Do Pawn Shops Check For Stolen Items – ANSWERED!

Brian McCracken


Hand taking wallet out of bag.


I know, I know – when it comes to stolen merchandise it seems that one of the first things that everyone thinks about is a pawn shop and if something ended up at one. The truth of that matter is that most pawn brokers are extremely ethical business operators and do everything in their power to prevent stolen merchandise from coming into their stores.

That having been said, it can be hardly than you might typically imagine to prevent all stolen merchandise from coming in – but I promise you – it’s not nearly as much as you might think.

In the stores that I’ve worked with, stolen property makes up less than 1% of all transactions based on police reports and customer reports of potentially stolen merchandise.

That’s really low considering just how much merchandise walks into your average pawn shop on a daily basis. It’s even lower when you consider for a moment the fact that everyone and their brother seems to think that the pawn shop is where stolen things go.

But here’s the question – do pawn shops actually check for stolen items or not? The answer is that yes, a pawn shop will check, particularly if there is a police report attached to the incident.

How Pawn Shops Check For Stolen Items

There’s a few ways that you local pawn shop may check to see if an item is stolen or not before taking it in.

Police Reports

The most common way is simply to see if there has been a recent report of a similar item with a matching model number, serial number or description having been recently reported to the police as stolen.

Often times, police departments will call, fax or email local pawn shops to see if items have come in or to put the pawn shop on notice that they are looking for a particular item or set of items as they are attached to some kind of theft or burglary of some sort.

If an item that has been reported stolen comes in, the pawn shop may elect to take it in purely to get the item off the street and back to the rightful owner. In addition, the seller will often have to provide identification as to who they are and that can be used by the police department to prosecute the suspect down the road.

Pawn Shop store sign.
Pawn shops do a very good job at keeping stolen merchandise out of their stores. Stolen items make up less than 1% of all pawn transactions.

This is even more true if the item is something like a highly valuable piece of jewelry where details about the diamond might come into play. Another example would be if a young male brings in a very expensive woman’s ring – that can raise an eyebrow. After all, there’s not many scenarios under which he would have such an expensive piece of womens jewelry and as such he may be asked some more probing questions.

During this time if the seller gets nervous or appears to be distressed by the questions or the fact that they have to provide identification, the pawn shop may get a little suspicious that the item in question is potentially stolen and may refuse the transaction altogether.

Signs Of Tampering

Another situation might be if the item that someone is bringing in has obviously recently had the serial number tag removed or ground off the item.

Serial number
If the serial number has been tampered with the pawn shop will probably be very suspicious of the item.

This really doesn’t happen in most normal scenarios so when a pawn shop comes across items like these, there’s good reason to suspect that the item may not be the seller’s to begin with and that they are trying to conceal some identifying information on it for a reason.

Pawn Shops Don’t Often Take Stolen Items

Because of how pawn shops operate on a daily basis, it is in their best interest to not deal with stolen items what so ever. On the rare occasion that something stolen does come in, it’s perfectly reasonable for the pawn shop to turn the item(s) down.

Additionally, most thieves know that pawn shops are typically required to take down the seller’s identifying information or copy their driver’s license and as such they are not often inclined to go sell their stolen items at these places.

The pawn industry has worked very hard to build it’s reputation and work closely with law enforcement to prevent stolen items from coming into their stores. When something stolen does come in, the pawn broker will almost always do what they can to return the items to the rightful owners although some state laws can actually make that more difficult than you might imagine.

That however is a topic for a completely different article and for another time perhaps.

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