpack to put our laundry into. GONE!!! Luckily we had another computer and learned our lesson the hard way. Thanks for the reminder of another adventure on the road.

  • http://memographer.com/ memographer

    That is a very entertaining story, Matt. Thanks! Love the happy ending :) Will install Prey Project tonight.

  • Vivan Cosme

    Hello every one there my name is Vivian Cosme from Canada I never believed in love spells or magic until i met this spell caster once when i went to see my friend in Africa this year on a business summit. I meant a man who’s name is DR ONIHA he is really powerful and could help cast spells to bring back one’s gone, lost, misbehaving lover and magic money spell or spell for a good job or luck spell .I’m now happy & a living testimony cos the man i had wanted to marry left me 3 weeks before our wedding and my life was upside down cos our relationship has been on for 3 years. I really loved him, but his mother was against us and he had no good paying job. So when i met this spell caster, i told him what happened and explained the situation of things to him. At first i was undecided, skeptical and doubtful, but i just gave it a try. And in 9 days when i returned to Canada, my boyfriend (now husband) called me by himself and came to me apologizing that everything had been settled with his mom and family and he got a new job interview so we should get married. I didn’t believe it cos the spell caster only asked for my name and my boyfriends name and all i wanted him to do. Well we are happily married now and we are expecting our little kid, and my husband also got the new job and our lives became much better. His email is :onihaspiritualtemple@yahoo.com

  • Alex Bellink

    This is the best story of revenge I’ve ever read. I’ve also been wondering if there are any programs to track stolen or lost laptops. I’ll be purchasing that as soon as I hit the road!

  • http://lifepart2.com/ Jonathan Look, Jr.

    This is like the funniest thing I have read all week! I have to get this program. Don’t want my laptop stolen, but it sounds like fun!

  • Patrick

    Good post mate :-) I travel extensively for quite 20 years now (thanks to a good pension ^^), and this story made me laugh a lot !
    Some years ago, I used to have a laptop for my travels, but for quite some time now, I don’t bother anymore with, as it is a real magnet for thieves…
    Instead I have an external hard disk that I carry along when I travel. It is very small, whilst capacity is a terabyte, and as now you have Internet places everywhere, I don’t have any issues to connect or work when needs arise ^^
    Now I can understand that with the kind of software and the platform you use, you probably can’t have that option :-)
    I hope your next travels will be as entertaining, rich in new knowledge and fun :-)
    (My english might be a bit poor, but I am french speaking…)

  • http://hannahonthemap.com Hannah Wasielewski

    I just came across your site today, and this is absolutely hilarious!! I could imagine their humiliation, but it looks like being patient does pay off. thanks for making me laugh today, definitely going to bookmark your site!

  • L.A. Chancey

    HI M, FANTASTIC recovery, just downloaded the program myself and did a BackBlaze backup in anticipation of Tianguis in MX, next week. Just one question, just exactly what were you doing in the near vicinity of those “Ladies of the Night” which allowed for enough of a minor distraction to lose your coveted MAC? Inquiring minds are, well simply inquiring.

  • kaybaybay33

    Um yah, where’s the story of why you were in the vicinity of three hookers?!!! ;o)

  • http://bellavidabyletty.com/ BellaVida

    Wow, your laptop certainly had quite an adventure. Thank you for sharing the software you used. It’s good to have a safety net like that especially when you use your laptop for business. And I’m very glad you were able to recover your laptop.

  • http://unacartolina.tumblr.com Kristina

    I’m so late to this party but this is the best thing I’ve seen on the internet in a very long time. Love it!

  • http://www.theboywander.net/ Theboywander

    This is so epic!

  • sumit

    how to find my laptop si missing and i haw onli mac addresses no udar any documents

  • Cole Harry

    Cool that you have no issue violating the privacy of people most certainly poorer than you who were probably scammed themselves into buying a stolen laptop. Even cooler that you seem to think it’s shameful to be attracted to transgender individuals. You’re a gem.

    • Jim Harrelson

      No, you’re a gem!

