Knowing if your phone is blacklisted can make the difference between owning a fantastic used phone, or an expensive paperweight. If you recently purchased a used phone, hoping to sell your old smartphone, or about to buy a new used phone, knowing about blacklisted phones is vital.
The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) maintains the phone blacklists in the U.S., and has strict protocols in place.
CTIA issued the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment, which can “Prevent reactivation without authorized user’s permission (including unauthorized factory reset attempts) to the extent technologically feasible.”
This means that if you purchased a lost or stolen smartphone, it will most likely be of absolutely no use. To avoid or find out if your used phone is blacklisted, follow the below details to ensure the phone’s ESN, IMEI, or MEID is clean.
Understanding a Phone’s ESN or IMEI
Like your car, each phone has a unique serial number that identifies it. Whether your phone has an ESN or IMEI simply depends on the network the phone’s carrier uses.
Most smartphones have an IMEI, or International Mobile Equipment Identifier. CDMA networks like Verizon or Sprint will have an Electronic Serial Number, or ESN. Regardless of acronym, these are all unique identifiers for all phones.
What does this have to do with your phone working? When you slide in the new SIM you bought, the network associated with the phone’s carrier does a quick serial number check.
The governing bodies by region that maintain blacklists include . . .
- United States: Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA)
- Canada: Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA)
- United Kingdom: Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA)
Running a scan of a phone’s ESN or IMEI is essentially like a credit check, but for phones. A clean ESN or IMEI will activate with no issue. However, if the device is blacklisted, you will have zero bars, and plenty of frustration.
How Do You Check if Your Phone is Blacklisted?
There are a few ways you can find out if your phone is blacklisted. This is essential if you are planning to purchase a used phone, hoping to sell one for some extra cash, or if your new used phone refuses to work.
The first step in checking if your phone is blacklisted is to find the devices unique ESN or IMEI. For most smartphones, you can type *#06# into the keypad and it will display.
If this doesn’t do the trick, try one or all of these methods . . .
- Check your phone’s back. If you have an iPhone, you may be in luck. Most ESNs/IMEIs are in fine print on the back of the device.
- Browse your phone’s settings. For Apple fans, go to Settings > About > ESN/IMEI, and it should come up. For Androids go to Settings > About Phone > ESN/IMEI, and you should get lucky.
- Check your phone’s battery. For used phones with a removable battery, the ESN/IMEI should be on the sticker.
- Do you have the box? If you are selling a used phone and still have the box, or if you purchased a used phone in its original packaging, you may find a label with the phone’s ESN/IMEI. However, you should still use one of the above methods just to be 100 percent sure.
How to Check if Your Phone’s ESN or IMEI is Clean
Once you have your used phone’s ESN/IMEI, you can check if it’s clean one of two ways. The first is to call the device’s carrier and prey you get to talk to a human within two to three hours time.
A faster and far better option is to let a mobile diagnostic website do the tech stuff for you. This can often be accomplished in two minutes or less, and it runs no risk of human error.
Mobile diagnostic platforms like PhoneCheck can not only ensure your phone is clean, but also run an intensive diagnostic test on your device’s software and hardware. This is essential for everyone who has purchased a used phone.
If you’re planning on selling used phones, you can increase value by getting a PhoneCheck SM Mobile Certification. It’s essentially like giving any potential buyer a Carfax report, but for smartphones.