Stolen Ring Doorbell: What Happens? Can It Still Be Used?

You wake up in the middle of the night to a sound outside your front door. You check your phone and see that you have a Ring motion alert. You check it… only to see a burglar stealing your actual Ring Doorbell!

Wait, what? The Ring Doorbell is meant to prevent burglars, not actually get itself stolen! Unfortunately Ring doorbell theft is a real problem, with Ring’s support pages covering it and newspaper articles discussing it. So what happens? What steps can you take in the aftermath of it being stolen?

Ring Doorbell theft is a genuine problem with only limited solutions, but you will still get full HD video capture of the theft and the person carrying it out, to give to the police for identification. You can also get a new Ring Doorbell for free under Ring’s doorbell theft policy.

How the Ring doorbell is mounted

The Ring doorbell itself is mounted with just two screws at the top and bottom:

A Ring Doorbell Pro suspended in mid-air by the wired-up supply cables.
A Ring Doorbell Pro suspended in mid-air by the wired-up supply cables… you can see the small screw holes at the top and bottom.

These screw holes are relatively small: it’s not like you’re able to use extra large (and hence harder to rip-out) screws. You could also mount the Ring Doorbell on a metal frame (such as a the Pro ‘Retro Fit’ kit, or an angle/wedge frame) but this is just an extra ‘layer’: at some point you’re still reliant on two relatively small screw holes for mounting.

And as the saying goes: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link!

All it takes for your Ring Doorbell to be stolen is for these small screws (and thin wires) to be ripped out. Yes, this will be slightly harder with wall anchors, but not by much.

I cover how you can protect against this a bit in the last chapter, but for now let’s assume that the worst has happened: your Ring doorbell has been stolen.

What happens during a doorbell theft?

The back of someone leaving a property, as captured by a Ring Doorbell 1 device.
The back of someone leaving a property, as captured by a Ring device.

A Ring Doorbell works by picking up motion detection (or a doorbell press), and then it starts recording for around 1 minute. This video footage is transmitted to Ring’s cloud servers in real time whilst the recording is occurring (which is why capturing Ring recordings locally is tricky). This occurs via a SIP (session initiation protocol) call, a bit like how you can do a video call with someone over Zoom or Slack.

Technical jargon aside, it’s important to note that the recordings are transmitted to Ring in real-time. This is because the burglar may assume that by ripping your Ring Doorbell off the frame, they will stop the recording from finishing and thus they have ‘destroyed the evidence’ – but thankfully this is not the case. Because the recording is streamed to Ring’s servers in real time, Ring can provide you with as much of the video recording as possible.

Obviously nothing is perfect and battery powered Ring doorbells (such as the Ring 1, 2 and 3) don’t capture quite as much as hardwired ones (such as the Pro), but something of the burglary should be recorded.

This means that even if your Ring Doorbell is gone and you’re just left with exposed wires outside, you should be able to launch the Ring app (or login to your account on a PC) and see the exact footage from the burglary. Also be sure to watch any recordings from before this moment, as they may show cars/vans (with license plates, if you’re very lucky!) of the burglars too.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the burglar can’t access your Ring account and delete the recordings. Even with the Ring doorbell in their possession, your Ring account is still safe and secure – as are all the recordings it has taken.

What you should do after a doorbell theft

Whilst this is an upsetting time, try and stay calm and follow the steps in Ring’s support page for doorbell thefts.

The first thing Ring recommend is to ring the police. Don’t worry about your Ring device just yet: other houses in your area might be targeted too, or maybe the Ring device was part of a larger break-in (and items from inside your house have been stolen, too). Heck, the burglars may still be in the local area. Due to this, it’s crucial that you notify the police and leave them do their thing.

Secondly, take photos of the damage – but be careful not to disrupt the crime scene. Don’t move debris and damaged components around. Don’t walk over the ground outside (where the burglars walked) in-case there’s shoe prints there. Basically try and capture photos of the Ring doorbell theft, but only if it won’t interfere with the police’s work.

