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The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) reckons demand for smartphones on the black market has in part fuelled a rise in knife robberies.

According to a study of crime reports in the UK, police forces in England and Wales recorded nearly 15,000 robberies at knifepoint in the year to June, up 7 per cent on the previous year, as total crime levels fell 4 per cent to 4.1 million incidents.

The numbers were broken down by the Home Office yesterday, showing that 29 per cent of all thefts reported involved mobile handsets, up from, er, 28 per cent in the previous 12 months.

But just 3 per cent of theft was related to computers or other electrical goods, down from five per cent to June 2010.

“The increase in robbery and robbery with knives is a cause for concern," said Merseyside chief constable Jon Murphy. "We believe this is in part driven by demand for mobile phone handsets, which can fetch more than double their worth on the black market abroad."

"Worryingly, a large pro­portion of phone owners still do not have passcodes on their phones, leaving them vulnerable to possible ID theft and fraud," he added.

Recent research by paper-shredding equipment supplier Fellowes states that 7 per cent of Britons, four million folk, had been victims of identity fraud at some point.

Fraud prevention service CIFAS claimed that 80,000 people have been targets this year, with ID theft costing on average £1,190 – though in severe cases it had risen to £9,000.

Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting and advice centre, estimated that £245,000 worth of loss in September was due to ID theft.

Jamey Johnson, head of Action Fraud, said: "It is important to report a loss to Action Fraud, but it is more important to protect yourself from it happening in the first place. Limiting access to your personal information is the key to safety from ID fraud." ®

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