"It ended up in the hands of someone who wasn't even the person who stole it," Fran Harrington explains, while describing how he found his stolen laptop thanks to some tracking software. "It was bought by a family living in the projects … for their son to take to college."
"That's when I decided to help them out," the 28-year-old graphics designer says.
About a month ago, Harrington's laptop was stolen from his home. As this wasn't the first time the Boston resident lost a computer in a theft, he was prepared: He had Prey, a Webservice which allows users to remotely track and monitor their devices, installed on the laptop.
In theory, the software should send Harrington detailed reports about his laptop's whereabouts as soon as it connected to the Internet. Unfortunately for Harrington though, there was seemingly no activity for a prolonged time. He needed a computer for his work, so he purchased a replacement.
But then a month later, he began receiving reports generated by Prey. He had his missing computer's exact location and photos of the individual using it (thanks to the device's built-in camera). He contacted local authorities and they recovered the device.
One of the officers involved in the investigation filled Harrington in on the basic details. The laptop was discovered with a family who'd paid $900 for it. These folks were unaware that the device was stolen and they'd bought it for a young man to use in college.
Harrington felt that he needed to help this family. He started a fundraiser on funding site Indiegogo with a goal of gathering $900, the amount the family had spent on his laptop. "I'm not a privileged dude. I know that the money they spent on my computer was money they were investing in an education," he wrote. "All I want is to give them a computer back worth the money they paid for mine. It just seems like something I would want people to do if I was ever in a simliar situation."
Within three days, the goal was met and exceeded.
There is one problem with Harrington's plan though: He hasn't been in contact with the family for which the money is intended. "I sent them a couple of emails with the email addresses that I got from the software," he tells NBCNews.com, "but I haven't heard back."
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