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What is a Blacklisted Phone?

Purchasing a used phone can be a great option for saving money compared to an expensive new phone, but it’s important to know how to avoid wasting money on a blacklisted phone. 

Blacklisted phones are ineligible for cellular service because they have been reported as lost or stolen by the original owner, or because either the current or previous owner did not pay off the device after financing it with the manufacturer. Although these phones aren’t complete bricks and can connect to Wi-Fi to play music, watch movies, play games, etc., your service provider will be unable to deliver cellular service to a blacklisted phone. 

So how can you make sure you’re purchasing a used phone that has not been officially reported as a stolen phone or lost phone? This article will explain the details behind a phone’s blacklist status and what you can do to verify that a second-hand mobile device is still eligible for cell service.

What exactly is a blacklisted phone?

When smartphones are reported as lost or stolen (or even associated with unpaid bills), they are entered into the GSMA IMEI database, where phones are blacklisted, identified by the phone’s IMEI or ESN number associated with each specific device. 

These numbers are like serial numbers or social security numbers. Each number is unique to one single phone. When a device’s IMEI or ESN is blacklisted, service providers physically cannot offer cellular services for that device.

Who decides which phones are blacklisted? 

It’s often the phone carriers themselves who blacklist smartphones. When Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, or another carrier is informed by a phone's previous owner that the phone has been stolen, the carrier is required to blacklist the stolen phone from using cellular services by reporting its ID numbers to the GSMA Database. Legal authorities can also contact service providers to request a phone be blacklisted. It is up to customer discretion to request that the phone be blacklisted if the phone was simply lost.

Any mobile phone can be blacklisted, including Apple iPhones as well as Android phones. It should be noted that manufacturers of smartphones, such as Samsung and Apple, have no control over the blacklisting of mobile devices.

What you need to know about blacklisted phones

Buyers and sellers of used phones need to be aware of the issues involved with blacklisted phones. While there may be times when a service provider is able to change a phone’s blacklist status (when the rightful owner of the device can verify ownership), blacklisting is often permanent. 

As a result, if you end up purchasing a blacklisted phone, you will likely be disappointed to find that it cannot be activated for cellular service. Even if you have a valid SIM card from your service provider, inserting that SIM card into the phone will not provide access to the cellular network. There will be no signal.

How to check if your phone is blacklisted

The best way to avoid wasting money on a blacklisted phone is to check its blacklist status before committing to buying it. Follow this simple step-by-step process to perform a blacklist check and make sure your used phone is eligible for cell service activation.

1. Find your IMEI number 

In order to find out whether or not a used phone has been blacklisted, start by finding the device’s IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number. Whether you are considering buying from a private seller or you already have the phone in hand, you will need the IMEI number of the mobile device to move forward with a blacklist check. There are a few places you might find this unique identifier:

If a seller cannot give you the device’s IMEI number, take this as a red flag and consider purchasing a phone elsewhere.

2. Call your carrier with the IMEI number to verify 

Once you have the used phone’s IMEI number, call your phone carrier to ask if the device is blacklisted. Although you may need to spend some time on the phone for this IMEI check, you should be able to receive a direct answer.

3. Get a complete device history report 

Because blacklisting is not the only risk associated with purchasing a used phone, second-hand shoppers are highly encouraged to check a used phone’s full history before buying. An easy way to do this is by purchasing a low-cost Phonecheck complete device history report, which checks for blacklisted, lost phones, stolen phones, bad ESN statuses/device locks, carrier eligibility, and more. 

What to do if you have a blacklisted phone

It happens. Well-meaning shoppers who just wanted to save some money end up with blacklisted phones that are ineligible for cell service. What can you do then? There are a few options if you bought a blacklisted phone:

Ensure your phone’s ESN or IMEI is clean with Phonecheck

The decision to buy a used phone, either from a private seller or a phone carrier, can be a wonderful way to save money on the latest technology. You simply need to know the pitfalls to watch out for, including blacklisting, ESN locks, and other issues with used phones. 

That’s why Phonecheck is trusted by so many in the second-hand phone industry. Don't buy a used device without a Phonecheck Certified History Report. This comprehensive, low-cost report provides a quick way to confirm whether or not a used phone is clean, unlocked, and ready to use. Avoid costly hidden problems by purchasing a history report on phonecheck.com for about the cost of a cup of coffee!


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