If you are in the market for a second-hand phone, you probably don't want to end up with a stolen device. Although there is no perfect solution to protect you from purchasing a stolen device, you should still do as much leg work as you can to protect your purchase.
Some countries and carriers offer the ability to search an IMEI to see if it has been reported as stolen. These searches are not always free and you run the chance of the device being reported stolen after your purchase.
To find the IMEI number on most phones, go to the dial screen on the phone and type in *#06# and the number will be displayed. Alternatively, most devices have the IMEI internally behind the battery or on the SIM card slot. Newer model iPhones have the IMEI engraved on the back case.
How to Add Your Stolen Phone to the Blacklist
If your device has been lost or stolen, contact your service provider to report the theft. It is up to the service provider to add your device to the blacklist. As always, you should always contact local police post-theft as well. Read our post-theft best practices here.
If you are purchasing a mobile phone outside of the dealers, you'll want to be sure the phone is not stolen. Purchasing used cell phones from reputable dealers (pawn shops, etc) gives you some measure of protection, but many people choose to buy used devices from online classifieds such as Craigslist and eBay. Many of these sites come with the risk that the information provided is not authentic and you run the risk of completing the transaction only to end up with a stolen device - perhaps even one that has been shut down through new kill switch technology.
So, what can you do to protect yourself when buying a used phone? Here are some red flags that could indicate the device is stolen:
During the sale process, don't be shy to ask questions such as whether they have the original packaging or proof of purchase, whether they will provide a written purchase receipt, or whether they will provide you with the IMEI prior to sale so you can verify the phone is not stolen.