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Can my stolen Smart TV be tracked down through the Internet?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / January 23, 2015 8:46 AM PST

Can my stolen Smart TV be tracked down through the Internet?

Hello, I have a question! Two months ago, my Samsung Smart TV was stolen from me and I still had my Netflix account app on my TV when I was robbed. So all you have to do is touch the Netflix button to open Netflix and it is still under my name on the device.

Just today, I checked our "recently watched" activity when we logged into our Netflix account on our computer. We found a program in our history that we did not watch. It made my stomach turn -- someone was using our account without our permission AND realizing someone was using our account on our stolen TV.

We called and left voicemails with our detective, who said he could not help us in the past because we did not remember our serial number for our TV! All we have is our receipt and the fact that our Netflix account is still on our Smart TV that was stolen.

We called Netflix, and they were able to tell us that our account was accessed from a Samsung 7000 series smart TV, which is the TV that was stolen from us!

Does anyone know if Netflix or the police should be able to trace where the TV is? Shouldn't they be able to find out the name and address of the person from their Internet connection and the fact that they accessed our Netflix account on the TV? Has anyone experienced this?

-- Submitted by Gray R.
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Home audio & video forum: Can my stolen Smart TV be tracked
by PRPluta / January 23, 2015 9:33 AM PST

Just log onto the Netflix site, then Your Account and change password....will stop thieves use of your Netflix account.

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Bad Idea
by ESUNintel / January 23, 2015 9:50 AM PST

A Netflix account isn't what I would consider personal info, so it's ok to stay logged in for a bit.

I would keep it logged in until the detective gets a warrant for Netflix to release the IP address, or at least tries too. ...the more they use the service right now, the better.

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Not sensative info?
by troylawson / January 30, 2015 11:12 AM PST
In reply to: Bad Idea

You said, not sensitive info, but it's financial nonetheless. What's more sensitive than that? You don't realize it but if the thief gives the account number for the Netflix account, they then have access to the account the Netflix account was created with. A hacker would have a field day! Gray you should consider changing the password before you get locked out of the account. You should really consider closing the account and creating a new Netflix account. For anyone-if it's a smart tv, does it have a GPS chip or capability?
Troy Lawson

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which detective? which warrant? which jurisdiction?
by disturbed_by_xp / January 30, 2015 9:22 PM PST
In reply to: Bad Idea

Will this be the victim's jurisdiction; where the smart TV was lifted?

Or will it be the jurisdiction of the smart TV's new IP address?

Your local police (who are the law enforcement people with direct jurisdiction) will have absolutely no interest in the theft.

Try going to the county/town/city/village police with jurisdiction over the smart TV's new IP: even if you get an audience, it will only result in a long form-filling exercise for you - and absolutely no results.

As Hemingway said: Never mistake motion for action.

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Are You Joking?
by bigbear639 / February 1, 2015 12:40 AM PST
In reply to: Bad Idea

The Detectives are not interested in pursuing the theft of one Smart TV unless they happen to catch the thief carrying it down the street. Netflix is not going to give the IP address to anyone including the Police without a search warrant. The DA is not going to ask for one for a single item. Every one of my TV's from 9" up as well as most Desktops and Notebooks have Kensington Locks. USE THEM. If you don't want the key type lock, get the combination type. Keep the combo's in a safe place or encode them as part of a phone number, put the numbers in reverse order. Trying to disconnect that lock will take time and the thief will go elsewhere. Nationwide and I am sure other Insurance companies cover the theft under your Home Owners or Rental Coverage. They will replace it with a brand new model, not by deducting any portion by saying that it depreciated as soon as it left the dealer.

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mine was stolen as well.
by frogg5197 / July 2, 2017 1:29 PM PDT
In reply to: Are You Joking?

I live in chesterfield va and I can tell you that there are only a few ways the police. Will help

1. If you make over 100 grand or they donate to fire or police dept.

2. I was robbed when I was in physical rehab. 625.00 check and tv was stolen.and a playstation3 and a laptop. They tried to arrest me....

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in all fairness
by renegade600 / July 2, 2017 2:09 PM PDT

most police departments do not have the resources to track down ip addresses then getting personal info of the subscriber. It is not cheap and could take years. remember what happened in arkansas when the authorities was wanting the amazon echo logs to help get a murderer. it was a major hassle for them. It would have went to the courts if the owner did not finally give consent for amazon to release them.

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Missed the point altogether
by critesl / January 25, 2015 11:52 PM PST

He wants his TELEVISION LOCATED. Currently his only connection to its possible whereabouts is the active Netflix account with the existing password.

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duh duh duh
by disturbed_by_xp / January 30, 2015 9:14 PM PST

Why does PRPluta put unnecessary wear-and-tear on his keyboard with such an unhelpful response.

