A colleague exchanged the ID sticker on my computer (our company's registered computer ID) with that of another computer. He did so with other computers as well.

In details:

In my company, computers and some other deemed important (expensive or not) pieces of equipment have a sticker with a QR-code containing information on the location of the equipment, owner and a unique procurement registration number. My company maintains a list of the equipment and every employee is supposed to be aware of the whereabouts of the equipment. The QR-codes are periodically scanned to check that the equipment is still present.

After a recent inspection (where each equipment with a QR code sticker was scanned) I noticed that one of my computer that a colleague took to his lab to help fix it didn't have the same registration number as the original one. So to give a concrete illustration, that computer of mine is registered with ID 12345 but after I take back possession of it, the sticker shows the registered ID is 67890.

I have found another computer with my original ID and it's an old one, definitely not mine.

Obviously the colleague exchanged my computer's sticker ID with that of another one, I have found out he did so with other computers as well (rarely used computers or that of former employees).

There are 2 aspects in this situation:

  • the wrong doings of the colleague
  • I have been unknowingly directly involved

Knowing that:

  • this colleague is famous, is appreciated by many other colleagues (and the boss)
  • this colleague is "useful" to the company
  • I would prefer a peaceful resolution of the issue rather than openly reporting him (with possibly serious consequences for the colleague, maybe myself, and our boss seems aware of the practice)
  • I don't want to have problems myself
  • I feel the colleague deserves some form of warning

How should I deal with this matter?

Further development and details.

After posting the question here, I have sent the colleague a friendly email (copied our boss), telling him that I took back my computer but noticed the ID was different, asking him if he had any idea about it.

When he arrived at the office I also directly told him I had taken back my computer to my lab. I saw him going to his lab, coming back with a PC and leaving my lab with the PC I had taken back earlier today (which is mine but with the wrong asset ID). The one he left in my lab is an old one but with my original PC asset ID. He came to me and said I took the wrong computer and added he replaced it with the correct one. I said mine isn't this brand, to which he replied that according to the sticker, the computer is his asset. I expressed my astonishment, saying again I was certain my computer was of brand xxx-xxx, to which he replied that from the ID it was his, and he added that the computer had been in his lab for a long time (the later is true, I asked him help to fix it more than 1 year ago). The whole conversation was cordial, he showed an incredible self assurance in lying, and I didn't insist.

I suppose that now he knows I know he cheated. The next course of action is to find proof of his wrong doing, and then either I kick the ant nest (and I may be bitten), or I let it all go, swallow his lie (which implies in a way that I give him reason, isn't it?), be fine with the old PC (I don't really mind the PC, it wasn't and won't be my day-to-day computer), and do not say anything about what he did (which I find serious enough for it to be reported).

I can't see any legitimate reason he may have to exchange the asset ID sticker of computers, one illegitimate reason is to obtain a computer with better hardware than he originally had and doing so without having to go through the whole procurement process of upgrading one's computer.

A witness

Honestly at some point, given the straightforwardness of my colleague to claim the computer as his, I questioned my sanity in this incident. I didn't have any tangible proof about anything, I was only certain about my computer's brand. My memory didn't fail. The computer in question (the one, mine, but with the wrong asset sticker) was passed on to me by an ex-employee when he left the company (a common practice here). I've contacted him and challenged him to try to remember his ex-computer's brand. Bingo! He did clearly remember, and it is indeed the one my colleague took away claiming it's his.

  • 2
    Loren, I don't want to touch the stickers because then I become involved in the same wrong doings as him. Further I don't know how he did to exchange the sticker without it being noticeable. Finally, I don't think I am being set up, he did that with other computers as well.
    – calocedrus
    Feb 9, 2021 at 2:30
  • 2
    Do you have a need to specifically report this person by name to your boss? Could you just tell your boss that you noticed some asset tags were switched but don't know why? All IT assets should also have the computer named to match the asset tag, so from an IT perspective, its identity is not lost (although the QR code scanning will be messed up).
    – q-compute
    Feb 9, 2021 at 3:08
  • 1
    Are you responsible for this device with the swapped stickers in any way? As in; if you leave the job, and turn in the computer, is anyone going to say "Hey, this list says you got a [expensive-device], why are you turning in this [obsolete-device]?"? Because if that's the case, you'll want to get it officially signed off by whoever is in charge that you now have a different device. They almost certainly have the original device's brand and type written down next to the ID and your name.
    – Erik
    Feb 9, 2021 at 11:15
  • 4
    Does the sticker associate information such as brand, model, serial number of the device? Those are probably the most important pieces of information.
    – sf02
    Feb 9, 2021 at 14:32
  • 3
    I was thinking the same as @sf02. Do you have a property department? If so, call them and ask them to come and verify the asset tags match their records. Let them be the bad guy.
    – spuck
    Feb 9, 2021 at 17:38

4 Answers 4


This is the time you go directly to your manager. You give him all the evidence of tag-swapping on your and other equipment, and say "Hey, maybe this is all innocent but that's a lot of very questionable behavior that seems like it needs to be investigated." Ideally your manager gets whatever other accounting or IT folks involved to look at it. There are very few explanations to this that don't involve endemic fraud, so this person is likely a criminal and you shouldn't expose yourself to them or risk from them any more.

