Buying an iPhone from a third-party marketplace can help you save some money on Apple tech, but there’s always a level of risk.
Here’s what to do if you find yourself involved in this type of situation (plus how to avoid it in the future).
What to Do
If your iPhone has been listed as stolen by a carrier or consumer, you likely won’t be able to use it. Most carriers have the ability to blacklist devices, which prevents them from being activated or used on a cellular plan.
Because blacklisting relies on a device’s IMEI (or International Mobile Equipment Identity), number, you won’t be able to get it off the blacklist unless you contact the carrier.
- The first thing you should do is to remove the SIM card from your device.
- Pop the SIM card into another device for use while you’re dealing with the blacklisting. This is also helpful if you need access to 2FA-protected accounts.
- Then, you’ll need to contact the carrier that blacklisted the device and prove that it isn’t stolen. If you bought it used or aftermarket, that may be harder than it sounds.
The process typically involves showing the original proof of purchase and other related documents. In some cases, only the original purchaser will be able to settle the account and get the device removed from the blacklist.
(Don’t bother contacting Apple, since they aren’t actually involved in the blacklist process.)
If the device is actually stolen or was acquired through insurance fraud, of course, that means you’re pretty much out of luck unless you’re willing to pay the carrier for the purchase price.
On the other hand, you may be eligible for some type of purchase protection. Marketplaces like eBay may work with you to get a chargeback through your bank or financial institution. That may be the best case scenario.
How to Avoid This
There’s an easy way to avoid getting scammed when buying iPhones and other devices on third-party marketplaces: just don’t.
Sometimes, it can take months for a device to actually get blacklisted. That’s especially true if the phone was stolen from a shipment or if the original purchaser just stopped making payments on it.
If you must buy a used device, try to only purchase them from sellers you know or who you absolutely trust. We also highly recommend inspecting the device in-person before buying it (although even new in-box iPhones can be stolen).
All of this is to say that it’s a good idea to just avoid buying used iPhones whenever possible. And if you do, follow the golden rule of buying used. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.