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Re: Stolen Smart TV
by Franciscus100 / January 23, 2015 9:42 AM PST

If you registered your purchase with Samsung, they should be able to tell you the serial. You can also ask Samsung for help. I think they can tell the ser # through its online connection. Perhaps the retailer you purchased the TV from has a record of the serial number as well.

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Stole TV serial number
by 1sharpeye / January 30, 2015 10:16 AM PST
In reply to: Re: Stolen Smart TV

If you bought your TV from a reliable dealer you will find the serial number on the invoice or go back and get the original invoice from the dealer and the serial number. Just a lesson to write down all the serial numbers of everything you purchase.

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shutting the barn door . . .
by disturbed_by_xp / January 30, 2015 9:33 PM PST
In reply to: Re: Stolen Smart TV

There is probative advice to be offered here: but not the above.

Retailers and manufacturers resist supplying any data on your lost property as they get sucked into law suits for false prosecutions.

Too often its either an ex-wife/husband or ex-girl/boy friend situation and not a "real theft" [sic].

I saw this recently when REI absolutely refused to decipher the serial mark scribble on a San Diego REI bicycle invoice for a high-end REI bicycle that was stolen in New York State.

Even though REI had the serial number (it was a REI store-brand mark) and even though I supplied REI with a copy of the Police Report and the wanted-poster photo for the thief: REI not only refused to help but they were insulting and accusatory.

Remember this my son (and daughter): when somebody steals your Samsung TV . . . Samsung then gets to sell you a new one.

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Yes - in theory
by ESUNintel / January 23, 2015 9:45 AM PST

Netflix should have the IP address; however, they probably won't release it without a proper warrant. Not having the serial number might be the challenge though - did you register it with Samsung? If so, they may be able to provide it or you may find it on your online account. As far as I know, stores track serial numbers on electronics - have you spoken to the retailer? ...the Netfix access might be enough to prove it's your TV, especially because it's the same model; however, if the detective isn't so nice he/she may claim someone just hacked into your account on the same TV.

Best of luck and I hope you have a tech savvy detective!! ...if you could help lockup a criminal or two it would be awesome!!

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by ESUNintel / January 23, 2015 9:53 AM PST
In reply to: Yes - in theory

I meant to say "on the same TV model" ...meaning another 7000 series.

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Not their priority
by woodface7 / January 23, 2015 9:46 AM PST

Netflix aren't losing anything, so they could care less.

If they (or any of the content-megacorps) suspected you were finding a way to pirate / stream for free, they would not just hunt down the ip location. There would be a SWAT team breaking down your doors before you could say 'Jack Bauer's jockstrap'.

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They would HAVE to care.
by ClivenL / January 30, 2015 10:46 AM PST
In reply to: Not their priority

If NetFlix was requested *by the authorities* to locate the TV, they would. Failing to do so could be construed as obstruction of justice, blocking an investigation, what have you. They would bend over immediately once a badge was flashed. They would also be cementing the appreciation of a valid customer. Add to this, that they WOULD be losing a customer once the actual acct user shut it dn if they did not track the unit, AND the owner no doubt would refuse to pay for svcs rendered by Netflix to the fraudulent acct users (who have the TV) . .

All a matter of getting the cops in on it. If the TV is over $1,000, I believe they would jump on it.

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by disturbed_by_xp / January 30, 2015 9:36 PM PST
In reply to: Not their priority

Thank you woodface7. The priorities of Post 911 US Police Forces are to harass the citizenry and impose jail for victim-less crimes and not to deter true crime with palpable victims.

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by numbrman / January 23, 2015 10:33 AM PST

It may be possible for the police to locate the where the TV is located based on the IP address used to download the programs through Netflix.

First, you will have to contact Netflix and ask them to provide you with the IP address used for the programs that the thief has downloaded. You will also need the date and time that the downloads were made. I recommend that you get this information for as many downloads that the thief has made through Netflix as possible. Hopefully, the thief will have a fixed IP address. This will make it much easier for the police to determine who the account belongs to. If Netflix isn't willing to provide the IP address used for the download, then your only hope is to convince the police to get that information from Netflix.

Once you have the IP address and date and time of the downloads, you can take this information to the police. Only the police have the authority to find out who that IP address belongs to. If the police are willing to find out who the IP address belongs to, they can go and recover the TV from the thief.

Here is a link to an article of a situation where a thief was tracked down based on their usage of Netflix:

Give the police officer a copy of that article. It will be tough for him to say they can't the thief down based on the usage of the Netflix account. It obviously is possible. They just have to do a little bit of work to find out who the IP address belongs to.