  • I wouldn't be so direct, too much risk of being confrontational especially with this guy. Unless I come to a point where it's him or me (being fired, or other trouble) then I'll speak out but I don't have enough proofs (working on it, will take time). Now derived from your idea I may try to innocently ask the right questions to the right persons and let them find out what I already know.
    – calocedrus
    Feb 10, 2021 at 14:18
  • 1
    When they do end up investigating and find out you knew and didn’t report it you may be fired too.
    – mxyzplk
    Feb 10, 2021 at 14:36
  • I really don't think any one but me (if time and mental energy allow) will investigate very far and I wouldn't be fired for not reporting it; furthermore it would be hard to prove that I knew (I still have no proof, without any the guy is innocent, I could even be suspected guilty).
    – calocedrus
    Feb 10, 2021 at 14:50
  • 3
    @calocedrus Odds are you colleague is not swapping stickers as a joke, but as a way to get old computers that aren't old discarded early for his profit, or to otherwise fool the inventory system for some sort of profit. In my location, seeing this sort of behavior and not reporting it makes you an "accessory to the crime" which is a criminal offense that carries jail time. Even if that's not the case where you are, the company policy will state you need to report crimes (or protect company assets) so if don't go to jail, you'll be fired. Report it, it's the only thing to do.
    – Edwin Buck
    Feb 18, 2021 at 22:15

Too late for this instance, but during investigations I have sometimes marked assets with an ultraviolet pen. These pens leave a transparent mark which only shows up under ultraviolet. I also routinely do this with my personal electronic equipment.

However any asset list should have enough information to identify a computer, brand, model, RAM, OS and usage are always included in my experience. It makes no sense not to have those things listed. Not foolproof as sometimes the people servicing the machines are the ones who update the list.

I'm not convinced you need to get involved with this though.

  • Kilisi, excellent idea, a UV pen is now on my purchase list! (too late for this case indeed though). I'm learning more and more about some of the inner workings of my company: the problem with the inspectors (those who annually scan the asset ID's QR code) is that they only check if the asset is still present and match the basic description. So if the asset ID says the asset is in room 111 and is a personal computer, the inspector is fine if the asset is there and looks like a PC. They don't check the model name, specs, etc. The guy who cheated seems to know well about these loopholes.
    – calocedrus
    Feb 10, 2021 at 14:41
  • @calocedrus The UV pen is a neat idea, but it only helps your tag stay where it should. It doesn't help you keep your position when they find out that you knew about the tags being swapped. Claiming that your tag didn't move won't save you (and if all other tags did move, it might prove you knew about it). Report this person, inconvenient or otherwise, unless you want the team that discovers this to think you're profiting from this tag switching scheme too.
    – Edwin Buck
    Feb 18, 2021 at 22:19

If you really want to give him a warning, do it via email.

Just do not assume malicious intent in the way that you phrase your message. For all you know, there could have been a legitimate reason for doing this (for instance, some numbers could have been duplicated by mistake, or there could some other weird technical licensing issue).

Then print out that email (with all its headers) and keep it for your personal records at home.

If he calls you or tries to speak to you privately, retroactively memorialize anything he tells you via email as well. And if he doesn't have a good explanation for any of this, ask via email that he rectifies the situation by a certain date (don't bother asking this in person, ask it by email).

Use the following sequence. First, address the sticker problem on your workstation. That's the first priority. Then once that one is corrected, you can tell him you just noticed the stickers on the other equipment as well, and to correct those too (again, that's assuming he doesn't have a good explanation).

PS: If he really did have a legitimate reason to switch out the stickers, please let us know what it was. I'm very curious.

PS2: You've done your part for your tag. You've covered yourself. That part is good. But now, if I were you, I would log those other tags, take a couple of pictures, keep all those logs and pictures at home, and just keep an eye out for anything else. It's not worth mentioning anything unless or until you really have undeniable proof of real fraud that benefits him personally (instead of just his department).

  • These are very good pieces of advise, I took similar steps already (this is all happening as I write). What I did was to send him a friendly email (before he arrives at the office), CC our boss, telling him that I took back my computer but noticed the ID was different, asking him if he has any idea about it. When he arrived I saw him swap the PC I took (mine but with the wrong ID) with the old one I saw in his lab and with my PC's ID. He then came to me and said I took the wrong computer. I said mine isn't this brand. He said he only look at the ID, and the ID are his property.
    – calocedrus
    Feb 9, 2021 at 3:03
  • @calocedrus, As far as you know, did he lie to you? What brand was your original computer? Did you just shoot yourself in the foot? Feb 9, 2021 at 3:05
  • Yes he lied. No I didn't shoot myself in the foot. But here are more details. He was very persuasive and self confident, but his saying that he only look at the ID was an element showing he meant to say he doesn't care about the brand, as long as the ID is his property, the computer is his. I said I was very surprise and said again the PC he brought wasn't mine. He said again it's his property's ID. I didn't insist. I now need to find out whether it's possible to know the brand of a computer with a given ID. I prefer not to give the brand (though it's utterly unlikely he reads this).
    – calocedrus
    Feb 9, 2021 at 3:08
  • @calocedrus, Well, good luck with your research. Hopefully, this old computer still works decently enough for you. Feb 9, 2021 at 3:11
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    @calocedrus, It may just be best to not mention the other tags to anyone in your company for now. See no evil. Hear no evil. You've done your part for your tag. You've covered yourself. That part is good. But now, if I were you, I would log those other tags, take a couple of pictures, keep all those logs and pictures at home, and just keep an eye out for anything else. It's not worth mentioning anything unless or until you really have undeniable proof of real fraud that benefits him personally (instead of just his department). After all, being the auditor/accountant is not your job. Feb 10, 2021 at 14:52

Laptop Computers

The service tag is located on the bottom of the laptop.

Desktop Computers

The service tag is either located on the top of the computer, or the back of the computer.

  • 2
    How exactly is this an answer to the question?
    – Berend
    Feb 18, 2021 at 7:32
  • @Berend because the service tag is the normal thing to track, not putting your own removable tag on it
    – Kilisi
    Feb 18, 2021 at 9:48

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