The e-bike theft and resale scam targets electric bike owners


If you thought having your pride and joy stolen was bad enough, think again. London gangs are reportedly using trackers originally designed to deter thieves to instead ‘re-steal’ bikes they’ve previously nicked and sold on. Want to make sure you’re protected from more ‘traditional’ theft practices? Check out the best bike locks and our tips for keeping your eMTB safe.

What are the thieves doing?

This is pretty unlike any typical bike theft crime ring we’ve heard about before. First reported on Cycling Electric, the gangs still start with stealing e-bikes, but then fit the bikes with third party trackers. This means when they sell the bikes to unwitting buyers, they can then track the location of the bikes and re-steal them.

According to reports, the thieves have also been producing forged shop receipts that look pretty convincing and make it look like the bikes were originally bought from genuine retailers.

“Thieves are, unfortunately, getting smarter,” Dan Parsons from Fully Charged, one of the shops affected by the scame, told Cycling Electric. “A gang in London has been pretending to be Fully Charged in recent months. They’re stealing electric bikes, selling them on with a fake Fully Charged invoice, then those customers are coming to us with the receipts wondering if certain fixes can be made. Of course they have bought under the illusion it is bought second hand, but instead they are in possession of stolen bike.”

Bosch’s new battery database can allow potential buyers to check whether the bike they’re looking at has been marked as stolen previously

How can you protect yourself from buying a stolen e-bike?

While it may not have hit the big time with eMTBs just yet, since it’s such a lucrative operation for the thieves involved, and the often high prices electric mountain bikes can fetch, it’s important to be extra vigilant if you’re buying one second-hand. Fully Charged is working with the MET’s Action Fraud team, but on the whole, anyone who’s had a bike stolen knows how low-down on the list of police priorities it can be.

The most obvious way to protect yourself from accidentally buying a stolen bike is to buy from a genuine retailer in the first place. But, brand new eMTBs aren’t within everyone’s budget, so who can blame anyone for going bargain hunting?

Firms like Bosch are wising up to certain aspects of theft, and recently announced plans for an online service where you can check your battery’s history and whether it’s been reported stolen or not. So utilise databases like these, and other bike marking databases. Ask the seller for the frame number and serial number of the drive unit – if they’re unwilling to provide this information then it might be advisable to move on.

Second, if something seems like too good of a deal, or if the advert (if it’s online) raises suspicions, trust your gut. It’s a cliché but if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.