Mobile devices

Published on December 3rd, 2016 | by Guest

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How to Detect if Your Second Hand Phone Is Stolen

Cell phones are an integral part of modern society. They’re used for everything from taking calls to scheduling business meetings. The general population relies on their mobile handset to manage day-to-day activities, and would largely suffer without it.

It’s not surprising then, that the US now has more cell phones than people.

This enormous amount of mobile handsets has created a secondary market for buying phones that is beneficial to consumers. Cheaper prices, a variety of options, and lack of carrier contracts all drive the second hand cell phone market.

However, for as beneficial as the used market is, it doesn’t come without pitfalls.

Around 2.1 million Americans had their cell phone stolen last year, according to a nationally representative survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

Many of these phones find their way to the secondary market. Consumers need to know the signs of a stolen device to avoid inadvertently purchasing one.

Let’s take a look at the best ways to detect if your second hand phone Is stolen.

Scrutinize The Marketplace

The second hand cellphone market primarily exists online. The lack of face-to-face interaction makes choosing the correct marketplace important

The used phone market starts to show its underbelly on Internet auction storefronts. Sites like eBay and Amazon don’t sell phones directly, but instead offer a platform for consumer to consumer sales. Sales of stolen mobile phones are not the responsibility of Internet storefronts.

Some stolen cell phone resellers post one generic offer and fill the orders with stolen merchandise. Combat this by gathering information on the phone before making a bid or purchase.

Make sure to ask for screenshots of device serial numbers, color, storage capacity and overall condition to force the seller into showing you product information you can later verify.

While not a true Internet only marketplace, Craigslist is extremely popular for second hand cellphones. Though remember, sales through the online classifieds ad are untraceable. There’s no recouping money after buying a stolen Craigslist phone.

Always ask Craigslist sellers to see identification, meet in a public place, and make documentation of the sale. Trust your gut if a seller objects to any of these terms. It’s also important to gather the same phone information you would from any other sale.

Get Technical

Every cell phone is associated with a unique string of numbers that acts as a device identifier. These numbers are broken into three categories, which are assigned based on the technology  cell phones use (GSM vs. CDMA)

In the US, Verizon and Sprint phones utilize a Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID), or Electronic Serial Number (ESN). AT&T and T-Mobile rely on the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI).

Never purchase a cell phone without asking for the identifying number that corresponds with the phone’s carrier, and then validating the number yourself. These identifiers make it easy to determine if the phone is stolen.

Most carriers are willing to run an identifying number through their database, and any phones reported as stolen will appear flagged. Some device manufacturers offer a similar service.

Apple lets potential iDevice users run an IMEI number through their iCloud platform to verify a device’s status. Anything activation locked by iOS is assumed stolen.

Internet based cell phone storefront, Swappa, also provides its users with free MEID, ESN, and IMEI numbers. Swappa is also unique among online marketplaces in that listing are reviewed and verified as trusted by moderators.

Purchasing a stolen second hand cell phone is not only illegal, but it means wasted money on a phone that is unusable.

Staying aware of secondly cell phone market fraud is the best way to make sure any phone purchase can be trusted.

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