If you’re looking for a good deal on an late-model iPhone, you’re in luck. Since the arrival of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, folks (like me) are putting up their slightly-used, mint-condition iPhone 4/4S/5/5C/5S up for sale on sites like eBay and Craigslist, or flooding their social media networks. The phones are in ample supply, and you may come across a seemingly “too good to be true” deal.
Before you make, phone calls, putting in bids, or starting message threads, you might want to make sure you won’t have the cops (or some vigilante owner) hunting you down after you’ve purchased a hot iPhone. Apple has released a quick little tool to help make sure you’re not buying an stolen iPhone.
If you have found the perfect used iPhone at a great price that you plan on using yourself, or gifting to one of your kids, or a family member, all you need is the IMEI or serial number from that phone. Here’s how to find the IMEI/serial number if you or the seller are not sure how to find it:
Tap Settings > General > About to see your device’s serial number, IMEI/MEID, and ICCID.
Hint: If the seller doesn’t want to give up the IMEI, that’s red flag #1
After you have the IMEI/serial number for the iPhone you want to purchase, Apple has created a simple website that will let you enter the IMEI/serial number and call tell you if the phone still is locked to the owner.
Entering the phone’s IMEI/serial number into the field won’t directly tell you’re buying a stolen iPhone, but it will let you know whether the owner has turned off the ‘Find my iPhone’ activation lock and returned the phone back to factory settings. Remember, the ONLY person who can do this is the owner via their iCloud account. Here’s how to disable/enable ‘Find My iPhone’
Tap Settings > iCloud > to see if ‘Find My iPhone’ is enabled/disabled
If you enter the IMEI/serial number into the site and it shows the phone is still locked, that means:
1) The owner simply forgot to disable ‘Find my iPhone’ and wipe the phone before listing it for sale. If asked, they should have NO PROBLEM doing so before the deal is done
2) Red flag #2
I don’t know how many red flags YOU need, but if the seller is reluctant to offer up the IMEI/serial number AND/OR can’t (or won’t) disable ‘Find My iPhone’ because…reasons, I would walk on this deal…just to be safe. I would suggest you do the same.