Warning Signs A Used Phone May Be Stolen

Posted at 10:16 AM, Jun 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-09 10:53:22-04

(June 9, 2014) — With more and more cell phone carriers starting to charge full list price for smartphones, your next phone could cost $500, not the subsidized price of $199 with two-year agreement.

This development is leading to a big market for used phones online. You can find refurbished or used phones at a fraction of the retail price.

But before you buy, a warning.

That great used iPhone you find on eBay may not be so great in the end, because it may be stolen.

Beware Super Low Price

A new report in PC Magazine warns used phone buyers to beware low-priced iPhone 5’s, 5C’s, and 5S’s, because there’s a good chance they are stolen goods.

The report says you should look especially for the words “iCloud locked.” That often means the real owner, realizing the phone was lost, turned the phone off through the iOS7 locking feature.

PC Mag found more than a thousand iCloud locked phones for sale on eBay and wondered why anyone would be legitimately selling a locked phone.

Also watch for the words “Bad ESN,” which means the phone’s electronic security number has been blacklisted by the major carriers, usually after the phone was reported stolen.

Doesn’t That Stink?

And from the Doesn’t That Stink File, why anyone would want to buy a locked phone? Because hackers now claim they have found ways to break the lock and activate these phones, making them as good as new.

If it’s your stolen phone, you’ll say “Doesn’t That Stink?”

Future phones may have kill switches, where the owner will be able destroy the phone remotely if its stolen.

You can’t do that yet, so before you buy any used phone, check out the seller carefully, and make sure they take returns.

And consider a refurbished model from a legitimate retailer, even if it costs more.

That way you don’t waste your money.