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IT Associate Recovers Stolen iPad With Help of MBTA Transit Police

Posted by Michael Lupacchino on Mon, Jan 12, 2015

It was a normal morning for Michael McGowan. An IT tech at NSK Inc, McGowan had just sat down at his desk when he received a phone call from one of his clients. The client was calling to report that his iPad® had been stolen. While waiting for the Red Line of the MBTA, he was typing an e-mail on his iPad. In the middle of composing the e-mail, someone grabbed the iPad right out of his hands and took off.

McGowan immediately opened a web browser and logged onto the MobileMeSM website to search for the stolen iPad. Although MobileMe is a subscription based service that lets Mac users sync their accounts across multiple devices; all new iPads, iPhones, and iPod touch’s have a “Find My Device” feature that is available for free. When a user first gets their device, they can log onto Mobile Me using their Apple ID (which most people have to access iTunes®) and set it up so that if their device goes missing, they can track it.


McGowan, having set up the iPad, knew that by logging into MobileMe he could lock it, track it via GPS, and even wipe the data remotely if the device was lost or stolen. While logging in to the Mobile Me account, McGowan called the MBTA Transit Police to report the theft.

After getting transferred to dispatch, the authorities asked McGowan for the MEID number of the device. The MEID (Mobile Equipment Identifier) is sort of like a serial number for electronic devices. With most mobile devices, the number is usually located either behind the battery of the device, or on the back panel. However, due to the iPad’s seamless design, you have to turn on the device and check the configuration settings to retrieve the number.

Because McGowan had locked the device, there was no way for the police to access the MEID number. Instead, he mentioned to the police that he had GPS tracking enabled on the device and that the iPad was somewhere near the Park Street stop and Downtown Crossing. McGowan rationalized that the thief was most likely going to try to sell the iPad at an electronics exchange store in the area. The police then sent a couple of officers to the scene.

While on the MobileMe site, a user can send a message to the device or have it make sounds to signify its location. Once the officers were in the area, McGowan enabled the iPad’s location alert. The alarm wasn’t loud enough to draw the attention of the officers, but it did make the perpetrator pull the device out of his backpack, which the officers then witnessed and swiftly moved in to retrieve the device.

To prove that the iPad was in fact the stolen property of his client, McGowan sent a message to the device that said “This iPad is stolen property.” The officers felt this was sufficient enough evidence and they made sure to get the iPad safely back to its owner.

The best part of this story is that IT Associate Michael McGowan was able to locate, track, and recover the stolen iPad without ever leaving his desk.

Tags: Mobile Device Management, Disaster Recovery, Managed Services

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