Karachi, Pakistan’s bustling trade hub, is grappling with a concerning trend – the sale of stolen mobile phones after a process known as “patching.” This illicit practice involves altering the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number of stolen phones, rendering them untraceable.
Individuals looking to sell stolen cell phones need only pay a meager sum of Rs500 to Rs1000 to have their device’s IMEI number changed. This seemingly small investment enables them to resell the stolen phones without fear of tracking.
The challenge lies in identifying such tampered devices. Only specialized resources, including IMEI number-checking websites, the Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), or skilled technicians, can verify or restore the original IMEI number of a patched phone.
These illicitly modified mobile phones are made available at significantly reduced prices, typically Rs10,000 to 15,000 cheaper than their original counterparts. Common citizens, while seeking budget-friendly options, often fall victim to this fraud.
This phenomenon closely resembles the alteration of engine or chassis numbers in stolen vehicles, with a crucial distinction – restoring the original chassis number of a vehicle is a formidable task, while reversing the changed IMEI number of a mobile phone can be accomplished relatively easily using specialized software.
Sources reveal that Samsung’s Note series, OnePlus, Motorola, and various local mobile brands are among the commonly patched phones by the underground network operating in areas like Orangi Town, Banaras, Quaidabad, Sakhi Hassan, and Saddar. Complicating matters, shopkeepers selling these phones often maintain connections with local law enforcement and government agencies.
In the sprawling mobile markets of Karachi, specific vendors are alleged to be complicit with the police and institutions in their operations. Large quantities of seized mobile phones are illicitly transported from Karachi to Quetta, either by car or bus, where extensive illegal mobile phone patching workshops operate. Mobile phones that cannot be patched find their way into Afghanistan through smuggling networks.
To protect themselves from unwittingly purchasing patched stolen phones, consumers are encouraged to use IMEI checkinfo websites for verification. In cases of doubt, the CPLC can also be reached for assistance.
As authorities grapple with this growing issue, it underscores the need for stricter regulations and increased awareness about the risks associated with buying budget mobile devices in Karachi’s thriving but often shadowy electronics markets.