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Amazing recovery

Just as a recap... About 3 weeks ago, just after Labor Day, my car was broken into during the night while it was parked at my apartment. The thief unsuccessfully tried to use a screwdriver to open the driver's side door lock (but still managed to permanently damage it beyond use), so he broke the passenger side window, stole the lame after-market stereo, and stole my Garmin GPS, charger, and windshield mount.

Since I don't drive on a daily basis, I didn't notice it until 4 days later--the Police Dept had actually noticed the broken window already and left a note inside my car with a case number. I later learned that a couple of other cars had been broken into and a couple more had been keyed during the same night.

I ended up replacing the window ($150), replacing the door lock ($125), and buying a new Pioneer stereo ($130), and I didn't have comprehensive coverage on my auto insurance. I didn't bother replacing the GPS since my Android G1 phone is minimally functional as a GPS with the recent Google Maps updates.

Since my GPS model was not a common model, I thought I might be able to keep an eye on Craigslist and eBay to find sales of that model in the area. I found one possible match, but I needed to get the serial number to verify and I didn't want to tip him off... I contacted the guy and told him to check if the serial number was part of a recall by visiting a fake Garmin product recall website that I hacked up (it looked just like the real Garmin recall website!). It turned out to be a different serial number and not mine... oh well, good attempt. No other matches turned up.

Then this past Monday, my mother contacts me and says that she received a letter (snailmail!) from someone claiming to have my GPS. It turns out a guy in Arizona had bought my GPS off eBay for $65, advertised as "for parts or repair" because I had installed a 4 digit security code on it. The buyer manually tried nearly 5000 combinations over a period of 3-4 days (it has a 9 second delay between failed attempts) before guessing my security code and unlocking it. The closest address to him in my Favorites was an entry labeled "Parents", which had been entered when I visited them last year on my roadtrip.

The seller of my GPS on eBay turns out to be a car alarm/stereo company with a physical store located in North Houston, and all of their recent items appear to be easily stolen goods (iPods, GPSes, stereos, radar detectors). I've kept the Police Department updated, but I'm still waiting for a case specialist to call me back and investigate that seller.

In any case, I got my GPS back yesterday afternoon, but it is missing the carrying case and the windshield mount. I also have 10 sheets of handwritten paper with all of the attempted combinations on it! (He did not entirely go in sequence.)

I'm going to have to send this guy an interesting thank-you gift in return, any ideas? :) (The seller has already refunded his purchase price.)
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Send him a programmable robotic arm that can punch buttons on a GPS! :)

Pretty cool that he contacted you and mailed it to you.

You could send him something Austin/Texas-related as a thank you. Not sure what, though. Some locally made chips and salsa and/or microbrewery beer? :)


Chantal wondered whether your car stereo would be at the North Houston store as well.

Re: Stereo?

Possibly. I looked through their eBay auctions but didn't seem to find any models by the same manufacturer (JVC), though I might be able to physically go to their retail location and search in person.

It wasn't a very good stereo though, so I'm not particularly interested in recovering it. I also don't have the serial number for that stereo, so I couldn't confidently prove to the police that it was mine if I found a possible match.

October 2010

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