Apple 2.0

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Stolen iPhones turn up in Russia

November 30, 2009: 6:56 AM ET

Smartphones linked to a big Belgian heist are being unloaded in batches of 100

Russian bloggers report that Apple (AAPL) iPhones in mint condition are being offered in batches of 100 at "knockdown" prices to wholesalers in Moscow's notorious Gorbushka electronics marketplace.

Because the phones are unlocked and have Belgian model numbers they are believed to be swag from the largest iPhone heist to date -- an industrial-scale B&E in which thieves cut a hole in the roof of a warehouse in Antwerp province and hauled off 3,000 to 4,000 iPhones.

Belgium is one of only three countries in Europe that sells iPhones without a SIM-lock, which makes the stolen phones easier to fence -- at least in theory.

The owner of a shop at Gorbushka, speaking on condition of anonymity, told iPhone.ru last week that the "Europeans" -- as the hot iPhones have been dubbed -- have already started to appear in the market's shop windows.

But many shopkeepers won't touch the things, writes iPhone.ru's Arthur Malosiev, because they've heard that Interpol has the iPhones' IMEI numbers. The dealers are afraid the police will confiscate their goods if buyers start complaining that their new phones have stopped working with local SIM cards.

"But those wholesalers who are not aware of news," writes Malisiev, "enjoy and spread coin." (Google translation.)

Malisiev advises potential customers to check the 7-character model number (under Settings/General/Model) before they buy. If the last two letters are NF, he writes, "Ask him to be replaced by another, so as not to sit in the New Year off with a pipe."

Via Cult of Mac.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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