How Can a Pawnbroker Detect Stolen Goods?

Posted by admin on December 27, 2019

There is an unfortunate stereotype often perpetuated by Hollywood that pawnbrokers will accept anything, even if the item in question is stolen. 

Not only is it demonstrably untrue that a good pawnbroker would ever accept stolen goods, but there are plenty of measures in place to prevent such things from happening. 

This is because pawnbrokers are an ethical bunch; they very much believe in integrity and wish never to deceive a customer or deal in something that belongs to someone else. 

But the measures in place are not only there to protect the pawnbroker, but they also exist to protect the customer as well. 

This is why it’s crucial for all pawnbrokers, big and small, can detect stolen goods, even upon receiving them. 

Suspicious Behaviour

It starts when the person giving the item is behaving suspiciously. They might not be holding a swag bag but there are telltale signs that can tip a pawnbroker off.

For instance, if upon asking the person does not know when or where they acquired the item or how long they’ve had it, this could be a very obvious indication it is stolen.

But this isn’t really solid enough evidence. The person may simply have forgotten, which is why pawnbrokers are tried to look for more clues.

A perfect example would be if the person trying to pawn the item tells the pawnbroker one thing but a close examination of the object tells another story, such as the difference between an 8 and 24-carat gold necklace. 

There are also, more general signs of suspicious behaviour. Fidgeting and other signs of distress and impatience under intense scrutiny will be more than enough to tell if a person is lying. 

While stereotypical, it also raises an eyebrow if a male in their early thirties tried to pawn women’s jewellery.  All those intending to pawn items must also provide ID, which may prove a problem to them and might be another sign of their dishonesty. 

Forensic Analysis

Another way to detect stolen goods is to apply forensic analysis to the stolen item. This may sound a bit extreme to some but in some cases it’s necessary.

With more and more jewellery buyers being urged to mark their jewellery with a forensic code, police and pawnbrokers alike can have a much easier time detecting stolen goods.

Owners can buy a kit and mark it with their own specific code which they can then register with the police. 

If the item ever goes missing and winds up in a pawnbroker’s hand, they can check the database to see if it’s a stolen good. 

The same goes for property marking. There have been numerous cases in the past where effective property marking has led the stolen item to be returned to its original owner. 

This has only become easier with the arrival of the digital age. Checking such things has become a breeze and pawnbrokers are more than willing to cooperate with the police if ever a missing item found itself inside their shop. 

Signs of Tampering

Of course, the thief could have tampered with the stolen item in order to forge its supposed legitimacy. 

Such methods are crude and pointless, however, as a pawnbroker is trained to identify signs of tampering with a stolen good.

It doesn’t matter if the item in question is a diamond ring or a Rolex watch. There are many different signs of tampering can look out for. 

Any scratches or marks that shouldn’t be there, any identifying features that have been sanded off or marked off are enormous telltale signs that the item is, in fact, stolen. 

Naturally, it may be difficult to do this in front of the customer as finding such signs will involve a lot of close inspection. 

What Can a Pawnbroker Do? 

So, if a pawnbroker suspects they have a stolen good in their hands, what can they do about it? Or, more accurately, what should they do?

A pawnbroker is under no obligation to hand over money for every item they come across. Indeed, if the customer cannot simply produce any form of ID, then the pawnbroker can refuse the sale. 

The next step would then be to phone the police. This response could lead to the original owner being reunited with their valuable items and/or the arrest of a persistent criminal, as it is likely that those trying to get a cash loan for stolen goods is a repeat offender. 


The next time you are thinking of getting a pawnbroking loan, it may be a good idea to check if it’s not stolen before you sell the item. 

Pawnbrokers have numerous methods of detecting this so it would be inadvisable to try and hoodwink them. 

All pawnbrokers are authorised and regulated by government bodies such as the British Security Industry Association. 

They do not involve themselves in handling stolen goods. That stereotype is very much a myth. 

Cuttings the Pawnbroker

If you’re looking for a good loan term, our pawnbroking service at Cuttings may be just the one you’re after. Visit our page for more details. 


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