The downside of anti-theft tracking software

Cristen S. Iris, The Daily Record Newswire

Imagine walking into your office one morning and discovering that overnight some of your office equipment had been stolen, including a laptop. In this scenario, you had installed anti-theft software on the laptop. Immediately upon realizing the laptop was missing, you initiated the process of tracking. When the thief booted up the laptop and used the Internet, his location was recorded. You were then able to notify the police of the stolen items’ whereabouts. The police were able to go to the location, recover the items, and arrested the suspect.

Anti-theft tracking software does exists, and you can use it to do exactly that.

Each piece of software offers slightly different options; however, they all work in a similar way.

The software is an aftermarket purchase that must be installed. The device is registered with the software firm and you provide them with your contact information. If your device is stolen a report is made (by you), which initiates tracking. When the device is connected to the Internet it sends GPS coordinates and/or an IP address to the software firm. They in turn notify you, and you notify your local law enforcement agency (do not attempt to recover the items on your own; vigilantism can put you in legal trouble of your own). You may also have the option of remotely locking the device so the thief cannot access your information.

Assuming that the thief or someone else gains access to your device, some software offers an option of snapping pictures with the device’s built-in camera. This may capture an image of the person who is attempting to use your device. You should only use this type of software with a full understanding of potential legal ramifications of capturing a person’s image without their knowledge and consent (perhaps a person other than the perpetrator).

A more prudent method is to use software that captures screen shots. If the thief signs into any of their personal accounts, such as Facebook, a screen shot may capture this identifying information and law enforcement can then identify and locate the individual.

In the case above, the owner did not violate any laws. Had she not installed anti-theft tracking software, she certainly would not have found her property so quickly, if she had found it at all. In this case, the thief had little time to access any personal or proprietary information.

Anti-theft tracking software probably sounds like a great investment, doesn’t it?

Before you whip out your credit card, consider what happened next.

In the scenario mentioned above, the police recovered the items and they were taken into evidence. The owner was not allowed to claim the items until the case went to trial and was concluded (in this case, the thief was convicted).

The items were covered by an insurance policy that, in the event of loss, theft, or damage would have replaced them. However, since the police recovered the items the insurance company would not pay the claim. For almost a year, the owner of the laptop and tablet was left in limbo. She did not have access to her property, nor could she replace the items unless she paid out of pocket.

The software did exactly what it was designed to do. The owner located and locked the devices preventing any access to, or theft of, intellectual property. Her actions resulted in the apprehension and conviction of the perpetrator and saved the insurance company several thousand dollars. Yet she did not have access to her property for many, many months. It was a frustrating and disillusioning experience and an example of the saying that, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Different states and municipalities have different policies and procedures for reclaiming stolen property. If you are considering purchasing anti-theft software, consider these policies and speak to your insurance agent about how they would handle a claim of this nature so you can develop a well-rounded strategy to safeguard your physical and intellectual property.


Cristen S. Iris is the founder and CEO of Blue Mantis Press in Boise. She is a publisher and book marketer who applies lessons learned while working in risk management and insurance to everything she does.