UK Crime Prevention Minister James Brokenshire has announced a new mobile industry code of practice that's designed to stop stolen phones being recycled for cash.
90% of handsets reported stolen in the UK are now blocked across all networks within 48 hours of reporting, making them virtually useless to criminals trying to sell them within the UK. However, until now it's been possible to sell these phones to recycling companies as the handset serial number (the IMEI) wasn't checked against the 'blocked' list. With an estimated 100,000 stolen mobile phones sold to recycling companies every year, this could have generated around £4 million for criminals.
Twenty recycling companies –around 90% of the industry – have signed up to the new code of practice. They'll work closely with police and check the details of every phone they are offered against the National Mobile Phone Register. This is linked to the mobile industry database of blocked mobiles, the police database of mobiles reported stolen and the voluntary Immobilise register. If the handset has been reported as stolen, the recycler will refuse to buy the phone and will pass details of the phone and the potential seller to the police.
The code of practice has been developed by the Telecommunications Fraud Forum (TUFF), the government and police representatives.
James Brokenshire said "Tackling crime effectively is not just a job for government alone, action at all levels of society is needed to make a real difference. 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. Alongside the impressive work on blocking stolen phones, this code will make mobile phone theft an even less profitable crime."
Jack Wraith, chairman of the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum, said "The industry welcomes this very important initiative on the part of the recyclers. 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."