The culture of faceless selling via online auction sites is dramatically increasing the availability of stolen goods such as mobile phones, iPods, laptops, bicycles and satellite navigation systems, according to property identification company Checkmend.
"Due to the growing popularity of online auction sites, more and more people are now buying and selling goods 'second-hand'," said Adrian Portlock, managing director of Checkmend.
"It has created a world where the buyer rarely sees the seller's face. This has been an ideal scenario for criminals, who can sell stolen goods without being identified."
Commander Steve Allen, head of the violent crime directorate at the Metropolitan Police, added: "In the eyes of the law, ignorance has never been bliss.
"It is conceivable that should the seller, auction house, buyer or repairer be found in possession of a stolen item, then at the very least the item could be confiscated. But at worst, they could potentially be charged with handling stolen goods."
Checkmend has launched a system for logging stolen goods and claims to have a database of 3.8 million items with a total value of more than £570m.
Around 35 per cent of these items are stolen mobile phones, and the list includes all the phones that have been reported stolen to the UK networks.
Users can access the service by text or online to check whether an item they are buying or selling is stolen.
By entering an International Mobile Equipment Identification number, Checkmend can tell within seconds whether the item has been reported stolen.
If a seller carries out checks before they offer an item for sale, they can add a Checkmend certificate to the sale that can be viewed online by prospective purchasers.
A text search costs £1.50, plus standard network charges, while an online search costs between £1 and £2.99.
Checkmend said that up to 100,000 items are added to the list every month by police, content insurers, the mobile phone industry and members of the public.
People can register their items for free at the Immobilise website and then report their details if they are stolen.
Checkmend's partners in the scheme include the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit, Transport for London, the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum, the major English, Scottish and Welsh Police forces, T-Mobile and The Carphone Warehouse.
Auction sites feed market for stolen goods
By Matt Chapman on Jul 10, 2006 1:49PM