back to article Home Office takes non-action against phone pinchers

The Home Office is demanding that mobile phone recyclers continue what they're already doing, in the name of cracking down on mobile phone theft. The office is busy creating a new Code of Practice which will require the industry to check handsets sent for recycling against the register of stolen phones, preventing thieves …


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How many try it?

How many stolen phones are being posted to these recycling companies, then? And do the criminals get caught, and the phone returned to its rightful owner - who has probably got a new one now? What happens?


Yes, but now...

They'll get loads of red tape about how exactly to do their job, and tons of reports to fill out for every one of the stole phones they process.

Not to mention, statistics to be calculated.

Soon there will be so many forms to fill out that it'll be more environmentally friendly to bury the damn things in your back yard...

Mine's the jacket with the Nokia 2110 in the pocket.


Not quite right

Thanks for an interesting article however some of the facts are muddled, perhaps this will help.

Firstly the majority of companies that “recycle” phones do not recycle them in the traditional way.

As you say they are shipped abroad to developing nations to be used as second owner handsets, this is because the cost of new handsets in these countries is outside the reach of most of the population.

As a result in the UK most of these companies have moved to a “buy” rather than a “denote” model to acquire handsets and this has attracted the attention of thieves as an easy way to turn stolen phones into cash. This model is now extending to laptops, sat navs, iPhones etc as there is a market in the developing world for these as well.

The problem has been that in the case of a mobile there are two flags that indicate to a “recycler” that they should not be handling the handset. One is a crime report where the Police have been informed by the owner the handset has been stolen and the second is a blocked report where the owner has told the network they are no longer is possession of the handset and its has been blocked on the UK networks, however they have not told the Police. Both these flags are available to the “recyclers” the second hand trade and the public via the service at

Before the advent of the Recyclers Charter the legal status of these blocked handsets has been a grey area and many (but not all) recyclers have been selling these abroad to countries that don’t use the network block list to identify stolen phones, hence they will work on networks in these countries.

This is where the figure of 100,000 phones a year comes from with an average value of £25 per handset and it is this trade that will be stopped.

The recent developments of the Charter has clarified the legal status of a blocked phone and these are to be regarded in the same way as handsets reported to the Police, and as a result must not be handled or sold by recyclers, second hand outlets, the public or retailers. Doing so will leave the seller open to prosecution for handling stolen goods.

This is a major step forward in reducing the outlets for stolen phones and as a result reducing the appeal to steal them in the first place.

I hope this helps.


Adrian Portlock

Managing Director

Recipero Limited Supplier of CheckMEND and the National Mobile Phone Register.

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So, basically..

.. nothing changes other than that some politicians will now get credit for what you have done and pretend it was their idea. Well done..


Working for a telco..

Its a shame the customer does not get the chance to register their IMEI number and name and address (if its not on contract) so that if the phone is recovered something can be done with it.

We get a lot of old grannies out walking their dog who phone up with a found phone to try and find its owner... sure, we can take the IMEI but we have nothing to search it against (I'm sure the IMEI's are logged but we can neither search them or find out who they belong to.

We also get a lot of police phoning up doing the same.

Even if we did have such a database, under DPA we'd be unable to do anything about it anyway.

I think it would be lovely to get a call. look up a database - make a call and say "Hi its x from x, your phone has just been recovered, would you like the contact info? OR would you like to pick it up from your nearest store or for £10 admin we can post it to your nearest one..."

Big thrill, IMEI blocking has reduced the interest in stealing mobiles but it does nothing to get the handset back to the correct owner and it really should not be so hard.

Anonymous Coward

Changing the IMEI

For many types of phone, the IMEI can be changed at will using a suitable cable and the right software. It might not match the sticker inside but the network can't read the sticker. Anyone prepared to steal or handle stolen phones is probably not overly concerned about the legality of using such software.

Anonymous Coward

Still don't get it.

I've never understood why the mobile phone industry are expected to police stolen phones. After all the motor industry are not expected to police stolen cars, the computer industry are not expected to police stolen computers. Guess what, we have a police force for that.

This isn't about effect policing, it's about saving the public purse a few bob. Just like their attempts to get ISPs to police copyright theft. These measures may decrease public spending marginally, but they will increase consumer prices in their respective sectors so the overall drain on our pockets will remain constant.

Oh and those who think that the motor industry are expected to police stolen cars, think again. If I turn up at a car dealer with a car and the correct V5 for that car (or at least what appears to be the correct V5) then the dealer is not required to do any further checking before buying the car. OK so he'd be an idiot if he didn't do some basic checks to protect himself, but he doesn't have to do it.



These checks are fairly easy to perform and supposedly have an effect on theft levels. So why wouldn't you do them?

If you turn up a major car dealer rather than a purely second-hand place they will all perform proper background checks on the vehicle they are buying off you because it's almost certainly in their licence conditions from the manufacturer they represent - in the same way that if you try to use more than a certain amount of cash to pay for a vehicle they have to report it in case you are trying to launder money.

Mobile phones are by and large useless without a service, so blocking them from using the service reduces their potential resale value without the application of specialist knowledge.

If the motor industry operated in a similar fashion then every vehicle would be bought on a kind of lease/HP agreement with some bundled "road miles" that you could drive for free and out-of-plan ones you could pay for as needed. The vehicle would then need some way of reliably being allowed to access roads and the driver billed for extra miles. So,if your vehicle was stolen you could call Vodaroad (or whoever), report it stolen and they could block it's access to the road network.

What would that do for car crime?

Yes, you'd still need the Police, but they can redirect their energies to other detection and prevention activities if you can make certain types of crime pointless. Generally vehicles are stolen for resale, joyriding and for use in other crimes (usually to carry away the spoils of other thefts) and they sometimes tangled up in quite a few motoring offences on the way. If you could effectively limit the useful life of a stolen vehicle to (say) 12 hours or even less, how many motor vehicle thefts would be avoided altogether and how many of the associated crimes would also go away?

Do you get it now?

Actually, there's a possibility to do this with electric cars by including some kind of handshake in the charging station equipment. Privacy concerns aside you could eventually get to a situation where you could prevent an electric vehicle from being charged if it was stolen. On the face of it that could be a good idea.

Where do I get a blank patent form?

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Unintended consequences

So there will now be a huge government department to police this.

In order to fund this and make a profit there will have to be huge fines for recycling a stolen phone, so the recycling companies will reduce what they pay for phones and increase what they sell them for to cover the costs of this.

If a stolen phone does turn up they will have to dispose of it, either give it to the police who will have to store millions of phones as 'evidence' or return it to the owner - who is probably now the insurance company that paid out for the first phone.

Now how do you get rid of the phone? You can't recycle it because it's reported stolen, you can't throw it away (legally) because it's full of enough nasty stuff that it's toxic waste. So insurance companies are going to be adding a small fee (+500% markup) to the insurance to cover e-waste disposal. Everybody else will just throw them in the canal.


Is £2.5m worth government intervention?

I know that all of us would welcome the arrival of a package containing £2.5m in cash, preferably unmarked small denomination bills, but in the larger scheme of things, £2.5m is chickenfeed, a mere bijou, a nothing.

Surely the Home Office has more important grist for its mill?

From where I sit, this looks like yet another example of NuLabour and its minions thinking that no matter is too trivial for them to stick their noses into.

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