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Attention thieves: Don’t try to trade in stolen iPhones on Gazelle

Consumer-electronics trade-in service Gazelle has long warned customers that it doesn’t accept stolen devices. But now the service is actually checking to see if the used iPhones, tablets, iPods and cameras it receives have shown up in a stolen-goods database. Starting Wednesday, the company has announced it will be running all items through the CheckMend database before sending the customer cash.

When Apple(s AAPL) releases a new iPhone, for example, Gazelle and other similar sites tend to see large spikes in customers who are willing to sell or recycle older devices. Gazelle gives them cash for those devices which customers can then put towards an upgrade. For example, during the iPhone 5 press event in September, Gazelle saw two iPhones turned in every second. Gazelle also knows that iPhones and their smartphone brethren are hugely popular among thieves, especially in major cities. In San Francisco, half of robberies involve a cellphone; in New York City, the statistic is about 40 percent.

That’s why Gazelle, which is an easy avenue to get cash for a device, decided to partner with CheckMend. “We are closing off a channel for getting rid of stolen products,” Gazelle CMO Sarah Welch told me. The company has always done a free data wipe on devices it receives from customers so their data isn’t accidentally exposed to whomever ends up buying the used device later. Checking those devices with CheckMend is just “an extension” of that practice, she said.

“The vast majority of trade-ins we get are completely legitimate,” said Welch. “Mostly it’s people looking to upgrade to the latest and greatest iPhone. So we believe it’s a very small issue but at the same time we do not want to be a party to creating incentives for anyone to steal those products.”

If a device does match with at item in CheckMend’s database, it is returned to the seller.

Welch says CheckMend’s comprehensive database gives them the ability to check devices it receives against data about lost or stolen devices from several law enforcement agencies, the FBI, as well as all major carriers and “an exhaustive list” of smaller carriers. The database includes information from the national carrier-backed database that went live this month.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr user samiksha 

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