Purchase of used items from online marketplaces has become risky as a cartel is using the sites to sell stolen goods including mobile phone sets, laptops and bikes.
The cartel has found sales of stolen phones and laptops very easy through different online marketplaces, including bikroy.com, ekhanei.com and clickbd.com transactions via which do not require any verification.
The customers remain largely unaware of whether the products they are buying through classified sites are legitimate or stolen.
Several customers alleged that they faced police harassment after buying mobile phone sets and laptops via online classified sites.
They said a few days after they had bought mobile phones through online classified sites, police traced their location or called them.
Many of them were interrogated and had to return the devices to the original owners afterwards.
Sources in police said miscreants sell low-priced stolen mobile sets usually in shops and on footpaths in Gulistan area but opted online classified sites for trading of costlier ones.
Tahmid Hossain, a student, said: “I came across an advertisement of an HTC smartphone on a popular online marketplace and contacted the seller, who identified himself as Sajib and said he is a student.”
“Later, we met in a shopping complex in Dhanmondi. I have checked the phone and paid Tk 12,000 for it.He gave me headphone, a data cable and charger with the mobile set,” he added.
“As I asked about the box of the phone, he said the phone was brought from abroad and that’s why he doesn’t have the box,” Tahmid said.
“I started using the phone. But after five days, a police official called me and asked about the phone. This is how I came to know that the phone was actually stolen a month ago from its original owner in Dhanmondi,” he went on saying.
“I tried to contact the person I bought the phone from. But I found his phone switched off.”
He said: “I managed them (police) to understand that I was a victim of deception and I bought the phone from someone. Afterwards, I had to hand over the phone to the police official who later returned it to its owner.”
Like Tahmid, many online buyers faced legal hassles after buying phones from online classified sites.
According to Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association (BMPIA), around 50,000 mobile handsets are snatched or stolen every year in Bangladesh.
Though stolen mobile phones can be traced easily through International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers, the law enforcers are often reluctant to respond to such crimes.
“We have many priorities other than tracking stolen mobile phones,” said a police official on condition of anonymity.
The section 411 and 412 of the Penal Code 1860 provides for legal action against anyone carrying ‘stolen properties’.
Sources said there are many rackets in the capital involved in such illegal trade.
Every racket has two groups. A group mug, snatch or steal mobile phones or laptops, and other devices and the second group sells them.
In most cases, the gang members sell those mobile phone and laptops through online classified sites as the process does not require any verification. Some shop owners also buy stolen goods from such the gangs.
The Detective Branch (DB) of police recently arrested six members of a gang involved in the mugging of laptops and selling those online. The detectives also recovered 90 stolen laptops from their possession.
According to information gleaned from the gang members, police recovered 56 stolen laptops from a house in Tolarbag area under Darussalam police station and another 34 snatched/stolen laptops from a shop in the city’s Panthapath area.
Abdul Baten, joint commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), said, “The gang members said they used to collect the laptops by mugging people in different areas in the capital and sell those online.”
On June 20 in 2015, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested three people with stolen laptops and mobile handsets worth Tk 11.12 lakh from the city’s Stadium Market.
A police official said they have no accurate statistics of how many general diaries or cases are registered in 49 police stations in the capital each month over theft of mobile phones and laptops.
When contacted, Yusuf Ali, Additional Deputy Commissioner (Media) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), said police regularly carry out drives to detain criminals who sell stolen mobile phones and laptops.
“We managed to nab many gangs involved in mugging and selling stolen mobile phone and laptops” he added.
He also advised the buyers to collect money receipt while buying mobile phones or laptops from shops. He also suggested for collecting proper documents while buying phones and laptops from online marketplaces.
He also requested the buyers not to buy mobile phones through online classified sites without proper verification.