So, you’ve done some research to find a used cell phone: searched classified ad sites to see what’s available in your region and price range, established contact with several sellers to cast a wide net, whittled down your list to focus on a particular seller and his or her device, engaged in some back-and-forth discussions via phone and text messaging with the seller to haggle on price, and sealed the deal by meeting the seller and buying your new used cell phone.
After this whirlwind of activity to buy a used cell phone, you could still be left high and dry if you don’t do your homework to ensure that you can actually use the cell phone. If your used cell phone has been reported lost or stolen, for instance, it will be considered blacklisted. And phone services companies will not allow you to register a device that’s on a cell phone blacklist.
So that you can avoid this eye-watering and madenning scenario, read on for a look at the problem, some information on what to do if you inadvertently end up with a blacklisted phone, and learn how to avoid getting entangled in such a mess in the first place.
Research from 2015 indicated that 92% — more than nine in 10 — adults in the U.S. owned a mobile phone, which demonstrates that they are pretty much ubiquitous. Meanwhile, an article in 2016 showed that 3.2 million cell phones in the country were reported as stolen in 2013, which was twice the amount that were reported stolen the year before.
Cell theft is, unfortunately, big business internationally. There is actually a black market for such phones as they can be sent overseas to nations that have lax International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) blacklisting policies.
What is an IMEI, you ask? Cell phones have a unique IMEI number that phone service companies refer to in order to determine if it is safe to allow them onto their networks. If a cell phone is reported as lost or stolen, a phone service provider will put it on a cell phone blacklist, and anyone who buys a device that happens to be blacklisted will essentially have a useless used cell phone. There are even higher risks for buying a used phone online.
Your options are pretty limited if you end up buying a blacklisted cell phone. Neither your phone service provider nor any other phone service provider will allow a blacklisted phone to access their networks, which means that you’ll have all but wasted your money if the seller won’t take back the cell phone.
That’s why it’s so important that you verify that the IMEI number is correct.
It’s also important to understand the possible legal ramifications. If the used cell phone you buy has been reported as stolen to the police, then you could unwittingly find yourself in possession of stolen property. In such instances, you’ll have to surrender the phone since the fact that the cell phone was reported as lost or stolen will supersede any rights you have to the cell phone.
You should also follow up with the seller. Companies like eBay usually protect the consumer from fraudulent purchases. It’s important for you to protect yourself, and to get your money back.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Since there’s very little recourse if you end up buying a blacklisted used cell phone, it’s best to try to avoid the problem to begin with.
You can greatly reduce your risks of getting a blacklisted device if you ask the seller to provide you with the IMEI number so that you can check its validity on one of the IMEI checking sites available — use a search engine to find one. It’s also a good idea to then run the data by your phone service provider to guarantee if there will be any problems with getting service.
If the seller hesitates or outright refuses to provide the IMEI number, you can regard this response as a huge red flag. Walk, nay run, from the negotiations and find a more reputable and transparent seller. If you’re going to meet the seller in person, be sure to verify that the IMEI that he or she provided matches the one printed on the cell phone. If the deal is being conducted online, ensure that there’s an ironclad return policy so that you have recourse if the use cell phone is blacklisted.
You can also help your own cause by sticking to reputable e-commerce sites, buying a used cell phone from your own phone service company, or ensuring that the seller offers devices with mobile device certification that guarantees that the device is not on a cell phone blacklist.
You can definitely get a great deal on a used cell phone. While there are lots of things that can go wrong if you don’t do your homework to ensure that a phone hasn’t been reported as lost or stolen, you can enjoy a pleasant and productive shopping experience if you go about things the right way..