Quick Tip: Check if a used iPhone is stolen before buying


stolen iPhone
Make sure you never buy a ripped off iPhone.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

iPhone users’ data is pretty well-protected if our iPhone is ever stolen, what with encryption, activation locks, and Find My iPhone. But theft still happens. How do you protect yourself when buying used phones, both iPhones and Android? One way is to avoid anything dodgy-looking, and to ignore suspiciously good deals (if it looks to good to be true, then it probably is).

Luckily, there’s a service that lets you plug in the details of any phone you’re about to buy and find out if it’s kosher. This relies on the phone being reported stolen, of course, which is a neat reminder to do exactly that if the worst ever happens to you. It’s called Stolen Phone Checker, leaving little doubt about what it does.

How to check if an iPhone is stolen

To check a handset, you need the device’s IMEI number, its unique identifier. A legitimate seller should have no problem providing this, although you might not get them to submit it via phone or email, in case you yourself are some kind of dodgy ne’er-do-well. There’s a five-per-day limit for free queries, which should be more than enough.

To use it, just plug the number into the tool, and you’re good. Or not, depending on what it reports. Either way, you will now have the information you need.

Ideally, you wouldn’t need this tool, but anything that makes the second-hand market more attractive is a good thing, both sustainability-wise, and wallet-weight-retention-wise.

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  • Pablo Rossi

    Although having the imei checked can provide some level of assurance that the phone isn’t stolen, it is still not 100% safe. I say this from personal experience. I bought a T-Mobile iPhone 7 Plus from somebody else through OfferUp back in January. He gave me the IMEI number before selling and not only did I check if the phone was blacklisted with an imei checker, but T-Mobile also has a page where I checked if the phone was on a monthly installment plan. The imei checked clear on both and I was pretty confident with my purchase. One month later, I stopped getting service and lo and behold, I checked the imei number in the checker….blacklisted/stolen…checked on the T-Mobile page….it showed the phone was not completely paid off. I don’t know how my scammer did it, but the lesson I learned that I can share with everyone else: Don’t buy new/used iPhones off from someone else either through OfferUp, Craigslist, etc. Just my 2 cents and $600