Responsible digital marketplaces – reducing the ease with which stolen property can be resold

Have you ever had something you cherish taken from you? It’s an awful feeling. Well, that’s how I felt when my beloved bicycle, Stella, was stolen recently. I’ve done everything in my power to track her down, but it’s been a frustrating and eye-opening experience.


Bicycle purchases and bicycle theft have gone through the roof this year as more people turn to cycling for exercise and transportation.

Bike shops have had ridiculous wait times for new bicycles. Sometimes shops request people wait up to 1 year to receive their new toy. Most people would prefer to receive their new bike much sooner than that, and some would like to spend a little less money buying a bicycle secondhand.

Some of the secondhand bicycles for sale were stolen.

The best bike locks take just over a minute to be cut with high-powered discreet tools, making it easy for thieves to fill the supply and demand gap. The 1-year potential wait time can easily be cut to a matter of days if bought through eBay or similar sites.

Bicycles all have frame numbers. The frame number can be used to identify the bike and prove ownership should a bicycle be stolen. If a bicycle is stolen, then the owner can register it on one of the two primary bicycle databases, or

However, not all bicycle owners know their frame numbers, and not everyone registers their bikes (with the police or one of the databases) when they are stolen. However, some of us do…

The problem

Marketplaces like eBay are where lots of stolen bicycles end up. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that sellers of stolen goods often create listings with vague descriptions and unrealistically low prices and ask buyers to pick up and pay in cash or cryptocurrency.

As far as I’m aware – eBay does little to combat the numerous illegal bicycles sold on their platform.

96% said [marketplaces] weren’t doing enough to combat theft

Stolen bike survey

Picture this: You’re scrolling through eBay, searching for a shiny new bicycle to cruise around town. Finally, you come across one that catches your eye, but you hesitate. How do you know it’s not stolen? You don’t want to contribute to the underground economy of stolen goods, but you also don’t want to miss out on a great deal.

The Solution

Enter eBay’s potential solution: including the bicycle’s frame number in the listing details. This simple addition could make a world of difference in reducing the number of stolen bikes sold on eBay and similar platforms. In addition, by providing prospective buyers with the means to check the bicycle’s registration status, eBay could increase trust and transparency in their marketplace.

Proposed design change to bike listing page on eBay

Personally, I’ve avoided purchasing bicycles on eBay altogether because I can’t be sure of their origins. But suppose more platforms commit to making it more difficult for sellers to trade stolen property. In that case, we can reduce the prevalence of these shady deals and ensure that we’re buying items from legitimate sources. Sure, some unscrupulous sellers may move to other platforms, but the more platforms take a stand against stolen goods, the less readily available they will be for the average buyer.

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