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| October 20, 2020

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How to avoid buying a stolen phone

How to avoid buying a stolen phone
Andrei Calina

stolen phone

Not everybody can afford a new phone, so a lot of people are always after the best deals, on sites like eBay, Craigslist, or Swappa. Of course, they’re doing this in order to find the handset of their dreams, for the best price.

Still, there are also a lot of shady users, trying to sell stolen phones, which buyers won’t eventually be able to use, due to various reasons.

If you’re a fan of such sites, you should know that there are some nice tricks you can try, in order to see if a phone is stolen. Below, you will find a short list with them, which will definitely come in handy!

Check the phone’s IMEI

IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity and it’s a unit 15 or 16 digit number, unique for each phone. It’s used for tracking each cell phone and, basically, acts like a serial number.

Before buying a used phone, ask the seller to give you the IMEI, which can be found by dialing *#06# or by checking the sticker underneath the battery, if the phone has a removable power pack.

In order to check it, you need to find an IMEI checker service, which can uncover almost all data about the phone, including the network on which it’s locked or, most important, if the phone is blacklisted.

Some of the most popular websites for checking this are or Additonaly, you can use’s AT&T’s own service for this, as well as T-Mobile’s.

Check the ID database for stolen phones

For a few years now, US-based phone carriers started keeping a common database with IDs of stolen phones, not allowing these devices to connect to their network. The CTIA tool can be found by accessing this link, where you have all the information for checking the phone’s status.

Also, Swappa is offering something similar, considering that it’s a big market for second hand phones. Their tool is available here.

If the ID of your phone is present in this databases, we have some bad news for you…

Select your seller carefully

This is another important step which you should consider, in order to avoid buying stolen phones. Most sites from which you can buy devices, such as eBay, Craigslist or Swappa have rating systems, which helps you differentiate between a reputable venue or seller and a scammer.

Our recommendation is to stick to users with a lot of positive feedback from previous buyers, eventually search for those who also offer some guarantees, in case something goes wrong.

Check the listing

No matter the site from which you’re buying a phone, it should have at least some basic information about the device being sold. To be more specific, we’re talking about the correct model number, the storage capacity (in case you’re buying a phone available in multiple storage variants), as well as an accurate description of the overall quality.

The listing should contain descriptions like brand new in box, never opened, good as new or a few scratches on the sides and back, accompanied by photos depicting these descriptions. If they’re present, there’s an extra chance for the device you’re about to buy to be 100% safe to buy.

Usually, those who are trying to sell a stolen phone post just a brief description, containing just the name of the phone and the price. Also, if you’re requiring complete information and they’re refusing to share it, it’s definitely a big red flag!

Our recommendation is to avoid buying a second hand phone if you have even the tiniest doubt about it. In most cases, it’s better to avoid a bargain than ending up with a stolen phone. Or, even worse, a cheap knockoff. However, if it’s a deal too good to avoid, make sure you check everything properly before sealing it!