After years of waiting, dealers and the general public have access to a site that can verify IMEI-barred handsets.
CheckMEND is an online database listing all stolen phones that have been reported to UK networks. By entering the IMEI number of a handset, users can check within seconds that the item has not already been reported stolen or barred in the UK.
Using information held by the police, mobile phone companies and insurers, CheckMEND has compiled a 'hotlist' of 3.8 million stolen items worth over £570m.
Adrian Portlock (right), managing director of CheckMEND, estimates that around 50% of these items are mobile phones. He said: 'Everyone has a mobile and everyone has a view on crime. The idea of CheckMEND is to bring information together in a simple way for the public. We hope to raise even more awareness and reduce the channel for stolen goods'.
The database is used daily by police officers from 46 forces who run around 15,000 checks a week on stolen goods. Commander Allen, head of the violent crime directorate of the Metropolitan Police, said: 'The key strategy is to make stolen property more and more useless. The public have a part to play in this in that they should not take possession of property they believe to be stolen.'
Jack Wraith from the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum said: 'If all the second-hand phones were checked before being purchased and subsequently not bought, this would equate to approximately £50m taken out of the pockets of criminals'.
Pay to check if that trade-in has been nicked
The Police hope that the public, second-hand traders and auction houses will use the site to check items before making transactions. Traders can set up an account allowing them to make checks costing from £1.00 each, and members of the public can run single checks for £2.99. All checks run online and include a certificate verifying that the item is either authentic or stolen. Sellers on sites like eBay will be able to sell their items with a CheckMEND certificate, which any prospective purchaser can view online for free.
Partners of CheckMEND include The Carphone Warehouse, The National Mobile Phone Crime Unit, Orange, Vodafone and T-Mobile. Andrew Harrison, UK chief executive of Carphone, said: 'As an industry it is vital for us to take active steps to help reduce mobile phone crime. We will get behind and promote CheckMEND as well as using the system within our organisation to help reduce fraud.'