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TRAVEL GEAR: Get your stolen camera back

IBIT being photographed

All images by Greg Gross and property of I’m Black and I Travel unless otherwise identified. All rights reserved.

A new service takes advantage of digital photo technology and social media to give you a chance to retrieve a camera that’s been ripped off.

Whether you’re a professional photographer shooting travel assignments around the world or an amateur taking snaps on his first big international trip, few experiences leave a more sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach than to have your precious camera stolen.

There’s little that can soothe that feeling of a journey sabotaged by thieves, but now — thanks to the Web — there may actually be a way to track stolen your stolen gear and get it back.

It’s called CameraTrace and it just went “live” this week. Here’s how it works:

You send them the serial number of each camera or camera body you own. You also send them $10 per camera/camera body, one time, for life.

That’s it. The rest is digital genius and social media magic.

If anyone posts a pic anywhere online using your stolen gear, CameraTrace will detect and send you an immediate email notice.

Maybe it wasn’t stolen; maybe you lost it and someone else found it. The service includes a sticker to put on your camera telling the finder how to return it to you.

The key to all this is something to which the average one of us gives not a single thought when we’re taking pictures, something most of us probably have never even heard of, but is a part of every shot we take.

Exchangeable Image File Format. EXIF for short. It’s the means by which your camera saves your pics on that data card. EXIF saves every bit of technical data about the image — the date and time it was shot, th exposure settings, whether you used a flash, the make and model of the camera.

And most important in the context of this discussion, the serial number of that camera.

It’s all there. And wherever that image is uploaded onto the Web, a viewer can find it if they know where and how to look.

CameraTrace also knows where and how to find it. And when an image from registered camera that’s been reported lost or stolen turns up on the Web, CameraTrace will know where it was posted, when it was posted — and quite possibly by whom.

There’s no absolute guarantee that this will work. CameraTrace is hardly foolproof. In fact, it’s easily defeated by the tech-savvy thief. But for now, there aren’t that many of those.

And $10 in return for a fighting chance to get your stolen gear back is better — and potentially a lot cheaper — than having no chance at all.

Within 30 minutes of this post being published, I got this message on the IBIT Facebook page:

“I just found a camera and ipod at Ohara Airport. I tracked the owner down through his facebook page on the ipod.. He is a very happy young man right now!”

I’ll bet he is. Don’t you just LOVE technology?

TRAVEL GEAR: Back that thing up!

thought on “TRAVEL GEAR: Get your stolen camera back”

  1. Wow! Thank you sooo much for this article. I have been researching cameras to take with me on my travels and unfortunately, the cameras I want the most (SLR), are touted as those who might draw negative attention to me ,ie expensive camera=I have money. (sorry for that run on sentence). Instead of being fearful, I am going to implement the suggestion in this article about using the tracking system. Thanks so much!!!

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