How Can You Tell If A Laptop Is Stolen? Expert Guide

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Many stolen laptops wind up being sold to unsuspecting consumers, so be sure to check if the secondhand laptop you plan on purchasing is authentic. According to the company, among the stolen gadgets Prey helps recover, a fifth was located after being sold online. Here, I’m going to discuss How Can You Tell If A Laptop Is Stolen?

How Can You Tell If A Laptop Is Stolen?

To find out if the laptop has been reported stolen, use the serial number to search internet theft registries or your neighborhood police. Demand to take the computer for a test drive.

Tell If A Laptop Is Stolen

Search for C. P. I. C. if you’re in the country and live in Canada. Once you open it up on your browser, scroll down the choices and select “check property by serial number,” put in the serial number, and then scroll down and verify the user terms box, then mark the begin search box.

All stolen vehicles, bicycles, stereos, and other valuables are searched for at this location. If it shows “no information,” check back this coming Wednesday, as that site is updated every Tuesday night.

If “call your local police” appears in the results of your search, then you must do so. You might be able to tell if you’re buying a genuine laptop by questioning the seller about both the laptop’s documentation and physically inspecting it.


A receipt from the original transaction should be provided to you as proof of purchase by the buyer. According to Prey, there is no way to prove ownership of a laptop if the receipt is stolen. For your safety, make sure to request a receipt. The seller’s details should be included on this receipt. Many reputable merchants would gladly provide you with a receipt upon request.

Look For Any Signs Of Damage

Ensure that the laptop has not been damaged in any way that would suggest it has been forced out of an anti-theft device. A lock slot, which resembles a little rounded rectangle and is about the same size as a connection port, can be found on some computers. This port will be damaged if the anti-theft cable is removed without a key.

Passwords And Data

Ask the seller if he can turn on the laptop for you. You should verify that the seller knows the laptop’s password if it asks for one when logging in. Thieves will not. Make sure to check the document, photo, and video folders even if you don’t have a password.

When it comes time to sell a computer, most vendors will wipe the hard drive clean of any personally identifiable information (PII). Don’t be scared to poke around in the data if there is some leftover. You should be wary of a sale if the seller has a strange story or doesn’t appear in any photos.

Branding And Serial Numbers

Serial numbers on laptops should be legible and free of tampering. Requesting the seller’s serial number before purchase is another option for determining whether the serial number has been reported stolen. Identify the laptop’s original owner by looking for traces of branding, such as company logos in the wallpapers or screensavers or etchings, or stickers on the laptop’s cover.

Signs You’re Purchasing Stolen Laptops

Too Low Price

There is a considerable probability that a low-priced internet listing for the latest iPhone, coveted laptop, or powerful tablet is a hoax. Before purchasing any new or used technology, you should always conduct some research to see what the going rate is.

A big red flag is listing the paired device at a significantly lower price. Another red flag is listing many items at the same low price, which is a sure sign that the items have been stolen.

The Listing Lacks Specifics

Another sign that a device has been stolen, according to Scambusters, is a listing with no specifics. Ask for further information if the listing “doesn’t include any details, just a straight declaration of what it is.”

Please find out how long it’s been held by the seller and why they’ve decided to put the item up for sale. You should be able to get a sense of the device’s history from a legitimate seller. Turn around and walk the other way if something sounds strange.

The Seller Claims The Item

A vendor who claims an item has been found on eBay, Craigslist, or elsewhere is probably not one you want to deal with. According to Scambusters, “finders are not keepers without first reporting the item to the police.” Don’t be fooled by an excellent offer on a “found” device.

Your Prospective Laptop Has A “Bad ESN”

A “poor ESN” listing will most likely pop up when you’re looking for a new smartphone on eBay. This indicates that you may want to explore elsewhere for your next job. ESN is the electronic serial number, and a faulty ESN makes it impossible for a carrier to activate a device.

Owners who transfer carriers and don’t pay their termination fees or get behind on their payments can have a poor ESN. Buying a phone intended for one carrier and then using it on another is a risky endeavour that requires careful consideration. Make sure you know what you’re looking for (which, in most cases, will not be a terrible ESN).

Feedback Is Negative 

Take a look at the seller’s past feedback before making a purchase decision on an eBay listing. In the absence of any favorable feedback, it’s a huge red flag, and Scambusters also points out that feedback for transactions involving extremely low-priced goods is likewise a red flag. Before selling more expensive products, crooks use this inexpensive product feedback to develop their credibility record.

The Seller Requests An Untraceable Payment

When it comes to how you pay for your purchase, everyone has their preferences. However, if a seller insists that you pay via wire transfer or cashier’s check rather than credit card or PayPal, you should be wary.

It is more likely that a genuine vendor selling unnecessary equipment will be flexible about the payment method, whereas someone trying to dodge discovery by the site’s consumer rights team or even by police authorities will be keener on a specific means of untraceable payment.

It’s a good idea to inform the authorities if you purchase a device to realize later that it was stolen. When the police ask you to hand over a stolen gadget, you should do it willingly. It still belongs to the person from whose it was taken. Once you’ve exhausted all other options, you can try to get your money back by contacting the seller or your credit card issuer.

What If I Bought A Stolen Laptop?

If your laptop is stolen, you should first call the police. Make sure they are aware of it and can begin looking for it. Call up your financial institutions. Let your banks and credit card companies know if you have automated your account information on any websites.

Can Stores Track Stolen Laptops?

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be accomplished to find a brand-new, unopened laptop. There might have been a slim chance if you had registered the computer. There would have been more hope if you had installed a tracking app or device (like Lo-Jack GPS location).


While concluding How Can You Tell If A Laptop Is Stolen? I want to kindly Check to see if the previous owner’s files are still present if you’re talking about a used laptop. Check with the nearby police station to see if they have any records on missing computers if you think these files aren’t yours. If you purchased a new laptop from a reliable retailer, you don’t need to worry.

Frequently Asked Questions

If a laptop is stolen, how do you know?

To find out if your laptop has been stolen, use the serial number to check with internet theft databases or with your local police. Request a trial run of the laptop, or give it a spin. Install an Internet connection on it.

Is a laptop’s serial number used to trace it?

Serial numbers by themselves are insufficient for locating a stolen laptop. If you elect to use tracking software, this data may be combined with others to locate the device.

Is it possible to follow a laptop that has been reset to its factory settings?

It doesn’t reflect if the laptop was factory reset if you enabled the Computrace function in the BIOS. When the computer is next connected to the internet, it will send a “ping home” signal. It’s impossible to trace a laptop once it has been factory reset if you haven’t done this.

Is it possible to ban stolen laptops?

Unfortunately, preventing access to the laptop isn’t an option. The password for your mobile internet service should be changed or canceled. It’s also time to change passwords for any accounts that the theft of your laptop may have compromised

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