No more guessing whether the used iPhone you’re buying is stolen—Apple has released a tool that tells you what you need to know before you buy.
Almost since its debut, the iPhone has been an extremely popular target for thieves. After all, a pocket-sized device that millions of people want to spend hundreds of dollars on is a pretty good thing to steal and sell, if you’re that kind of person.
Apple attempted to address this issue with the Find My iPhone service in 2010, but that could be defeated by turning the iPhone off or erasing the contents of the phone. Apple made things much harder on thieves when it introduced Activation Lock in iOS 7. This feature made it impossible to activate an iPhone using a new Apple ID without entering the Apple ID and password used to activate the phone originally. Since it’s unlikely that a thief would have access to a person’s Apple ID and password, this helped cut iPhone theft substantially.
There was no way to check a device’s Activation Lock status ahead of time. A thief could sell the stolen iPhone over the Internet and the buyer wouldn’t discover that they’d purchased a useless device until they’d already been swindled.
But now Apple has created a tool to check a phone’s Activation Lock status to ensure that you’re not buying a stolen device and that the phone you’re getting can be activated.
In order to check a phone’s status, you’ll need to have its IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity; basically a unique identifier assigned to every phone) or Serial Number. To get those:
Once you’ve got one or both of those numbers:
The next screen will tell you whether the iPhone has its Activation Lock feature enabled.
If Activation Lock is turned off, you’re in the clear. If Activation Lock is on, though, a couple of things may be going on:
When buying a used iPhone, make sure to ask for the IMEI or Serial Number before you buy and use this tool to check the device’s status. It will save you money and frustration.