BBC investigation shows the market for stolen smartphones is alive and well, unfortunately
A BBC undercover investigation exposed two shops that unscrupulously sell stolen smartphones on the black market in London. Eight Apple and Samsung phones were loaded with personal data (such as photos, contacts, call history, messages) and blocked or reported as stolen 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 that the phones were stolen when he handed them to traders.
All eight smartphones with shady backgrounds were acquired for cheap (about $70), possibly repackaged as legitimate second-hand devices, and sold at respective prices. All of them had their IMEI numbers marked as stolen by English carriers, which is supposed to make their further usage impossible. Alas, following the investigation, a forensics expert demonstrated to the BBC how easy it is to change a device's IMEI through specialized software and restoring it to factory settings. According to the expert, manufacturers should be placing the particular number inside a "read-only" part of the device's memory, but this practice is still uncommon.
Neither the two mobile retailers, London Mobiles Ltd and Ask Mobiles, nor Apple and Samsung whose iPhone 4 and Galaxy S3 were used in the investigation, commented on the publication. In the United Kingdom, handling stolen goods is an offense under the Theft Act, carrying a 14-year maximum prison sentence.