How to make sure you’re not buying a stolen iPhone

I was talking to one of my friends yesterday about an iPhone he bought online. It had 3 problems preventing him from using it. The phone wasn’t recognizing his SIM card which most likely means the IMEI of the phone is on the national blacklist. The iPhone also had Activation Lock enabled as well as TouchID set up. The blacklist is a list of  the IMEI’s of stolen devices in Canada. When a phone’s IMEI is on the list wireless carriers will not activate services on the device. Activation Lock is something Apple implimented in iOS to make the device useless if stolen. If the device is wiped, on boot activation lock asks for the password to the iCloud account associated with the device.

These are all great features that help protect a user’s phone from theft. Unfortunately it means that anyone buying a phone privately, especially an iPhone, has to be aware of these features to make sure they aren’t buying a stolen phone. As someone who has bought and sold phones online. If you’re buying a phone online and the price seems too good to be true that is usually the first indicator that the phone might be stolen. Before heading out to meet the seller you can determine if it has been blacklisted. Ask the seller for the IMEI number and head over to the national blacklist to check if it’s on there. Another thing to keep in mind is that phones that work on the CDMA network won’t have an IMEI number. If the phone is not on the blacklist once you purchase it pop your SIM card into it immediately and power it on. Once the device connects to the wireless carrier’s network that device is registered to your account. You should also check with your wireless provider (Fido, Telus, etc.) on their blacklist policies. As an example I know that Fido allows 60 days after the device is registered on a different account when the original account holder can still blacklist the device. This is also where buying an unlocked phone or one locked to your carrier is crucial. The time it takes the buyer to get the phone unlocked may be long enough for it to be blacklisted though it wasn’t blacklisted at the time of purchase. It makes the whole process more complicated but the other alternative is to throw your money away on a useless device.

On the iPhone the next thing to be concerned about is activation lock and/or a passcode. If you’re buying an iPhone you must be shelling out a couple hundred bucks. So I can’t see a person buying the iPhone without turning it on, making sure the screen works, checking if the camera works etc. While on the phone head to Settings, iCloud and see if there is an account logged in on the phone. The activation lock comes from the iCloud account logged in on the phone. If there is an account logged on ask the seller to log the account off.

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Checking the phone out in this way means if there is a passcode it would need to be entered to unlock the phone. Again ask the seller to remove the passcode before you take the phone. If you own an iPhone and would like to know how to make sure activation lock is well, activated. Stay tuned I will be writinig a post about that and will update this post with a link. If your phone is lost or stolen call your wireless carrier right away. Only the carrier can add the IMEI to the blacklist.

If everything goes well and you’ve got your iPhone. Make sure you hold on to the emails and any other communication between you and the seller. As I said Fido allows 60 days from the day the device is powered on with your SIM card that the original account holder can still add the IMEI to the blacklist. What should you do if you already bought the iPhone and it’s on the blacklist or has an activation lock or passcode. You can try to contact the seller to get the activation lock or passcode removed. It may just have been an honest oversight. Otherwise the only advice I could give is to call the cops with the proof of communication and turn in the device. There isn’t much more that can be or should be done. The device is stolen and now two people have lost their hard earned cash.

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