Hmm, seems like a scam that would work on people who aren’t tech savvy. I’m sure there are parts of the world where many office workers simply do not know where their data is stored or how the process of data recovery works. However, in hindsight, wouldn’t it seem odd that the thief would only steal the hard drive and not the entire computer? I mean a hard drive itself is not worth the effort to steal. Clearly a desperate criminal who did not adequately think out the crime.
It all requires a bit of set up. During a regular tech call, make an image of the drive, claim that you are just taking necessary precautions in case something happens during your system clean up. Then go away. Then come back another time (preferably during the cover of darkness) break in, steal small items that are worth money, trash the computer or even steal the computer. Wait a day or 2. Then call them back to schedule the next tech call. Oh, what’s that? You got robbed? Oh, well I can put a new system together for you. I think I still have that copy of your data but I will have to check if I wiped the drive or not. Sure, I can do everything for you and get you back up in running in a few days for … say $$$$$$. Will that be cash or cheque?
Smart criminals don’t make headlines. Only the idiots.