Ingenious Theft Recovery Or Idiocy? Copdots

One of my family members lost about $30,000 last month when thieves stole his work trailer full of specialized tools. The thieves stole his trailer from his driveway early one morning. He is extremely motivated to prevent this again, and is looking at all kind of crazy locks, GPS trackers, and this product: CopDots.

This product is essentially a micro ID badge that is glued by a pen applicator. This video helps explain it:

The pen contains one serial number that is registered by the user to this database. Kits can be purchased online or at Lowes (a big US retail chain) for about $35.

Registering property to rightful owners is a solid idea, but I'm not confident that many LE agencies are going to spend manhours studying each recovered stolen item for CopDots, or keep the special magnifier needed to view them.

What do you think?


Any information on what police departments actually support / check this? Any?

This same company has a large presence in combating copper theft. Their DataDots (same product, different application method) are used widely by large utilities, telecom providers, and even large retail chains tired of having AC cores stolen. High-end auto manufacturers also use them to spray engine parts. That's a very specialized market and the investigators that deal with metal recyclers would probably look for the dots in areas where they are used.

The retail marker pen is a newer market for them. I would say it isn't likely an average police investigator is going to break out the UV light and pocket scope to look for the dots on a tool, but that could change as the product becomes more common.

The way I understand the product, the small size of the microdots keep thieves from noticing that the product is tagged outright. A streak of tags is noticed under a blacklight.

It looks like a thief could scratch or scrape off the tags if they were determined enough, so the big value is the inconspicuous size. Given that thieves often pop-off ID tags and grind off serial numbers, the microdot might be an advantage given that it is hard to see and can be installed anywhere.

Off-topic, first hand advice:

Brian, depending on how specialized the tools were, there is some small chance of recovery, because...

1) The more specialized the tools, the less likely the theif or even the first buyer can use them directly, so sooner or later they end-up online.

2) The more specialized the tools, the greater the advantage to use craigslist or ebay, and so often, because stolen goods are going to be a 'steal' at first, you might see the same item resold a couple times with each witting or unwitting 'fence' taking their cut along the way.

If he's not already, tell your kin to setup keyword notifications on ebay and craigslist listings. Keep an eye out for vague listings and reticent sellers of similar equipment. If your kin can prove its theirs, I believe they can legally recover it even if it was sold a couple of times before, dots or no dots...

If your kin can prove its theirs, I believe they can legally recover it even if it was sold a couple of times before, dots or no dots...

I think the point of the dots IS to help prove ownership. They won't help you track the objects, but they'll let you confirm if something is yours... or if objects are recovered and the dots are registered, the proper ownership info can be looked up.

It's a similar idea to microchipping your pets - most vets and shelters have a scanner that can read the chip and provide the registration number and the name of the company who produced the chip, and if it was registered, the pet can be reunited with its owner. We deal with several shelters and dog rescues and regularly see such reunions aided by chips, and other methods such as ear tattoos.

I think the point of the dots IS to help prove ownership...

Yeah, I'm right there with you on that, though my post was mainly in reference to the un-dotted tools. About a year ago, someone used bolt cutters to steal my whole u-haul hitch. Inside was a in-the-box 3d lithographic printer. It was covered by Homeowners, so what did I do? A month later I went to get another one, and sure enough there was one on ebay, even though there hadn't been one of this model on ebay in six months! Almost Half-price too. In the box! With the same color cartridge I ordered. The seller got it thru "distribution sale" and also didn't know anything about 3d printers, but had sold many PC's and had decent rep. I think it was mine, but I'll never know because I bought a way cheaper 3d 'cubify' that had just come out. Had I knowingly bought my own printer back at half-price it would have seemed like insurance fraud also. So initially sparing Brian the back story, I was mentioning that if something very unusual gets stolen, it has a good chance of showing up on ebay.

Copdots are kinda like a watermark for possessions. They remind me of nanotags, though nanotags are holographic and are extremely difficult to forge. So they can also be used by merchants to tag inventory and track product movement of authentic items vs. knock-offs, as well as prove ownership. Most likely though they are too expensive for consumers, so a copdot pen seems like a good idea... And dots don't need a point, they are a point...

Every high end Porsche imported to Australia has a similar product sprayed on the major parts. There is also a UV overspary to find the micro dots, preventing cars being reborn or broken for parts. A friend in the police did check them if the cars were moved interstate and reregistered. Only problem is they forgot to mark one and the owner had it impounded for a year while they sorted it out.

I'm on the fence as to how useful this is but I do want to point out the part of the video at 3:37 when they're listing what you can apply these to. They flash a picture of a VCR while the narrator happens to be saying "collectibles." That was my Monday morning laugh.

Will a fence around the driveway cost more than $30,000?