'I had my phone stolen in London, and I tracked it to China'

iPhones stolen on the streets of the UK are being tracked to the exact same district of China described as the country's 'Silicon Valley'.

Mine was, and it turns out it isn't the only one.

In a split second as I glanced at my phone while crossing the road on a quiet street in London a bike tore past me grabbing my phone in the process.

Before I even noticed the phone had gone, the thief had sped round the corner, switched the phone off and was gone with a device I suddenly realised contained my entire life.

Photos, notes, emails, social media accounts and messages - immediately felt like they were out of my ownership and my privacy had been invaded.

A phone is stolen every six minutes in London alone according to the Met Police, and it made up 70% of all thefts in the capital last year - only a fraction of them are ever recovered.

After I tracked the device bouncing around London addresses on Find My iPhone I lost all hope of ever recovering it.

It was only when i checked a few weeks later to my surprise my phone appeared in Shenzhen, China.

Concerned, I looked to see if it was a common occurrence and discovered other people phone theft victims reporting the same experience.

Though not only were all the phones turning up in China, but they were showing up in exactly the same area.

I spoke to Margherita Argan, an assistant in London who had just had her phone stolen in the city.

"While I was crossing the road I heard somebody touching me quite slightly [...] I checked my pocket and the phone was gone."

I asked her to keep me updated on the phones whereabouts suspecting it would shortly arrive in China.

"The phone moved in London [...] then it moved to China.

"I felt very annoyed at the time because I had to change everything and also you still have that feeling"

"You don't have the certainty this person can't access your photos, your social media, your bank accounts."

We discovered the area they are appearing in is a hardware paradise where phones and other electrical items are in abundance ranging from phone screens to processors.

Otherwise known as the 'Silicon Valley of China' over decades the area turned in to a sprawling district of competing businesses specialising in electronics.

Hacker and activist Andrew 'bunny' Huang has visited the markets and says there are literally "electronics crawling out of the walls".

Otherwise known as the 'Silicon Valley' of China the district in Shenzhen is known for it's electronics and hardware Credit: social media

"There is like a ridiculous wealth of electronic parts and the pace is very fast. People are moving bricks of components back and forth".

The market is dedicated to phone repairs, modifications and trade-ins with each stall specialising in a specific area of electronics like the screen or the battery for example.

Although the stolen devices are being transported here, individual businesses in Shenzhen will more than likely not know if the phones are stolen.

'Bunny' believes once they arrive the stolen phones are either "being chopped up into parts and resold [...] or if the phone's perfectly serviceable it may become the next person's trade-ins."

Inside the electronics markets businesses work on different electronic devices for paying customers Credit: social media

Some are likely being turned into 'Frankenstein' phones which are parts of various devices put together to make one handset.

"Those parts can be put together into new phones new cases and different features it's pretty impressive what they're able to do I mean just over the counter"

But it's still unclear exactly how the phones are being exported to China and who they're being exported by.

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The Met Police said they were "aware there is a market for phones stolen in London, and in other parts of the country, outside of the UK."

"Stolen phones can be valuable to criminals for a number of reasons including re-sale via criminal markets, broken down parts or data theft."

"The Met is implementing a range of measures to tackle the initial theft of phones as well as the criminals profiting from the thefts."

"We are constantly searching for and testing new techniques and technologies to help us tackle this issue."

"We are working with the mobile industry to solve this problem together."

But what becomes clear speaking with 'bunny' is that this is not the fault of those working on the phones in China, but rather those stealing them in the UK and other parts of the world.

"They’re like look I just deal with parts; I sell parts I trade parts; go over to the UK and get the thief who stole it, right?"

"But don't come to me and tell me that I'm now all of a sudden responsible for enforcing the supply and demand of these sorts of things because I also make sure that you have replacement cameras and screens too."

The Met added that the first hour after a phone is stolen is key to catching the thief.

Otherwise known as the ‘Golden Hour’, during this time "officers are able to ascertain crucial forensic evidence, helping to catch violent criminals and remove them from the streets."Apple UK were approached for comment.

The Met police say you can play a role too when it comes to protecting your valuables.A spokesperson said: "Look Up, Look Out to make yourself less vulnerable to personal robbery and stay aware of your surroundings and pay attention to who is around you."

"Keep valuables such as mobile phones, watches and cash out of sight. Plan your route home."

But if a device is stolen, the force advises you should tell your network provider as soon as possible, so they can block the handset to stop anyone else using it.

It's good practice to mark the device as lost if your handset has tracking settings so if the phone is unlocked it stops thieves accessing your data.

But the police still maintain: "If you are a victim of robbery, you can give us the best chance of catching them by contacting us as soon as possible by dialling 999."