I recently read a very interesting story about how a laptop thief operated and how he got caught, thanks to a tracking device in the computer. Here's a brief snippet that might give you some pointers on how to watch out for intruders:
Choose targets with care. He went to neighborhoods, cities or states where he was not recognized. He sought large corporate offices to blend in with their large staffs and to find lots of laptops. When possible, he scheduled multiple burglaries for a single building that housing more than one company.
Know the victims. He observed his targets in advance and paid attention to how employees dressed, whether they needed magnetic passes to enter and move about the building, and what time most of them left for the day.
Time the arrival. He entered a business on the heels of an employee who could hold open a security door. He often arrived at about 4 p.m., a busy time of day that let him blend with the staff and exploit a time period when receptionists and assistants left for the day, but beefed-up nighttime security measures had not kicked in. He acted like he belonged.
Make the move. When the office emptied, he went looking for laptops room by room. He kept an eye out for magnetic access cards, too. He had an alibi in case he was confronted. When done, he put the laptops in his shoulder bags - he would carry one into the building with a second bag inside it - and go.
Move the product. He drove or mailed laptops back to his temporary home. He prepared them for sale by erasing the prior owner's data and installing or updating critical software.
You can read "Here's how a slick laptop thief was foiled" over at St. Petersburg Times.
Incidentally, I've been watching certain types of laptop auctions at eBay lately and let me tell you, there are some really suspicious trends going on that can be discerned by looking at eBay user account names, the auction history of those accounts, and the bidding trends of the items that were up for sale. For example, how many people would buy and then sell two almost new Ferrari laptops? Why do that?
Here's a tip: When buying a laptop on eBay ask for the serial number and/or service ID number for warranty support even if the unit is out of warranty. If someone refuses to give you that info take a close look at the details I pointed out in the previous paragraph, and watch the person's future behavior on eBay.