Quarter of Britons would buy stolen goods, research shows


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The Independent Online

A quarter of Britons would turn a blind eye to buy stolen goods if the price was right, new research shows.

One in four admitted they would break the law for a bargain and in the last year close to one in three adults (29%) came across suspected stolen items for sale at a market, pub (22%) or auction website (21%).

In a study involving more than 2,000 people, it emerged a growing number of burglars were stealing brands to order and using shops and auction websites to sell illegal goods.

According to the criminologists' research, one in 20 (5%) burglaries committed last year was carried out with the intention of finding a specific brand.

The research was undertaken by home insurer LV= and involved interviews with burglary victims and convicted thieves.

It revealed the stealing to order trend has increased in the past five years.

Apple, Samsung, Sony, Microsoft and Dell items topped the thieves' shopping lists because they could be sold on easily for a large proportion of the retail price.

The average going rate on the black market for popular items by these manufacturers are £345 for a stolen iPhone, £210 for an iPad and £160 for a games console - around half the cost of buying them new from an official retailer.

Government statistics show burglaries increased by 14% last year, from 651,000 to 745,000 in 2011, with victims losing £1,400 worth of belongings on average.

Small electronic goods are the most commonly stolen items.

One burglar told researchers: "Almost everyone I know sells moody (stolen) stuff online.

"Just get a photo from the internet and put it up.

"Wait till the orders come in and then go out and get it."

Auction websites have helped expand the marketplace for stolen goods with most of the thieves who took part in the research saying they used auction websites to sell stolen goods.

Although most online auction sites have strict rules prohibiting sellers from using them to sell stolen goods, many thieves said they got round this by having multiple seller identities.

As well as online auctions, thieves said they took orders from more traditional sources including markets and car boot sales, as well as some convenience stores who take 'under the counter' orders from customers in the know.

One burglar said he worked with a contact at a phone unlocking stall in a shopping centre who takes orders 'off the street' from willing buyers.

When selecting properties to target, unsurprisingly burglars targeted easily accessible properties in affluent neighbourhoods.

Burglars also trawled bins to garner clues from receipts and packaging.

High value fashion brands were also highly sought.

Mui Mui and Prada were the most common handbag brands that are ordered, as these can usually be bought for around a third of the cost of buying them new from an official outlet.

Designer perfumes and toiletries were also highly desirable with thieves mainly seeking out Chanel branded products, which can fetch around 23% of the official retail price.

Although handling stolen goods can result in a jail term, those who want the latest must-have brands at a fraction of the retail price are driving the trend.

John O'Roarke, LV= managing director, said: "It is not surprising that thieves are focusing on electronic gadgets, which can be easily concealed, transported and quickly sold on.

"Our own theft claims data shows a shift in recent years from larger electronic goods, such as TVs, to smaller electronic items - although the overall monetary value is the same.

"Legitimate owners must take care not to fall victim to theft by leaving goods in view from the outside of their home and should take care to dispose of receipts and packaging properly."