31 May, 2022
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How Criminals Resell Locked Phones

31 May, 2022

Global smartphone crime and how you can better secure your smartphone.

Global smartphone crime is on the rise as smartphones become more popular. We depend on our smartphones daily; they allow us to control our finances and work on the go as well as many other things. Our devices hold all of our important information, from bank details to important data: things that we don’t want to get out into the world. However, 70 million smartphones are lost each year, with only 7% recovered. Global smartphone crime is growing as phones are being stolen and resold across the world.

Read on to find out what happens to stolen phones and how you can better protect yours.

What happens once a device has been stolen?

If a device is reported stolen, the phone provider will lock the phone to prevent it from being used via a blacklist. However, the problem is that not every country in the world allows blacklists, which makes it easier for criminals to sell stolen phones. Phones can be easily sold if they’re taken to a country where the blacklist has no jurisdiction. Additionally, there are also tools criminals can use to access a device. 

Depending on the type of phone that’s been stolen, there are different methods criminals use to access the data on the device. For example, if the stolen phone is an iPhone, the data may be accessed through spoofing Apple emails or SMS messages to gain access to iCloud credentials, steal information, and deactivate any tracking apps. Tools such as MagicApp and Applekit are usually used by criminals to resell the device in underground and gray markets. If the stolen device uses Android, usually your data is safe. However, they can easily be unlocked by a factory reset. Yes, your data will be wiped and safe, but it does make the phone easier to sell.

So where are stolen phones being sold?

Once a criminal can access the phone and has done all they need to, the phone is usually sold on. Some stolen devices are shipped to Eastern Europe for deactivation and reconditioning before being sent on to countries such as Algeria, India, and Nigeria for sale. GSMA estimates that more than four million prepaid devices are trafficked annually, with the cost of bulk prepaid trafficking totaling $900 million.

The process is illustrated below by ZDNet:

Furthermore, organized crime gangs appear to be behind global smartphone crime. Stolen phones are being shipped across seas to places like Nigeria where blacklisting is not used, making it easier to traffic devices without being caught. Sometimes phones are even being stolen directly from supply chains while they’re in transit from manufacturers to stores. The reselling of stolen phones is an ongoing problem, but you can help prevent it from happening to you.

How can I better protect my phone and my personal data?

Fortunately, there are security measures you can implement to protect your phone and the data that’s on it (alongside keeping your phone close to you at all times). We’ve provided a list of helpful tips and suggestions below to protect your phone better:

Security measures:

  • Refrain from downloading suspicious apps
  • Regularly update your system and apps
  • Backup everything on your phone to a PC or iCloud or similar service
  • Don’t reuse passwords for different accounts
  • Always use a complex password and PIN screen lock
  • Enable a lost device tracking service
  • Be vigilant of spam emails and SMS messages
  • Don’t click suspicious links
  • Make a note of your IMEI number and keep it safe.

Additionally, if you suspect your phone to have been stolen, contact your phone provider and police immediately. Having your IMEI number at hand for the police will help them identify your phone. Your provider should be able to block the phone which will delay the process of the phone being sold on. Additionally, there are apps that you can download that can locate your phone through GPS and lock the phone remotely and potentially wipe it before anyone can access the data, some of the services available to you are Apple’s Find my iPhone and Google’s Find my Device service.

Read more about global smartphone crime here.

Once a device has been stolen, how can you retrieve it? 

The answer’s through IMEI number blacklisting. At LOX Network, we’re proudly developing the world’s first fully decentralized security network. Using a decentralized blacklist, we’re enabling individuals to directly report phone thefts and put responsibility for their devices and the data they contain back into their hands.

Jeremy Rodgers
Content Manager

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