The international stolen phone market is approximately $30 billion per year, and there’s a huge funnel for the lucrative devices straight to Colombia. As reported by the Huffington Post, the illegal smartphone operation is just as dangerous, profitable, and illegal as its cocaine counterpart. Sometimes, they are even smuggled together.
Colombia’s stolen phone problem is so bad, the government has gone as far as making this bloody video to demonize the purchase of stolen phones.
Colombian officials are finding stolen phones imported from as far away as Spain and Singapore. They travel like most other illegal items – stuffed inside toys or disguised as food. Once in Columbia, their serial numbers are altered, making them virtually impossible to track. Sometimes, they are even stripped down to their motherboards to make for easier transport.
In Colombia, using a smartphone on the street is considered a “deathtrap” since violent phone muggings have claimed at least 20 lives in the past two years. It’s not as dangerous in the US – but that doesn’t mean muggers will not mace or attack a phone user for their electronics. Until there’s an easy way to completely disable stolen smartphone hardware, there will be no reprieve from the violence of illegal activities. Phone manufacturers, for their part, are resisting drastic or useful measures and have even been accused of profiteering from stolen phones.