By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. My high-end digital camera was recently stolen, and although the loss is covered by insurance, I am out the $1,000 deductible. Are there any cost-effective GPS tracking solutions I can use to keep tabs on my replacement camera?

A. Before I address your question, be aware that if someone posts a photo taken with your lost or stolen camera, you might be able to locate it using the website stolencamerafinder.com. Simply drag a photo you had previously taken with the lost or stolen camera onto the website’s drag & drop photo here box (as pictured below); the website will read the photo’s unique serial number embedded in the picture and search the web for other photos taken with the same camera. (If you don’t have a photo taken with your lost camera, you can instead manually enter the camera’s serial number included with the original product packaging.) This solution may help you locate and reclaim your property


This solution may work because each photo taken with most high-end digital cameras contains embedded EXIF (exchangeable image file format) information regarding the image and the camera’s make, model, date, and unique serial number, which identifies the camera.

Note the Following:

  1. The photo must be a JPEG format.
  2. Be sure to use an original photo and not one you download from a social media website (such as Facebook), because most social media websites now scrub photos clean of EXIF data when they are uploaded.
  3. This solution does not store a copy of your photo; only the photo’s EXIF data is extracted by stolencamerafinder.com.

GPS tracking devices. Despite the many tiny tracking gadgets appearing in Hollywood movies, no such tracking devices actually exist in the commercial marketplace to my knowledge. The smallest available GPS-based tracking devices are either too large to go undetected, do not include sufficient battery power to make them practical to use, or both. Most of the GPS-based tracking devices available in the marketplace are intended for use in tracking vehicles (or devices) where they can draw energy from an available power source, such as a vehicle’s battery.

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

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