A new service lets you check if goods are stolen or reported missing before you hand over your cash.

CheckMEND has data on 3.8 million stolen items, of which 35% are stolen mobile phones, and is used by police forces as well as customs and revenue.

Mobile phone companies and insurers also register mobiles that have been locked or barred after being reported stolen on CheckMEND.

Users can also register stolen items directly on CheckMEND's sister site, www.immobilise.com, as long as they know the IMEI, serial, or identification number.

Online sellers will receive a CheckMEND certificate if they've cleared their merchandise through the system. If sellers do tap in to the system, it will make buying online more reliable and safe.

The service isn't free; to search the database via text message costs £1.50, while an online search costs between £1 and £3.

Items that can be monitored by CheckMEND include mobiles, satnavs, consoles, media players, laptops, cameras, tools, and even bicycles.

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