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What Are IMEI Checks and What Do the Results Mean?

Checking the IMEI number of an old phone before buying it can be the difference between buying a virtually new phone vs. a phone that won’t work at all. The knowledge of checking a phone’s history is crucial in the business of buying and selling old phones. This due diligence can help protect your business and customers against stolen, blacklisted, or low-quality devices. 

Among other reasons to check a phone’s history, the possibility of buying a stolen phone should concern you the most. A recent report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) showed that more than 40% of major U.S. city theft involves mobile devices. Negligence while buying old phones can get you involved with authorities if they happen to track down a stolen phone in your possession using its IMEI number.

Besides being stolen property, a phone could have other issues. For example, it might be blacklisted — meaning a major carrier might have blocked it because of unpaid financing — or it may have poor functioning. Selling such phones to customers will likely tarnish your brand’s image.

Verifying a device’s IMEI number with a simple two-minute IMEI check can save losses and prevent inconvenience to you and your customers.

This article explains what a device IMEI number is, how you can check IMEIs, and what information you can gather from an IMEI check service.

What is an IMEI number?

Every mobile phone is assigned a unique 15-digit IMEI number regardless of whether it operates an Android, iOS, or any other OS. Every device IMEI remains a unique number regardless of the brand, model, country of origin, or year of manufacture.

IMEI stands for "International Mobile Equipment Identity." The first eight of the 15 digits are assigned to each brand and their phone models by the Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association (GSMA). Manufacturers assign the proceeding six digits to their mobile devices as serial numbers, and the last digit is assigned using the Luhn Algorithm, also calculated by the manufacturer.

You can access the IMEI in an Apple or Android phone’s settings by selecting the “About” option. Alternatively, you can dial *#06# on any smartphone or tablet to see its IMEI number.

iPhones provide the added benefit of letting their users check whether their parts are genuine. It’s also worth noting that IMEI numbers are used only by GSM devices. CDMA devices (such as a smartwatch) use a MEID number that has alphanumeric digits. MEID functions similar to the IMEI number.

What is the purpose of an IMEI check?

The primary purpose of an IMEI check is to prevent theft and locate a device if it’s being used to commit fraudulent activities. Consider the IMEI number as an identifier that keeps everyone in the loop. Its utility extends way beyond tracking mobile phones. It can be used by retailers, law enforcement, insurers, IoT providers, Customs and Excise, government, recyclers, and more — for a plethora of purposes.

If a mobile phone is stolen or lost, network carriers can blacklist its IMEI number upon receiving a complaint from the phone owner. 

Professional thieves may use sophisticated methods to tamper with phone IMEIs, but it's typically difficult for the average person since dedicated tools are needed to change a device’s IMEI numbers manually. With this in mind, it’s also important to take precautions against the person who is selling you a used mobile phone. Always ask sellers to produce the phone box, which also contains the original phone IMEI number.

It's possible to check any mobile phone's legitimacy by feeding these 15-digits into an IMEI checker application. 

An IMEI number check can check whether the phone has been:

There are many paid and free IMEI checkers available online. Free IMEI checkers only tell the model name, SIM lock status, and blacklist status of the device. However, a premium IMEI checker like Phonecheck can prepare a detailed report and conduct checks for iCloud lock status, repair history, a functional diagnostic test, battery health, the validity of the warranty, eligibility for AppleCare, financial obligations, and more.

Business owners can determine the true value of a device with these advanced checks and better gauge whether their customer would be happy after buying the device. 

What can be checked with an IMEI number?

The IMEI number can't tell you anything about the device owner, but you can extract information about the device itself. You could even obtain enough data to save you from making a costly mistake. Here are the three most important things to look at in an IMEI check report.

Manufacturer and model number 

Nowadays, modern phone models come in different variants. The same model can have 6GB and 8GB variants and look identical. There would be no way to tell the difference unless you check the specifications in the phone’s settings.

In the business of buying and selling old phones, you’ll come across many phone brands that you might not have heard of before. In this case, the IMEI serves as the identifier of the manufacturer and model name of the phone. You can research the model and get a better footing for negotiating with phone sellers. You will also earn customers’ trust by being genuine about the phone's specifications and condition.

If you see a mismatch between the model name of the phone in the IMEI report and the phone model you are physically holding, you can tell that the IMEI number has been tampered with.

If the phone is unlocked or tied to a carrier 

A locked phone is simply locked in with a network service provider. No other service provider's SIM card would work on that device. Service providers pay a part of a phone's cost to the manufacturer to lock it to their network, which enables the manufacturers to sell their devices for a lower price. Unlocked phones have a higher sale and resale value because they offer the convenience of using any SIM card with them.

As a business, you can charge a higher price for an unlocked phone. If you are selling a locked phone, notify your buyers of the network service that the phone supports.

Another important thing is to know whether the phone supports CDMA or GSM mobile network. Most devices work on GSM technology and support GSM SIM cards, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. The SIM cards of CDMA service providers, such as Sprint and Verizon, are not supported by GSM devices and vice versa.

If the phone is reported as lost or stolen 

Smart thieves will throw away a stolen device’s SIM card so it can’t be tracked using the phone number. However, network providers can track the device using its IMEI number once a new SIM card is inserted, even if the carrier has changed.

When an unsuspecting buyer inserts a SIM card into a blacklisted device, network carriers can alert the local authorities of the device’s location so they can seize it. A blacklisted phone can’t make or receive phone calls or use data, so it’s basically worthless for the owner.

Check IMEIs before buying any old phones with an IMEI checker, such as Phonecheck, for your and your customers’ safety.

Why are IMEI checks important for businesses?

You can prevent losses by exercising due precaution. An IMEI checking app will let you determine the phone’s resale value, and if a phone is even worth buying.

It could be harder to sell phones that are no longer supported by their manufacturer. Whereas, if the phone is still in warranty, has genuine parts, and its battery is in excellent condition, you can justifiably ask for higher prices for those phones.

Customers who are on the fence about buying old phones can be reassured with a Phonecheck-Certified History Report.

It’s also up to you to educate your customers regarding the phones you offer. You need to disclose:

A premium IMEI checker app ensures you acquire and pass on the correct information regarding the phones you sell to your customers.

Selling used phones? Ensure the IMEI number is clean with Phonecheck

Considering buying an old phone? Head over to to get a Certified History Report for the price of less than a cup of coffee. Check its blacklist status, SIM lock/unlock status, battery health, warranty validity, repair history, iCloud status, functionality, and other parameters to determine whether the phone is a good fit for you and worth the asking price.

Business owners can use Phonecheck certifications to guarantee customers that the old phones on sale are of high quality. Renowned brands like Back Market use Phonecheck certifications to assure customers of the quality of their refurbished smartphones, iPads, and tablets. Businesses can reach out for a demo of our bulk verification services.

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