Gazelle's business has always been to extend the lifecycle of consumer devices, and we do our best to ensure the seller is the rightful owner of any item we buy. We are using the latest technology to try to identify stolen devices and not perpetuate the sale of them. A big part of reducing the incidences of device theft involves consumer education; we encourage our customers to register their new devices with their cell phone carrier and local police, and to consider various apps available to help keep track of their electronics and delete data remotely, if needed. We also recommend proactive measures to catalog all personal technology through registry databases, such as Immobilize (www.immobilize.net) and we provide helpful articles for device and data protection on our blog www.gazelle.com/thehorn.
Q: What do you do to a device when you receive it?
We follow a very thorough inspection process when we receive a device. First, we record the item's electronic serial number (ESN). We then run the device through an industry-leading device status tool (called CheckMEND) to ensure the item has not been reported as lost or stolen. If it's cleared, we inspect the device, remove all data and pay the customer.
As part of Gazelle's promise to each of its customers, we remove all data from each device we receive by following manufacturer guidelines to do a factory reset and remove and destroy the SIM card (where applicable).
Q. How do you determine whether a device has been reported lost or stolen?
We use CheckMEND, a state-of-the-art tool that includes information from carriers, law enforcement and insurance companies to identify whether a device has been reported either lost or stolen. CheckMEND is a cutting-edge tool designed to more accurately detect potentially stolen goods, including smartphones, tablets and computers. Developed by Recipero, the largest U.S. consumer electronics background report service, CheckMEND compiles data from major wireless carriers, law enforcement and insurance companies across the country (including the FBI) to provide the most complete database of lost or stolen devices. Gazelle was the first consumer electronics trade-in site to deploy CheckMEND in the United States.
We are constantly re-evaluating our procedures to make sure we are doing our best to protect consumers. Today, only a fraction of one percent of devices we receive are flagged as lost or stolen, and we believe that thieves are unlikely to try to sell a device online because they won t want to disclose identifying information like email and mailing addresses. To the extent we do see devices that may have been reported as lost or stolen, we regularly cooperate with law enforcement around the country in the investigation of those incidences.
Q. What do you do to help the recovery of stolen items?
We also regularly assist law enforcement in the investigation of stolen property. We record the device's electronic serial number for each item we receive, so we can provide a trail for items under inquiry. Also, all devices, regardless of whether they are reported as lost or stolen, go through our data wipe process.
Q. How do you ensure the security of any data that was left behind? Does this differ for laptops, iPads and other tablets?
We take security very seriously at Gazelle. With smartphones, iPads and other tablets, it's essentially a 1-click process to clear all data and reset the device back to its original factory settings. For Macs and computers, the process of removing data from laptops is very different, mostly because consumers tend to store more personal and sensitive information on their personal computer. Therefore, we do a more thorough data wipe, which includes use of a Use Disk Utility tool to reinstall the OS, then write zeros over all free space on the drive. If the drive is unable to be erased, it is removed and destroyed.
Q. What are you doing to clearly communicate your policy regarding no acceptance of lost or stolen items?
As part of our online trade-in process, each of our customers are required to contractually confirm the device is in fact theirs to sell and has not been reported as lost or stolen. We also remind customers at several points in the process that we do not accept items that have been reported lost or stolen.
Q. What are your plans for the future to enhance this capability?
We are continuing to invest in systems and processes that will help prevent the purchase of lost or stolen items. Gazelle was the first U.S. trade-in site to leverage CheckMEND.
Our goal is to learn from the much more mature trade-in process in Europe, where a tool like CheckMEND is tightly tied to law enforcement; any device that is being sold is checked against a database and if it had been flagged as lost or stolen, law enforcement is immediately notified and able to investigate. There are also laws protecting trade-in businesses who responsibly check and report the devices they purchase.
We do see progress in the United States. The U.S. carriers, for example, are collaborating with the FCC to build a central database that will provide information on stolen items and OEM's like Apple are beginning to build functionality into their devices that permits remote device blocking. Gazelle is very supportive of these new approaches and technology.
Q. If a consumer loses a device or has something stolen, what should they do?
Consumers should call their carrier if a phone or tablet is lost or stolen. We also recommend that consumers file a police report. Additionally, leveraging an app like Find my iPhone enables customers to not only track the device if it has been misplaced, but remotely delete all data from that device. For Apple products specifically, iCloud allows remote data wipe of those devices and, soon, the new iOS 7 will allow users to remotely block their device if lost or stolen.
We also recommend proactive measures to catalog all personal technology through registry databases, such as Immobilize (www.immobilize.net). Please also see other helpful articles and tips for device safety on our blog: www.gazelle.com/thehorn.