Recycling Firms Agree Stolen Handset Code

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Recycling firms have agreed a code of practice in order to close off a loophole that allows criminals to sell them stolen mobile phones

In an effort to clamp down on stolen phones being sold to unsuspecting recycling firms, crime prevention minister James Brokenshire has announced a new code of practise.

According to the Home Office, an estimated 100,000 stolen mobile phones, worth around £4 million, are being sold to recycling companies each year. Of course, most of these stolen phones (90 percent) are blocked across all UK networks within 48 hours of reporting.

Loophole Closed

This makes them useless to criminals trying to sell them on in the UK. However, these blocked phones can still be used abroad and as the recycling industry exports many of the handsets it buys, this has created a new market for stolen phones.

This loophole has allowed thousands of phones – worth an average of £40 each – to be sold to unsuspecting recyclers each year. Now recycling organisations that sign up to the code will check the details of every phone they are offered against the National Mobile Phone Register, which is a database of all phones reported stolen.

This National Mobile Phone Register is linked to three national databases – the industry database of mobiles that have been blocked; the police database of mobiles reported stolen; and a voluntary public register of ownership details of mobiles (Immobilise).

If the phone is flagged as stolen, the company will refuse to buy it and details of both the phone and the person trying to sell it to them will be forwarded to the police.

“Tackling crime effectively is not just a job for government alone, action at all levels of society is needed to make a real difference,” said Crime Prevention Minister James Brokenshire. “This new agreement is a perfect example of what this approach can achieve.”

“By joining forces with the police, the mobile phone industry is closing a multi-million pound loophole that has been exploited by criminals and the industry should be congratulated,” he added. “Alongside the impressive work on blocking stolen phones, this code will make mobile phone theft an even less profitable crime.”

Industry Backing

So far, 90 percent of the industry has signed up to the code of practise, including 20 – 20 Mobile, Anovo, Earthmobile Ltd, Eazyfone, EMC Recycle, Regenersis, Fone Hub, Greener Solution, Mazuma Mobile, Mobile Phone Exchange, Mobile Phone Recycling Organisation, Money for Your Phone, Redeem PLC, Royal Mail, RPC Recycle, SHP Solutions, West One Technology, Carphone Warehouse and Virgin Media.

“The industry welcomes this very important initiative on the part of the recyclers,” said Jack Wraith, chairman of the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum. “It not only closes off an avenue used by criminals to gain from theft of mobile phones, it also demonstrates those recyclers who have signed up to the scheme are serious in their efforts to support the continuing battle against mobile phone theft.”

The code of practice, which has been developed by the Telecommunications Fraud Forum (TUFF), government and police, will be administered by TUFF, which will monitor it to ensure it is being adhered to. It has warned that sanctions will be taken against companies that do not comply with the code.

“To date numerous arrests have taken place and stolen goods recovered,” said Commander Simon Pountain, from the Association of Chief Police Officers. “Significant offences such as robberies and burglaries have been solved through utilising this new system which has also led to arrests for murder. This is a great example of partnership working at its best for the benefit of the wider community.”

Back in February this year, the Home Office unveiled several technologies to combat phone theft, including a system that uses contactless communication to authenticate mobile transactions. It said back then that approximately 228 mobile phones were reported stolen in the UK every hour.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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