'Patching': New business of stolen cellphones starts in Karachi

Sources say person selling stolen mobile phone pays Rs500 to Rs1000 to get mobile's IMEI number changed

An undated image of smartphones displayed at a gadgets shop. — Facebook
An undated image of smartphones displayed at a gadgets' shop. — Facebook

  • Karachi continues to grapple with street crime, robberies.
  • Only CPLC or experts can check or restore original IMEI number. 
  • Patched phone available at Rs10,000 to 15,000 cheaper price.

KARACHI: A new business of stolen mobile phones' sale after "patching" has gripped Karachi, Pakistan's biggest trade hub that continues to grapple with street crime and robberies at gunpoint.

The mafia involved in the illicit business resells the stolen mobile phones after patching, which is changing its International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number so that it cannot be tracked.

The person selling a stolen cellphone just has to pay Rs500 to Rs1000 to get its IMEI number changed.

Market sources say that only IMEI number-checking websites, the Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), or expert technicians can check or restore the original IMEI number of a patched phone.

They said that a patched mobile phone is available at a price of Rs10,000 to 15,000 cheaper than the original price, and while buying such mobile phones, common citizens cannot identify the fraud.

This fraud is similar to tampering with the engine or chassis numbers of a stolen vehicle. The difference is that it is difficult to restore the original chassis number of the vehicle while it is easy to restore the changed IMEI number of the mobile phone with the help of software.

The sources further said that Samsung's Note series, OnePlus, Motorola, and other local mobiles are common phones that are being patched by the mafia operating in Orangi Town, Banaras, Quaidabad, Sakhi Hassan, and Saddar.

Shopkeepers selling such phones have contacts with the police and government agencies.

In mobile markets, such specific vendors have been colluding with the police and institutions.

According to sources, a large number of seized mobile phones are smuggled from Karachi to Quetta by cars or buses, while big illegal mobile phone patching workshops are operating in Quetta.

The mobile phones that cannot be patched are smuggled to Afghanistan.

People may use IMEI checkinfo website to verify the IMEI of the mobile phone they are purchasing. In case of doubt, the CPLC can also be contacted.