Mobile companies have stepped up the fight against phone theft by reducing the time it takes to block stolen handsets.
New figures reveal that stolen mobiles phones are now being barred on their home network within a single day.
And 98% of stolen handsets are now blocked for use across all networks within 48 hours, according to the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum (MICAF).
That’s up from 50% in November 2006.
Last year 800,000 people had their mobile phone stolen in the UK – 70% of which happened after owners left them unattended.
A phone is stolen in around 52% of robberies and is the only item stolen in around 28%.
The government made it an offence in April to offer to or agree to re-program a mobile phone. Previously police officers had to catch someone in the act.
Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker hailed the latest figures and said: ‘These results send a powerful message to anyone thinking of stealing or buying a stolen mobile that it will not work.
‘By working with industry to take stolen mobiles out of action on the one hand, and enacting tough legislation to give police powers to close down unscrupulous retailers who offer to unblock stolen phones on the other, we are cutting the oxygen of mobile phone crime.
‘The industry and the police deserve credit for their efforts.’
The government is also providing advice on how to legitimately buy a second-hand mobile phone.