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Man arrested for buying stolen iPhone online in Abu Dhabi

Lawyer, retailers urge second-hand buyers to ask for receipt of purchase

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Phoney business: Hundreds of phones are advertised each day on online classified websites. Buyers must excercise extreme caution before buying them

Abu Dhabi: Think twice before buying phones from unknown sources. You could land in jail.

An Asian executive thought he had bagged a great deal when he bought an iPhone through an online classified site. But his joy soon turned into horror when the Abu Dhabi police detained him over the weekend. It turned out that the iPhone was stolen.

The phone was put up for sale on an online classifieds site around May. The man bought it for Dh800 from a colleague who had snapped it up from the website for Dh1,200. No receipt or warranty was given.

Abu Dhabi police traced the executive in Dubai last week. He was detained for two nights before being released on bail on Sunday.

It was not immediately clear what version of iPhone it was. An iPhone 4s 16GB with warranty is advertised for Dh1,550 ($413), an iPhone 5, 16GB retails for Dh2,599 ($693).

An electronics industry executive said residents should be wary of buying second-hand handsets.

Ashish Panjabi, chief operating officer of Jacky’s Electronics, said: “There is a Latin phrase, ‘caveat emptor’, which means ‘buyer beware’. As a buyer, you should always be aware of who and what you are buying as it may have serious ramifications going forward.

“If you do buy a smartphone device from a stranger, ask them to insert their SIM card into the phone to check if the phone is working. This will help register their phone onto the network and if you are later questioned by police, you can ask them to check if the phone was previously registered or used.

“At the minimum, keep a record of the seller, whether it be their e-mail address and mobile phone number as this can help authorities track down the concerned individual,” he said.

Trade in second-hand electronics — iPhones in particular — without receipts or warranties are widespread in the UAE, with hundreds of mobile phone products advertised on one UAE-based classifieds site alone.

XPRESS called a number of people who advertised iPhones online on the same site, but many said either they had no receipt and warranty card or had already lost them.

Lawyer Amer Syed Al Marzooqi warned buyers. He cited Article 407 of the UAE Penal Code which states that anyone who buys stolen objects such as a mobile phone knowing that the piece is stolen becomes a partner in the crime. “People should protect themselves and should always ask for a receipt of what he buys ... and avoid buying anything from street sellers.”

Recently, XPRESS ran pictures taken by a smartphone reportedly stolen from Spain showing ‘selfies’ taken by a man with UAE buildings in the background. A German woman who claimed to be the iPhone’s real owner said she found numerous pictures of the man taken by the phone in her personal online inbox.

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