  • Mark

    HAHAHAHA great story Matthew, and the ultimate detail from Fuentes: He/She is a tranny with a great ass tattoo…

  • Cole

    My Name is Cole, From USA. I wish to share my testimonies with the general public about what this man called Ogidiga has just done for me, this man has just brought back my lost Ex husband to me with his great spell, I was married to this man called Steven we were together for a long time and we loved our self’s but when I was unable to give him a child for 2 years he left me and told me he can’t continue anymore then I was now looking for ways to get him back until a friend of mine told me about this man and gave his contact email (ogidiga12@yahoo.com) then you won’t believe this when I contacted this man on my problems he prepared this spell cast and bring my lost husband back, and after a month I miss my month and go for a test and the result stated am pregnant am happy today am a mother of a baby boy, thank you once again the great Ogidiga for what you have done for me, if you are out there passing through any of this problems listed below:

    1. Get you money back from what ever source it has been used before.
    2. Bring back lost lover, even if lost for a long time
    3. Remove bad spells from homes, business & customer attraction etc.
    4. Get promotion you have desired for a long time at work or in your career.
    5. Read all your problems before you even mention them to him
    6. Remove the black spot that keeps on taking your money away
    7. Find out why you are not progressing in life and the solution
    8. Eliminate in family fights
    9. Ensure excellent school grades even for children with mental disabilities
    10. Stop your marriage or relationship from breaking apart
    11. We destroy and can send back the AKOBE if requested
    12. We heal barrenness in women and disturbing menstruation
    13. Get you marriage to the lover of your choice
    14. Guarantee you win the troubling court cases & divorce no matter how what stage
    15. Ensure success in work and business
    16. Mental illness & bewitched
    17. Can?t sleep at night or walking at night
    18. Recover stolen property and whereabouts of people that hurt you.
    19. Bring supernatural luck into you
    20. Extreme protection for those doing dangerous jobs like security guards, Bank Manager, cash transporters, etc.
    21. If you want your ex back.

    READ ALL CAREFULLY AND GET YOUR PROBLEM SOLVE, contact via Email:
    ogidiga12@yahoo.com.

  • Trucker Stacey

    My name is tucker stacey.This is a very joyful day of my life because of the help Dr.Trust has rendered to me by helping me get my ex husband back with his magic and love spell. i was married for 6 years and it was so terrible because my husband was really cheating on me and was seeking for a divorce but when i came across Dr.Trust email on the internet on how he help so many people to get thier ex back and help fixing relationship.and make people to be happy in their relationship. i explained my situation to him and then seek his help but to my greatest surprise he told me that he will help me with my case and here i am now celebrating because my Husband has change totally for good. He always want to be by me and can not do anything without my present. i am really enjoying my marriage, what a great celebration. i will keep on testifying on the internet because Dr.Trust is truly a real spell caster. DO YOU NEED HELP THEN CONTACT DOCTOR TRUST NOW VIA EMAIL: Ultimatespellcast@yahoo.com or call +2348156885231 or ultimatespellcast@gmail.com. He is the only answer to your problem and make you feel happy in your relationship.

  • Trucker Stacey

    My name is tucker stacey.This is a very joyful day of my life because of the help Dr.Trust has rendered to me by helping me get my ex husband back with his magic and love spell. i was married for 6 years and it was so terrible because my husband was really cheating on me and was seeking for a divorce but when i came across Dr.Trust email on the internet on how he help so many people to get thier ex back and help fixing relationship.and make people to be happy in their relationship. i explained my situation to him and then seek his help but to my greatest surprise he told me that he will help me with my case and here i am now celebrating because my Husband has change totally for good. He always want to be by me and can not do anything without my present. i am really enjoying my marriage, what a great celebration. i will keep on testifying on the internet because Dr.Trust is truly a real spell caster. DO YOU NEED HELP THEN CONTACT DOCTOR TRUST NOW VIA EMAIL: Ultimatespellcast@yahoo.com or call +2348156885231 or ultimatespellcast@gmail.com. He is the only answer to your problem and make you feel happy in your relationship. ,.

  • http://makenewtracks.com Christopher Sharpe

    I LOVE this story, getting your own back on people that are low enough to steal your property. Definitely getting this for my laptop.

  • Cyra

    Haha, I laughed reading this, but on a serious note, I just installed Prey Project too. I have heard to many success stories lately to not install it!