How to tell if a phone is stolen.

find-stolen-phoneThe used market for smart phones is booming due to the constant stream of releases of new phones from manufacturers and is showing no signs of slowing.

The usual places to get used phones are busy and there are many groups in social media that are getting more active. It is a flourishing economy but with a successful market comes the attraction of the criminal element.

In this article I will help you avoid buying a phone that has been stolen.

They fit in your pocket and can fetch hundreds of dollars and they are in high demand. No wonder they are a sought after item for criminals looking to make a fast dollar.

The law does not discriminate either and with smart phone technology it is easier than ever to track down a stolen phone and often it is the person holding the phone that is suspected of theft and often charged with the offence regardless if it was stolen and then onsold by someone else.

When buying a phone, the most useful piece of information you could get before making the purchase is the IMEI number. This is easily obtained by dialing *#06# into the phone you are looking at buying and then checking it at http://www.lost.amta.org.au/IMEI which is a service offered by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (if outside Australia, check for your local authority).

The IMEI can tell if a phone has been reported stolen regardless of make and model. Of course the phone has to be reported stolen by the owner and if you want to report a phone as lost or stolen you can go to http://www.lost.amta.org.au/ for details on how to report your phone as stolen.

*NOTE : AMTA advises that there is a 3-5 day lag between a phone being blocked and the IMEI showing as stolen on the service. It is best to see if you can delay the purchase for a few days to be sure the database is up to date.

Apple has gone a step further with Activation Lock, a feature where it is possible to lock, trace and check if an iPhone is reported as stolen.
To report an iPhone or iPad as stolen you must first have Find My iPhone installed and enabled on your device and then you can log into the Apple iCloud service to track and lock your device. This also updates the Activation Lock Status that can be checked by going to https://www.icloud.com/activationlock/ and entering the IMEI.

There are lots of similar services for Android phones including Lookout.com that also covers Apple products. With similar services (except for the Activation Lock) to Find My iPhone it is pretty simple to keep tabs on your phone.

In cases where the device is a wifi-only device ask the seller to demonstrate that the device can be accessed fully. Confirm the PIN used to unlock the device and if possible remove it and as soon as you take posession it is a good idea to completely wipe the device to ensure that the seller does not retain access to the device you have just purchased.

For information on how to securely wipe your Android device, see below.