Now if the thief is using a proxy server to hide their IP address, then you probably won't have any luck tracking the thief down. I would check the IP address on an IP address whois and see if the IP address is from a known proxy server. If it is, then I wouldn't bother with going to the police, as it is very difficult to track from the proxy server to the actual IP address of the thief. The police probably wouldn't spend the time and resources that it would require to get your TV back. You can check who the internet service provider that the IP address is registered with by going to or similar website.

You mentioned that the police officer asked for the serial number of theTV. One thing that the police officer needs to be able to establish is that this TV is in fact yours. A receipt for the TV purchase would go part of the way towards that.

Samsung may be able to provide you with the serial number for the TV. The TV may have connected to Samsungs servers through the internet at some point. If the TV did connect to Samsung's servers, they should be able to tell you the serial number for the TV based on your IP address. Each TV likely has it's own unique "fingerprint" that would have been transmitted to Samnsung when connected to them through the internet. They can determine the serial number from this finger print. They can determine which TV is your by linking the TV to your IP address. Once your particular TV is identified by Samsung, they may even be able to determine the IP address for the internet connection that the TV is currently connected to.

Hope this helps you out.

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It's possible
by MightyDrakeC / January 23, 2015 2:26 PM PST
In reply to: Maybe...

As this article shows, it can be done. The main issue is, lacking the serial number, can the police "close the loop" on the chain of custody. I don't know the law well enough to know if they can. The Netflix account should get you most of the way there. I don't know if it gets you all of the way there.

Alternatively, if you can describe any unique identifying marks, like scratches on the back or the base or something like that, then that would prove that the TV is yours. Any incidental pictures of those marks would be very useful.

Even if that doesn't close the loop, if the Netflix activity leads to a very similar situation as that described in the article, where the thief has a home full of stolen goods, then the police might be able to prosecute the thief on all of the robberies where they do have serial numbers. In cases like yours, where they don't have serial numbers, they might not be able to prosecute, but I think they should still be able to return your property.

Drake Christensen

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Stolen Ipod Classic
by mariofl / February 3, 2015 7:58 PM PST
In reply to: Maybe...

Hi... I have a similar problem... My Ipod Classic was stolen and I do have the serial number... I called Apple in order that they give me the last IP addrress associated the serial number but they told that they don't have that information... I felt disappointed... I miss my Ipod because it was very useful and a good one... It was purchased in 2007 and it was stolen in June 2014.

Is there something I can do?
Thank you...

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I Assume You Reported This to The Police
by Hforman / January 23, 2015 12:02 PM PST

While the Apple iPhone has "Find My iPhone" so you yourself can locate your device, I don't know of any TV sets or other appliances that have a similar locator function.

I would make absolutely sure that you work(ed) with the police on this and make sure you have a copy of the police report. Make sure the detective on your case knows about the Netflix issue. Check all of your documentation from whan you bought your TV and see if you can find something called a "MAC Address". This is usually more important than an IP address because, in most cases, the IP address is dynamic. That is. it changes. To use the IP address, you would need to know exactly what date and time that IP address was used. Most ISP (Internet Providers) give you a dynamic address on the WAN side but MAC addresses remain the same. So having both would be a great help.

I would ask the police if it is OK to change your password on your Netflix account. If they say it is OK, I would contact Netflix first and tell then what happened. (At the least, you can tell them that the last movie/show that is on the service was not yours). If you "contest" the last entry, I don't know if you get individually charged for that or if it is included in the premium, you can ask about what the IP address was.

Those of you with a computer at home that don't think you need any kind of security or encryption of data, please remember that these things happen and it could have just as easily have been a laptop or desktop computer that was stolen.

I hope for the best for you and hope you have renters or home insurance to cover this.

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by schveiguy / January 23, 2015 2:35 PM PST

2 things:

1. They can track the location via the IP address. Most likely this is a home network. This means it's connected via an ISP. With an IP address they can look up which ISP it is, and get the correct information/address from there. The police definitely have the tools to find them.

2. If you get the IP from Netflix, you may be able to get the serial from Samsung. Theoretically, the TV should call home to see if there are updates, etc. Samsung may be able to identify via the IP that this device is connecting, and query its serial.

Good Luck!

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by Rick75230 / January 30, 2015 11:34 AM PST
In reply to: Maybe

C'mon, folks, you're just not being realistic!

(1) Realistically, how many home users have a fixed IP address?

(2) No, Netflix is not going to "jump on it" just because someone "flashes a badge".

Netflix has millions of customers.
Netflix probably doesn't even have a physical presence in the state. If not, the police would need a search warrant from a court in the state where Netflix does. For instance, a New York cop can't just get a New York search warrant and send it to a New Jersey company and the company has to respond.
IP addresses change constantly.
If they provided information every time "someone flashes a badge", there would be thousands of valid complaints that they were giving out private information in violation of the "no unreasonable search and seizure" protections of the Fourth Amendment.

