If this happened 10 years ago I wouldn't really care because it was excusable that time.
But now, 2012/2013, almost every major university is highly computerized and connected. As far as I know, academic advisors will emphasize the importance of backups. Graduate school handbooks usually will say the same thing, along with anti-virus, the use of copy-righted material..etc..etc.
It is expected every doctorate candidate knows basic computer skills, which includes backing up files (buy a USB drive, copy a folder from your HDD to the new drive, as simple as that).
There are so many people that go through the motions and don't know wtf is going on, it is ridiculous. I see people getting IT related degrees all the time that barely know how to use a computer.
That said, I still think the guy is probably trying to bait the thief.