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60 seconds Buying cheap stolen goods: Grab bargain bikes & bling

Jenny | Edited by Steve N

Updated 1 Nov 2016

Pssst! Wanna buy cheap stolen goods? From bikes to a bit of bling, it's possible to grab goods at a fraction of the normal cost via a little-known website. And it's all completely legit - in fact, even the police are in on it...

Stolen loot? Hang on a minute, I’m a law-abiding citizen, thank you very much. Don't worry, it's all legal and above board. Many police forces in England and Wales use an eBay-style site, Bumblebee Auctions, to sell lost property or goods seized from criminals when they can't find the rightful owners.

So, what's on there that's a real steal (sorry)? Unsurprisingly, the most common categories are things that are most likely to be nicked – so bicycles, cameras, jewellery, tools, perfume and games consoles.

To get an idea of the deals on offer, click 'search auctions' on the left-hand side and select 'closed' to see a list of completed auctions, including sale prices.

Last time we checked, items which had recently been sold included a kid's BMX for £1 (second-hand ones go for about £25 on eBay), a unicycle for £10.50 (£30) and a Links of London bracelet charm for £5 (£20).

Of course, just because it's a police auction, that doesn't mean it's automatically cheap. Always check prices on eBay, Facebook selling groups and the used marketplace on Amazon* too. See our eBay Buying and Facebook Selling guides for more.

So how big is this? It's much more limited than eBay – there are usually only about 100 to 200 lots up for auction at once.

Always check if delivery's offered. The big downside is most items must be collected in person from whichever police station's flogging it.

You won't find every force on the site – police in London, Scotland and Northern Ireland aren't there, for example. But if there's a delivery option, you can get items sent anywhere in the UK for an extra fee, typically £5 to £8.

How do I get started? To sign up to Bumblebee Auctions, you must first set up an account for online payment system Nochex, which can take up to three days. When you register a card, Nochex takes a random £3 or less non-refundable admin charge from the card to check it's yours.

This is in effect a joining fee so make sure you know there is something you want to buy and it is worthwhile before you sign up.

After that, you can register to bid on Bumblebee – you need to use the same email address for both.

Does bidding work just like on eBay? Not quite. On eBay, you can sneakily win auctions by swooping in seconds before the deadline. Bumblebee works differently. If someone bids in the last 10 minutes, it automatically extends the auction by 10 minutes, giving others a chance to fight back.

Occasionally, auctions get cancelled when the rightful owner spots their property and claims it back. Of course, you'll get your cash back if you've already paid. If you've tried the site, please feed back on the Police auctions forum thread.

Help, I’ve spotted something that belongs to me… Police forces say they make every effort to trace the rightful owner of the property before they sell it. If you spot something that's yours, email and hopefully they'll reunite you with your property.

If in the very rare case you spot your property after it has been paid for and collected by the buyer, the police force will contact the buyer and attempt to negotiate its return.

Where do the proceeds go? Each force uses the money differently, but generally it goes into policing initiatives or to a charity fund to help worthy local causes.

I've got the auction bug. Any others worth checking out? Ever watched Storage Hunters, the US TV show where people bid for the mystery contents of storage units? Well, you can do something similar yourself, with lost luggage auctions. When airlines are unable to reunite lost bags with their rightful owners, they often sell them off via specialist auction houses.

You don’t always know what's inside the cases, but pick a winner and profits are possible from eBaying them on.

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