What happens to stolen phones

Thieves often target 'hot' products, gadgets that many of us own such as MP3 players, laptops, tablets, sat-navs and mobile phones. In effect any technology that becomes popular becomes 'hot.' These products are often described as C.R.A.V.E.D (concealable, removable,available,enjoyable and disposable). Mobile phones fit this category, so what happens after your phone has been stolen ?

We have identified many different routes that your stolen phone may go through as the thief endeavours to turn it into cash. These will include attempts to sell to second-hand shops, market-stalls, via internet auction sites, on-line classified adverts and to recycling companies.

Criminals also export phones stolen in the UK for sale abroad. When a lost or stolen phone is reported by its owner to their network, this phone is 'blocked' and will not work in the UK. These phones may work abroad. Developing markets are predominately prepay, as opposed to the more popular contract based market in the UK where the cost of a handset is kept low. The demand for handsets in developing countries is greater, with the amount paid for a handset often higher. Organised Criminal Groups are attracted to exporting stolen phones to this lucrative market.

The NMPCU has completed over 450 operations around the UK targeting robbers, burglars, handlers and exporters of stolen phones. We work closely with the Home Office, Telecommunications Industry, Law Enforcement Agencies in the UK and abroad, and the regulated Financial Sector. This has identified much good practice, which has been disseminated nationally.


A picture of some recovered phones following a NMPCU operation