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My computer's serial number was reported stolen. Will I face legal repercussions?

I bought a Toshiba notebook at an electronics market two years ago. Recently I found its serial number had been reported stolen on a different make of computer. Have you ever heard of this type of scam before, and if I report it to the authorities, what's the likelihood that I or my organization will face legal repercussions?

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This is the first I've heard about this kind of scam. The major question consider is whether the computer bought was "hot" or a stolen item in the first place. I'm not sure how to prove that the first transaction was legitimate.

The reality is, whether a customer will face legal repercussions has everything to do with the legitimacy of the initial transaction, and nothing to do with the serial number showing up as stolen. As long as the customer -- in this case, you or your organization -- has documentation that the machine was legally purchased, then the criminal liability would fall on the seller. In that case, there's no question the authorities would want to hear from you as soon as possible. But if the transaction is not legitimate, then obviously you have a slew of other problems to consider.

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This was first published in April 2008

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