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How to (legally) buy stolen goods at police auctions

Buying stolen goods sounds seriously dodgy, right? But through police auctions you can make big savings by buying stolen items and it's all completely legal!

buy stolen goods police auction

Ever wondered what the police do with all the stolen goods and lost property they recover if they can't return it to the owner? They sell it on for cheap prices at police auctions.

Yes, you can actually buy stolen goods in a way that's completely legal! And the best part is, not many people know police auctions exist – so they can be the perfect way to scoop a bargain. Interested?

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

What are police auctions?

what are police auctions

Credit: EA Games

Police often retrieve stolen goods from criminals or receive lost property from the public. If they aren't able to track down the original owner, they auction the items off and put the proceeds towards police initiatives, or donate it to charities.

The police don't have the capacity to store items (especially large items like bikes) for long periods of time, so police auctions are an effective way of legally passing them on.

If you spot something that you lost or was stolen from you in a police auction, you can easily contact the police with evidence to claim it back. But as a buyer, bear in mind that this means that auctions can sometimes be cancelled at the last minute if the original owner comes forward!

How to buy from police auctions

how to buy from police auctions

Credit: 20th Century Fox

There are three main types of police auction in the UK.

Our main piece of advice is that you shouldn't automatically assume something is a bargain because you've found it at a police auction. Make sure to check eBay, Amazon and Facebook selling groups to see if you can get a better price elsewhere first.

  1. Bumblebee Auctions

    bumblebee auctionsMany police forces in the UK use a site called Bumblebee Auctions to sell on their stolen goods. It's kind of like eBay, except not as user friendly and you'll only find a select amount of things on there at any one time.

    Categories which tend to have the most listed items include bikes, cameras, jewellery and games consoles, but the key is to keep checking back on a regular basis to spot the best finds.

    Before 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 admin fee of no more than £2 to get you started, and only then can you register on Bumblebee Auctions and start bidding on items – so we'd recommend being certain you'll make use of your account before signing up.

    The process can take up to four 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. This is when you watch other bidders go against each other and then jump in with your bid in the last few seconds to win the item. On Bumblebee, if you place a bid within the last 10 minutes, the auction is automatically extended by 10 more minutes.

    Bear in mind that most items will be collection only, although you can occasionally pay for delivery which is around £5–£8. If the item isn't as it was described on the site, you do have the right to return it and get a refund.

  2. Police eBay stores

    sell things on ebayA number of police forces have set up their own official eBay stores to sell on stolen goods or lost property. For example, Leicester Police, Cheshire Police, Nottinghamshire Police and Thames Valley Police all have their own stores.

    Again, larger items like bikes will likely be collection only, but smaller items often have a delivery option.

    To see if your local police force has an eBay store, check their website or give them a call.

    You'll need to bid for most items, but occasionally you'll see a 'Buy It Now' option – check out our tips for eBay buying to make sure you get the best deal!

  3. Auction houses

    buy from police auction housesFinally, some police forces use good old-fashioned auction houses instead. These are events where you physically go along to bid on items, like you may have seen on TV shows like Flog It or Homes Under The Hammer.

    You'll probably have to hunt out the details of any upcoming auctions on your local police force website or by searching online for police auctions in your area.

    Auction houses are perfect for selling on larger items as the buyer is able to take it away with them on the day. Plus, some auction houses allow potential buyers to come view items the day before the auction is due to take place so you can suss out what you want to bid for.

    Just remember that you normally have to register with an auction house to be able to bid there, and you'll have to pay a buyers' premium of 15–20% plus VAT on top of the sale price.

On the subject of theft, here's how to get cheap students' contents insurance and have a peak at our guide on staying safe from burglars.

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