When you decide to purchase a refurbished cell phone, you have a lot of factors to think about — cost and the quality are probably your two biggest factors. What you may not have considered is if it’s safe to purchase a refurbished phone. Buying a refurbished phone can come with a small risk of being spied on. New cell phones don’t come with those risks because no one has used them before. But there are so many benefits to buying a refurbished cell phone such as a lower price point, no costly contract, and the benefit to the environment. Before you throw aside all the positives of purchasing a used cell phone in lieu of less likelihood of being spied on, you can follow certain safety precautions and still enjoy the benefits of a refurbished phone.
Refurbished phones are pre-owned cell phones. Rather than being sold by an individual, they are sold by manufacturers, networks, or retailers. They are usually phones people bought within the last few years and either returned or traded in. Businesses repair them, check them, certify them, and grade them based on quality through a grading system. Often these phones have a warranty.
Refurbished cell phones are a much safer bet than second-hand phones, which are sold directly by their past owners. There is a small possibility of being spied on if spyware and stalkerware are placed on the phone. In almost all cases, the software requires physical access to the device to install. When it is installed, the phone user won’t notice it, and it’s hard to detect or remove. The “spy” is then able to monitor almost everything you do on your phone, including the photos and videos you take, the websites you visit, the messages you send and receive, your call history, and even where you are. Some can even turn on your webcam or microphone, take screenshots, intercept, forward, or record phone calls, and see activity on your apps.
There are several ways to ensure you don’t have spyware on your refurbished cell phone.
Make sure you reset your phone. This takes it back to its original factory setting and erases all data on it.
Be sure to purchase a refurbished phone that still receives security updates. Without these updates, your phone is vulnerable to attacks. A trustworthy retailer should make you aware if the phone is no longer supported by the manufacturer.
If you do happen to purchase a phone with spy software on it, it’s still possible to remove it.
For Android cell phones, follow these steps:
Cell phone spying is tougher on iPhones than Android cell phones. Spyware can only be installed on an iPhone if there’s been jailbreaking. If you do find suspicious applications it probably is spyware and your iPhone may have been hacked. The recommendation is to update your software, remove suspicious apps, and/or performing a factory reset.
While your refurbished cell phone is relatively safe from spyware, it’s a good idea to be aware that it’s a possibility and know what to do if it happens.