Reporting David Goldstein
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Have you ever had a computer or phone get stolen and you want nothing more than to track down who took it? We did just that with the help of tracking software.
“It was an iPhone 4S. Brand new, $250 phone, $50 case,” said David Dyer, who had left his iPhone in the back of a taxi.
Less than five minutes later he said he called the cab company, but they said it was gone.
“I think the guy, as soon as he let me out, sees my phone in the backseat and just takes it and pockets it,” Dyer said.
It’s not just taxis — the LAPD reports that cellphone thefts have increased 32 percent in some areas and that thefts of laptops and tablet computers are also on the rise.
Dyer said that he tried to call his phone, but it was already turned off leaving no way to track it down.
“I think it’s long gone. There’s nothing I can do,” Dyer said.
While he never got his phone back, we wanted to see if there was a way to track down stolen cellphones or computers, so we purchased some tablet computers and installed security software.
“How it works is all these smart devices have the ability to track themselves,” said Con Mallon with Symantec.
He said that with anti-theft software, we should not only be able to find it, but also turn on the camera to see who is using it.
So we went to LAX where hundreds of cabs pick up passengers every day. With a hidden camera, our undercover producers hailed a taxi.
When we got out we purposely left the computer in the back seat. Then we called the cab company minutes later to see if we would get it back.
The first three were returned by the drivers after we called.
The fourth cab was one from United Independent Taxi. When we got out we left the computer visible on the backseat; then called their dispatcher.
“I just took one of your cabs from LAX to my hotel here in El Segundo and I can’t seem to find my tablet,” our undercover producer said.
They said they would get a message to the driver.
“If he finds the tablet in the back seat, you’ll give him my number to call me back is that right” our producer confirmed?
Later that day they called back and left this message on our voicemail — “The driver did call back and no tablet was found, OK? Thank you.”
So we turned on the anti-theft software, which works when the computer connects to Wi-Fi.
The next day it traced the tablet to a location in North Hollywood.
We clicked on the sneak peak function, using the camera to take pictures. We captured pictures of what appeared to be a young girl using the computer and then what looked to be a teenage boy.
When we went to the address on the map, we found the same taxi we took at LAX parked a few doors away.
With a hidden camera we watched as the same driver, who picked us up at LAX, came out to his cab along with the same girl and boy that we saw in the pictures.
The software led us right to them.
Later I showed him a similar computer.
“Did you find this in the back of your cab,” I asked?
“No,” he replied.
“You never found one of these,” I pressed?
“No,” he said.
Then I showed him the pictures.
“That’s your child isn’t it,” I asked?
“Yeah,” he said.
“We had a tracking device in the tablet. It came from your house. Your child was on it
Maybe,” I questioned?
He claimed he never found it and said his son may have found it in the cab.
“Every day when I come in, my son cleans my car. I don’t know. They found it, something inside the car, I don’t know,” he said.
He went inside his house and less than two minutes later was able to find our computer, which he claimed he knew nothing about.
“My wife telling me that my son tell her that when they washing the car they found it somewhere in here,” the driver said.
“They found it back there? How did it end up back there? It was on the seat,” I asked?
“I don’t know,” he said.
But we ended up getting our tablet back.
“This alone makes me feel like justice is served,” Dyer said.
Something he could not do, but we did with the help of modern technology tracking it to inside the cab driver’s house.