Pawnshops are easy pickings for thieves disposing stolen goods

Gold and money

The ease with which burglars can dispose of stolen goods in high street pawnshops has been revealed.

Undercover researchers were able to pawn household items commonly stolen including gold and computer games in 60% of brokers without any form of identification.

Some 55% of pawnbrokers didn't ask for proof of legal ownership and not one store asked where the items had come from.

Churchill Home Insurance, which conducted the research, also interviewed convicted thieves who confirmed that pawnshops are a major channel for disposing of stolen merchandise.

One said: "Pawn shops... they were used yes, it was surprisingly easy. Too easy if I am honest."

Another said: "I have done pawn brokers a few times and I never had a problem."

The research also revealed that criminals shifting their ill-gotten gains through pawnbrokers are aware they generally get less than half the retail value of items but are willing to use the shops because of the ease with which they can dispose of stolen goods.


Martin Scott, head of Churchill Home Insurance, said: "The ease with which burglars are able to dispose of stolen merchandise on the British high street is truly frightening.  

"If we can close the doors on stolen goods disposal, making it as difficult as possible for burglars to make money, we can make this type of crime less attractive. Burglars are able to convert goods into cash in just a matter of minutes, because employees in cash conversion outlets are failing to make sufficient checks for identification."

The undercover sellers visited 50 pawnshops in the south east of England to conduct the research.

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Your Comments

Without access to the report, certainly the Churchill Insurance release seems vague, pulling together all retailers under one banner.
As far as pawnbroking is concerned, it is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and complaints reviewed by the Financial Ombudsman Service. There are only a handful of complaints regarding pawnbrokers per annum compared to hundreds of thousands against banks, for example. There are over 2000 pawnbroking stores in the UK and they must comply with the rigorous rules set by the FCA and Consumer Credit Act 1974.
The National Pawnbrokers Association (NPA) members work closely with the police and the NPA are part of the Metropolitan Police's Safe Seller scheme and the national Gold Standard code - an initiative praised by the Home Office. In addition our members have to comply with a rigorous code of conduct.
The Churchill Insurance report seems incredulous. It is not in the pawnbrokers' interest to take in a stolen item. If it were ceased by police the pawnbroker invariably loses out. Customer checks are rigorous and legally requied and all data is kept for 5 years.
Why would a criminal pawn an item when he would have to prove address, produce ID and likely have his photo taken?
In terms of providence of a gold ring, anything suspicious is immediately reported to the authorities but how many perfectly law abiding citizens can show a receipt for their wedding ring, for example? Who would know where their great grandmother's engagement ring was purchased?
We are genuinely surprised by the report cited by your magazine as it contradicts common sense and experience.
There are clearly criminals out there and they are much more likely to sell the item to a back street general retailer than visit a pawnbroker.
We therefore question the term 'pawnbroker' in the context used by Churchill Insurance and would want to investigate who they visited and the size and robustness of the research because the information seems contrary to experience and common sense.