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Computer thieves are stealing to order, selecting their prey by travelling around Britain, according to a new study commissioned by the Home Office. The study, Pulling the Plug on Computer Theft, found that fences selling stolen PCs are so sophisticated they research the market for hot equipment and meet dealers to assess demand prior to the crime. What's more, these techie tea-leaves take up about a third of the phone numbers in the computer sections of free ads newspapers like Loot, says Home office research. One in three were found to be numbers of already convicted dealers. The report said computer theft accounted for 18 per cent of non-domestic burglaries in Britain, costing businesses on average over £2600 per crime, and is as big a problem as credit card fraud. Professional teams are willing to travel to any part of the country, using anti-surveillance techniques to throw police off the scent, and committ repeat thefts. Out of a sample taken of 1048 items of recovered stolen property, there were 477 computers, 372 other items of hardware, 153 printers, 31 word processors, 14 pieces of software and one computer game. Six companies in Salford, Manchester, were investigated for the study, which also pinpointed the robbers' favourite brands of computer. Compaq came out top, accounting for around ten per cent of stolen kit. IBM came a close second with around nine per cent, followed by Hewlett-Packard with seven per cent. Orders for stolen Dells couldn't have been too hot in the North West -– the direct seller lagged behind at under five per cent. ®

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