How to (legally) buy stolen goods

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By in Shopping. Updated November 2016.

Making a big purchase on a student budget isn’t easy, but luckily there’s a way to bag a serious bargain by buying stolen goods. And yes, it’s legal!
beware of thievesNo need to continue meeting sketchy characters down dark alleyways to get your fix of stolen goods!

Did you know you can actually purchase pinched goods in broad daylight and under the eyes of the law? What’s more, the police are even involved themselves (and not in the way you think!).

We’re not talking dodgy cops here either, and the whole process is completely legal. We are, of course, talking about police auctioning – when the police sell off items they’ve retrieved from thieves and donate the cash to charity. Interested?

Have you been a victim of theft? Read our guide to staying safe as a student.

How can this be legal?

sceptical babyThe process of police auctioning is perfectly legal, and a lot less dodgy than it perhaps sounds.

After a burglary and the crook’s been caught, the police are left with stolen loot taking up storage space in the back of police stations.

Rather than just throw the items away, or dish them out to their own family and friends for Christmas (which would actually be illegal), the police send the items off to auction and all proceeds go to charity or community initiatives.

And, before you ask, the police do try to return items to their rightful owners first! They only sell on items when their original owners can’t be tracked down, so you’re not likely to find your own stolen items up for grabs (but on the off chance you do, just send a quick email to the police with some proof and you’ll get it back).

How it works

cat burglar

A lot of police forces in the UK use a website called Bumblebee Auctions to sell on stolen goods. It’s a lot like eBay, but with a bit less choice on offer.

Only a couple hundred items are listed at any given time so it is pretty limited, but it’s updated with new loot quite frequently (sadly, due to the frequency of thefts!) so we’d recommend you check the site regularly to see if anything catches your eye.

However, you won’t find every police force in the UK auctioning off their stolen loot online. West Midlands Police use an auction house instead, whilst Leicester Police have their very own eBay store!

It’s worth having a quick look online to see what your local police force does with any ill-gotten goods, and if you can’t find any info – reach out to them (and even suggest they start a Bumblebee account if they aren’t in the know!).

Getting started

what is the law for internshipsBefore you can bid on an item with Bumblebee Auctions, you first need to register on Nochex (which is essentially the same thing as Paypal) and link it to your bank account.

Nochex will take a non-refundable fee of no more than £3 to get you started, and only then can you register on Bumblebee Auctions and start bidding on items.

The process can take up to 4 days to go through, but this system has been put in place to weed out time-wasters and make sure you’re a genuine buyer.

Unlike with eBay, you can’t ‘snipe’ an item on Bumblebee – which is when you watch other bidders go against each other then you jump in with your bid in the last few seconds to win the item. If you place a bid within the last 10 minutes, the auction is automatically extended by 10 more minutes.

If your local police force isn’t on Bumblebee, you can still sign-up for alerts that will notify you when they join. Amazingly, some police will even go as far as delivering your items to you free of charge. Now that’s service!

And the moral of the story is…

buying stolen goodsJust recently, a pop-up store appeared in Shoreditch, London, selling cheap items that had previously been pinched. Again, the items on sale were all donated by police in London, and the proceeds went to charity.

The shop, intelligently dubbed the ‘Stolen Goods Shop,’ was set up by a contents insurance company called Back Me Up, in the hope of reminding people how common thefts are in London and just how important it is to get decent contents insurance.

Although we’re all keen to get our hands on a heavily reduced bike at police auction, this is also a reminder of just how many thefts happen on the daily in the UK.

If you’ve been a victim of theft, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on police auctions. If you see your belongings up for sale, let the auctioneers know – hopefully you’ll be reunited with your stuff soon enough!

Here’s how to get cheap students’ contents insurance and have a peak at our guide on staying safe in student areas.

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