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April 14, 2014

BBC London investigation reveals mobile phone shops dealing in stolen goods

Corporation films undercover researcher selling fake stolen phones to accused vendors

By Jimmy Nicholls

The BBC has filmed several east London phone shops dealing in goods said to be stolen, after it received information that eight stores were trading in the black market.

Customising eight mobile phones to make them appear as though they had been snatched, the BBC sent a researcher posing as a thief to sell the phones for up to £40, capturing the transactions on camera.

Even as they traded the ‘stolen’ items, the vendor was giving tips to the researcher on how to avoid police detection by throwing away the SIM card or turning off the phone.

The investigation appears after a series of police raids last month on market stalls and second-hand vendors throughout London as part of Operation Big Wing.

Speaking to the BBC, Grant Roughley of Essential Forensics said: "A phone stolen this morning could be back on the streets by this afternoon, packaged up as a second hand legitimate phone."

Phones are given unique IMEI numbers to identify them, which it is a criminal offence to change without the permission of the manufacturer.

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In a demonstration to the BBC, Roughley gave the phone a new IMEI and restored the original software, thus removing "find-my-phone" protection used to deter theft.

The 2011/12 Crime Survey for England and Wales reported that 2% had experienced a mobile phone theft within the past year, with teenagers and those in their early 20s particularly vulnerable.

Around a third of thefts were reported to have taken place on public transport, with another third taking place in the street and 18% in bars, pubs or clubs.

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