Thursday, 28 September, 2023

Stolen handsets flood online marketplaces

Innocent buyers facing legal consequences

Stolen handsets flood online marketplaces

Popular News

Online marketplaces have become hotspots for the sale of stolen mobile phones, posing serious risks for consumers.  

With minimal verification processes in place on various platforms including, miscreants have found it incredibly easy to offload stolen devices.

Innocent buyers, often unaware of the origins of the products they purchase, have faced legal consequences. Several have reported that days after buying mobile phones online, they were tracked down by the police, interrogated, and forced to return the devices to their original owners.

Detective sources informed that low-priced stolen handsets are typically sold at footpath shops and in the Gulistan area. However, pricier phones have found their way to online classified sites.

Law enforcement authorities estimate that at least 20 gangs specialising in mobile phone theft are operating in the capital.

Based on information from arrested individuals, officials report that hundreds of phones are stolen daily and later sold after altering the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers.

This marks a shift from the traditional method of selling these phones on pavements and markets.Dhaka Metropolitan Detective Police (DB) has assigned several teams to focus on the recovery of stolen mobile phones and the apprehension of gang members. DB officials have noted a significant reduction in the direct sale of stolen mobile phones to consumers due to ongoing police operations.

However, the trade has not diminished but rather migrated to online platforms. Social media groups dedicated to selling these stolen mobile phones have also been identified.  Detective sources outline that a stolen mobile phone generally changes hands three times. Initially, the thief sells the phone to a technician or buyer specializing in stolen phones for Tk 4,000-8,000.

If security features such as passwords or "Find Your Phone" are enabled, the technician or buyer will sell the displays and casings at a premium. If these security features are disabled, they alter the IMEI number and sell iPhones for Tk 60,000-70,000 and other brands for Tk 15,000-20,000.

According to DB sources, the low-cost stolen mobile phones are typically sold on pavements in Dhaka, including areas in front of the Gulistan’s Underground Market and Gulistan City Corporation Building. More expensive devices from renowned brands are often purchased by certain businessmen.

On June 5, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested three individuals in the Gulistan area of the capital, and seized 24 stolen mobile phones.

The Commanding Officer of RAB-3, Lt Col Arif Mohiuddin Ahmed, stated that the individuals had been involved in the trade of stolen mobile phones for a considerable duration and were part of a larger network operating at multiple points in the capital.

The arrest followed a significant case on July 21, 2022, when a student named Parisha Akhtar from Jagannath University had her mobile phone snatched. A joint effort by Tejgaon Police and DB Police led to the arrest of 27 members of a snatching gang based in Karwan Bazar, and the student’s stolen phone was recovered.

During interrogation, the arrested gang members confessed to over fifty thefts and snatchings in the Karwan Bazar and surrounding areas over a three-month period.

DB sources indicate that mobile phone theft and snatching occur daily in 16 locations within Dhaka. The capital’s Karwan Bazar area is particularly notorious, with three to five robberies taking place daily, involving 25 floating children and three professional teams.

In addition, there are active mobile phone mugging gangs in various areas including Shyamoli, Adabar, Mohammadpur, Dhanmondi, Mirpur, Gabtoli, Uttara, Abdullahpur, Banani, Gulshan, Bhatara, Hatirjheel, Rampura, Moghbazar, Malibagh, Shahbagh, Motsho Bhaban, Newmarket, Gulistan, Kamalapur, Jatrabari, and Babubazar Bridge.

On May 18, 2022, AKM Hafiz Akhter, then Chief of the Detective Branch (DB) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), announced that efforts to curb mobile phone theft would not only target thieves but also those who sell stolen mobile phones.

He asserted that there is no issue in selling used mobiles, but if traders are found selling stolen devices, they will be arrested, as they are considered complicit in the crime.