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Insurer sees rise in brand thefts 'to order'

An increasing number of burglars are stealing brands 'to order' and using shops and auction websites to sell illegal goods, according to research by LV=.

The research, which was conducted by criminologists for the home insurer, revealed that one in 20 (5%) burglaries committed last year were carried out by criminals who steal specific brands 'to order'. The study, which involved interviews with burglary victims and convicted thieves, found this trend has significantly increased in the past five years.

Apple, Samsung, Sony, Microsoft and Dell were the brands most commonly 'ordered' as they can 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 were £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 retail outlet.

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.

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

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

As well as online auctions, modern thieves say they take 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.

In addition to electrical goods, modern thieves also seek out high value fashion brands. Mui Mui and Prada are 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 are also highly desirable and thieves say they mainly seek out Chanel branded products, which can fetch around 23% of the official retail price.

Although handling stolen goods is a punishable offence, which can result in a custodial sentence, those who want the latest must-have brands at a fraction of the retail price are driving the trend. One in four (24%) Brits say they would turn a blind eye and buy stolen goods if the price was right. And in the past 12 months alone close to one in three (29%) adults have come across suspected stolen items for sale at a market, pub (22%) or auction website (21%).

LV= home insurance has urged people to take great care of their valuables, keep them out of sight and dispose of receipts and packaging carefully to avoid falling victim to theft. The insurer advised those looking to buy second-hand electrical goods to check whether the seller is an authorised dealer and think twice before buying items that may be stolen.

LV= home insurance managing director John O'Roarke 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."



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