Grand larceny is on the increase in the Big Apple, thanks in large part to a thriving black market for Apple’s iPads and iPhones. According to a story in the New York Post, grand larcenies are running at about 10% above last year’s total, with over 25,000 incidents so far this year. An astonishing 17% of those thefts involved Apple products. The Apple thefts are on the increase, and the number is currently 55% higher than at the same time last year. And these thefts generally are not the activities of random youth who want to use the devices for their own purposes. The phenomenon is part of a network that includes not only snatching the iPhones and iPads, but also unlocking them and delivering them to sellers in New York City, throughout the country, and throughout the world.
While stealing an iPhone or an iPad may be a simple, although risky, matter, there’s a lot more involved when someone attempts to cash in on the theft. The stolen phones and tablets can’t simply be sold and reused with cellular capability. In order to establish connectivity, it requires that the user of the hot device connect with a carrier such as AT&T or Verizon, which might in turn require entering into a two-year contract. That’s where the technical end of the process comes in – “unlocking” the phone by rogue techies, which enables the phones to be used on any network. The unlocking process has become even more important since AT&T has recently begun to track the serial numbers of stolen devices, and then blocks them from being reactivated on AT&T’s network. The unlocking process clears the phone for use once again.
Once the phones are unlocked, some are sold to bodegas around the city, and some are shipped out around the world. Police say that the hot location for stolen Apple products is currently the Middle East.
It seems like a lot to go through in order to sell a stolen phone or tablet, but when you consider that the unlocking process costs only about $35, the profit margin is significant. In that regard, the black market cost to the consumer runs about $300 for iPhones and more for iPads.
We’ll keep an eye on developments in this area. In the meantime, perhaps the techies at Apple will come up with a solution.
George Vomvolakis Law Offices
275 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016