(3) Regarding "If it's over $1,000 ..." Do you know how many serious crimes they have to handle on a daily basis ??? Rapes, armed robberies, assaults with deadly weapon, murders, kidnapping, drug dealers, etc? Since the 2008 crash, most police departments are really hurting. Property values declined sharply, as well as incomes, so tax revenues are substantially lower, meaning budgets have been severely cut. And they're going to give high priority to a $1k TV?

(4) Yes, technically the detective is correct that without a serial number it would be almost impossible for them to prove it's the same TV. But the real main reason he's saying that is to get the crime victim to just give up and move on -- so the detective can work on new crimes that won't require substantial "detective work".

(5) Even if they do find the TV and even if you did have the serial number -- what do they do when the guy says, "I bought the TV from some guy I met in a bar (at a party, or wherever). I paid cash. I don't know his name. I didn't know it was stolen!"

(6) How do you know that isn't what actually happened? How do you know the guy who's using it now didn't buy it from either the thief or a fence? (Although the buyer probably would realize it might be stolen because the Netflix is still active.)

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Who cares
by What!now! / January 30, 2015 11:37 PM PST
In reply to: NOT REALISTIC !!!

In regards to #5 and #6 unless the Gary was the person that sold him the TV it the person in possession of the tv loss. If Gary gets his TV back that is all that matters. If the guy that took the TV is the same as the person using it then it may stop other robberies.

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Yes, it is.
by ClivenL / January 8, 2016 11:10 PM PST
In reply to: NOT REALISTIC !!!

1) None. But you can backtrace through ISPs. IT forensics is a very printy trail that can be followed. YOU might not know your IP, but your ISP should have it on record for a time.

2) Get real. When an *authorized law enforcement agent* tells a company to co-operate, they do. Period. Ever told a cop "no" on something? It does not go well. If they walk in the door w/a warrant for the data, it is happening.

It is also just a matter of Netflix pulling records from a DB. Might be archived, but probably still not that big a deal. Even w/a disorganized network not built for data mining or tracking, my boss and I were able to pinpoint a specific laptop location at a specific time on a specific day in our network, and prove who stole it via the IP records. Cops were called. Issue resolved. We DID have a harder time pinning dn one we saw sign on OUT of district, but only because it involved going into records for a private residence out of our site. We still could have applied to the ISP (our director may have, tho some fear of being accused of racial profiling, as it was a poor neighborhood, was being discussed by mgmt, IIRC).

3) And robbery is still a big deal. At least, if the lawful owners fit a certain demographic that the local enforcement is not biased against. It goes on a pile, but it gets looked at. GTA would get more an immediate response, but it still gets done. Rape reports, btw, still get sidelined a disgustingly large amt of the time. A lot of victim-blaming still goes on.

4) Yes, I agree here, tho one can still push the issue. Not having the serial IS a problem.

5 and 6) Stolen property goes back too the lawful owner in every state, period, w/actual honest buyers losing out on the $ they paid. More, thieves tend to have records, and a known thief w/hot goods is charged, immediate proof or no, in many cases.

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Police may not act
by Fejjarific / January 23, 2015 3:25 PM PST

My buddy had his laptop stolen and he activated a program that emailed him a list of all nearby wireless networks and their strengths, a picture, and a general location upon being turned on. He took this info to the Denver police and they would not use it. They said it was in a bad part of town and it could be one of too many apertments...

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Reporting to the Police
by Hforman / January 24, 2015 12:31 AM PST
In reply to: Police may not act

It isn't so much as to whether the police will do anything or not, but the OP needs to at least get a copy of the police report. The report is needed to make an insurance claim or take the loss off their taxes.

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Startup wifi scan pic and email
by / January 30, 2015 11:03 AM PST
In reply to: Police may not act

Where can I get a program that on boot will tell me ISP and/or wifi neighborhood and a pic with the camera and e mail it to me. And a periodic screen capture of mr deactivated with a secret key? Jim (Windoze laptop)

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Theft recovery
by Fejjarific / February 2, 2015 11:42 AM PST
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If you can't get your serial from the dealer, you might find
by Turbo2Pete / January 26, 2015 2:04 AM PST

You might be able to get the MAC address of the TV from your home router - the MAC address is basically an electronic serial number that computers use to identify each other... Go into your router logs and you should be able to figure out which device was the TV and note the MAC address.

It is a unique number, just like a serial number... that should satisfy the police or court as proof.

When you get your TV back, or a replacement - MARK IT - the Police like the last 4 of your social - or your name engraved on things.

Good luck.

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