Thirdly, get a copy of the police report when you’re able to. Ring require this before they will provide you with a replacement Ring doorbell (more on this later). It may take a short while before you can get the report, but Ring give you 15 days to report the theft to them so this should be enough time for the police to get you the report. Ring may still honour their theft policy after 15 days, but it’s worth chasing the police if it looks like getting the police report will take longer than this.

Finally, fill out the Ring theft form by clicking the blue ‘Report Theft’ button on Ring’s support page. They aim to send you your replacement within 14 working days which is a fairly long time to wait (to be honest), but it’s better than nothing. If you experience issues with the form, however, try the email address instead.

Can the burglar re-use your Ring Doorbell?

A burglar could – in theory – reset the Ring Doorbell and register it under a new account. Even though the Ring Doorbell is registered on your account, Ring do have a – legimiate – process for disabling the device on one account and moving it to another account: when someone moves house.

As their support pages discuss, someone could move out of their house (after selling, or their lease ending) and leave all their Ring devices behind. In this case, you will want to access the Ring devices – so you can contact Ring customer services and they will deactivate the old registration, allowing you to register the Ring doorbell in your account.

Can you guess the problem yet? Yep, it’s that if you’re still waiting for the police report (and hence haven’t contacted Ring about the theft), the burglar could contact Ring customer service and have the device deregistered from your account, and registered on their account instead.

This is why I’d suggest that you tell Ring ASAP about the Ring doorbell theft, right after contacting the police. Whilst their policy says to wait until you get the police report, I would contact Ring on live chat and/or the email address, give them the device MAC code and ask that they disable the device.

This means that the burglar wouldn’t be able to deregister the device from your account, but customer services wouldn’t allow them to register the device in their account either.

To get the device MAC code, go to the device in the Ring app, click on Device Health and it’ll be listed midway down under “MAC Address”:

Phone screenshot from the Ring app, showing the MAC Address under 'Device Health'.
The Ring app showing the MAC Address under ‘Device Health’.

Get this to Ring ASAP, asking them to block this stolen device (the MAC address is unique for each Ring doorbell they produce) going forward, and tell them that you’ll forward the police report when you have it.

How to prevent Ring thefts in the future

Having your Ring doorbell stolen may leave you feeling powerless, but there are some things you can do to protect against it.

Tip #1 – have other security cams in hard-to-reach places

Installing security cameras in hard-to-reach places (i.e. higher up on your house) is quite crucial, because even if a burglar incorrectly assumes that stealing a Ring doorbell will destroy the footage of the theft, they might see your other security cameras and be deterred. After all, stealing a sole Ring doorbell is one thing, but stealing a Ring doorbell when there’s 1-2 other security cameras on you is completely different.

I always recommend power over Ethernet cameras for the best reliability (since WiFi can be unreliable at times), although any hard-to-reach camera is better than nothing.

Tip #2 – buy an anti-theft mount

Some online stores sell Ring anti-theft mounts, which contain a lockable cage that prevents a would-be burglar from being able to rip the doorbell off the doorframe.

An example is the POPMAS metal locking mounting plate which has various screw holes int he back (so you don’t have to rely on two small screw holes), along with the horizontal locking bar to secure the Ring doorbell further.

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about this article, please leave a comment below. Please note that all comments go into a moderation queue (to prevent blog spam). Your comment will be manually reviewed and approved by Tristan in less than a week. Thanks!

6 thoughts on “Stolen Ring Doorbell: What Happens? Can It Still Be Used?”

    • If it’s brand new in a box, it wouldn’t have been stolen. The risk is from purchasing a “second hand” Ring camera, or one with an opened box. This could then have been stolen, so it’s worth checking with Ring’s customer services (you should be able to give them the serial number to check).

      • My New Ring device unopened and in a box was precisely stolen out of my car as I brought in my bags of bought goods. Just bought it. I wanted to replace the old.
        Can this be used? I dont know the MAC address or anything and its unopened

        • Sorry to hear that. Ring customer services do often ask for the MAC address when you ring up, so that’s frustrating. Hopefully you can get a refund on it if the retailer is feeling generous, but the burglar probably can use the device, yes. 🙁


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