BBC investigation shows the market for stolen smartphones is alive and well, unfortunately
A BBC undercover investigation exposedtwo shops that unscrupulously sell stolen smartphones on the blackmarket in London. Eight Appleand Samsung phones were loaded with personal data (such asphotos, contacts, call history, messages) and blocked or reported asstolen to carriers. A reporter posing as a smartphone thief shopped them around London and caught on camera two traders that bought the "stolen" goods from him. The undercover reporter explicitly stated thatthe phones were stolen when he handed them to traders.
All eight smartphones withshady backgrounds were acquired for cheap (about $70), possiblyrepackaged as legitimate second-hand devices, and sold at respectiveprices. All of them had their IMEI numbers marked as stolen byEnglish carriers, which is supposed to make their further usageimpossible. Alas, following the investigation, a forensics expertdemonstrated to the BBC how easy it is to change a device's IMEIthrough specialized software and restoring it to factory settings.According to the expert, manufacturers should be placing theparticular number inside a "read-only" part of the device'smemory, but this practice is still uncommon.
Neither the two mobile retailers,London Mobiles Ltd and Ask Mobiles, nor Apple and Samsung whoseiPhone 4 and Galaxy S3 were used in the investigation, commented onthe publication. In the United Kingdom, handling stolen goods is anoffense under the Theft Act, carrying a 14-year maximum prisonsentence.