How to Check If iPhone You’re Buying is Stolen or Not

Jun 3, 2017 - 29 Comments

How to check if iPhone is stolen or lost

Do not buy used iPhone or phone without doing this first! For anyone shopping for a used iPhone or Android phone, your top priority should be to check to find out if the iPhone or phone has been stolen or reported as lost.

The reason is simple; a stolen iPhone or phone that has been reported as lost may not work at all if the cellular carrier has blocked the device from accessing a wireless network, this essentially means that buying a stolen iPhone or phone could be a waste of the money (not to mention engaging in the trade of stolen goods).

The good news is the CTIA, which represents the US wireless communications industry, has setup a super easy to use website that allows you to easily check to find out if any iPhone or any smart phone has been stolen or reported as lost.

The website is aptly named and it works by running an IMEI, MEID, or ESN number through the database and it will report back if a device has been reported as lost or stolen.

How to Check If You’re Buying a Stolen iPhone or Android Phone

This is a super easy two-step process, all you need is the phones IMEI number and you can run it against a central database setup by the phone companies:

  1. Get the IMEI number from the iPhone or Android phone, you can also do this by dialing *#06# on the phone
  2. Go to here to check and enter your IMEI number into the website
  3. How to check if iPhone is stolen or not

  4. If the iPhone or phone is reported as stolen or lost, you should strongly consider NOT buying it and instead finding a different device to buy

That’s all there is to it, you can check up to five devices IMEI numbers per day to see if they are stolen or lost or not.

Always do this before you buy a used phone!

To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a used iPhone or smartphone – I have personally bought used phones myself on multiple occasions. I usually aim for refurbished iPhones with a simple return policy where if it doesn’t work for whatever reason right away then it can be returned easily. The seemingly too-good-to-be-true deals that are found on auctions, eBay, or craigslist are almost always too good to be true, a recent model pre-owned iPhone will never realistically sell for $100 or some low sum. If the price is too good, or too cheap, or the seller is sketchy, be skeptical. Always check the IMEI first.

How to check if an iPhone is stolen or lost

By the way, it’s not just our advice to check a used phone before buying it, the CTIA Wireless Association also recommends doing the same thing:

Before you buy or sell a second-hand mobile device, you should check to see if the device has been reported lost or stolen. This is because if someone inadvertently buys a reported lost or stolen device the rightful owner may have already requested the device be blocked from accessing wireless carrier networks. The rightful owner may have also activated a device protection feature that prevents use of the device, rendering the device inoperable.

Makes sense, right? So don’t skip this if you’re in the used phone market, you could save yourself a real headache and a waste of money. It’s likely this service won’t detect every single lost or inappropriately owned phone, particularly if they have not been reported as missing yet, but it’s certainly worth running a check through just in case.

Oh and one more thing; if you’re buying a used iPhone then don’t forget to have the prior iPhone owner delete their iCloud account from the device and log out of iCloud on the device completely and then reset it to factory settings. While you can remotely remove iCloud activation lock it is more annoying and it’s much better handled by the owner in person. Apple used to offer a way to check this online but that page has been down for some time, perhaps it will return in the future. Almost all good phone refurbishing services and certified resellers will reset the devices and make sure they’re not locked down, but it’s always good to ask and be sure.

Do you have any other tips for avoiding stolen phones or lost phones? Any advice or experience? Let us know in the comments.


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPhone, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting


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  1. daniel says:

    Am dan i bought a blunt screen iphone 5s from someone some time ago pls i would like know if the phone was actually stolen previous before i go ahead of wasting my money fixing the damaged screen.

  2. Dear Kevin says:

    Please assume that all websites were made by and for Americans and that you are indeed trespassing in addition to impersonating a tantrumming baby who thinks other people owe them something when you and indeed your country have contributed absolutely nothing to the world’s stage or any of our lives. Leelbeetch.

    • Small town girl says:

      Did anyone of you stop to think that MAYBE this website is based in the US? Maybe they are a start up company? Maybe they dont know how to publish in other countries.. You sound very racist and immature. If your so hard up to get it in your country that you got to bash us, WHY DON’T YOU make a website for your country and THEN find something else to complain about

  3. JD says:

    maybe the reason you’re still not “done” like you promised to be about 3 posts ago is because you forgot to delete the bookmark, like you promised to do 4 posts ago? i was just kinda wondering about that.

  4. Federico says:

    I’m writing this post only to underline the fact that I love this blog and the way it’s written. I’m italian but I don’t blame all the world for choosing english as the language to be spoken… Kevin, don’t you think you were lucky enough to be born speaking the “right” language?! I had to learn it and I’m sure I’ve already made some mistakes writing these few lines! I think you should learn some good manners and stop going around insulting everyone. As you stated, internet is a very big place, find yours and never say anymore that all the world laughs at americans. USA is a great nation.

  5. Jane Howitt says:

    Is there a UK equivalent? If not, why not?

    • Ted says:


      Probably because the UK is full of twits like yourself who ask stupid questions and are too consumed with themselves to do a search.

      • Kevin says:

        I think you need to have a look in the mirror. Then you’ll realise why the world loathes your ilk.

        • Galtha58 says:

          Kevin, Too bad so much of the rest of the world does not feel like you do. If they did we would not have such a problem with all the illegal immigrants trying to sneak into our terrible country.

    • Jimmie says:

      If there is no UK equivalent, it would be because no one in the UK has set one up.

  6. Johnathan says:

    There is an equivalent in Canada.

  7. POINTLESS says:

    POINTLESS Unless you Live in the USA. Doesn’t Work for ANY OTHER Country !

  8. Anne says:

    Why do so many websites assume all their readers are Americans? You do realize that English is spoken elsewhere?

  9. Jeff Browne says:

    A huge expanse of the US is no longer even aware of other countries.

    • Tony says:

      Yes. For giggles I would point to a map of he USA and say “Look, am American Atlas of the world”.

    • Tony says:

      True. Just for giggles I would point to a map on the wall of America and say “Look, an American atlas of the world”.

  10. Di Keller says:

    Would have been nice to know it was US exclusive before I went through it all. :)

  11. Di Keller says:

    Would have been nice to know it was US exclusive before I went through it all. :)

    • Celina Garcia says:

      Does this info apply to other countries as well?

    • Kevin says:

      Yet again another US centric post that has no relevance to the rest of the world. Why bother hosting a site if you ignore 99% of users? Americans have an over inflated ego of themselves but what they don’t realise is, the rest of the world sniggers at them. I was wondering why I don’t come here often any more, now this post has vividly reminded me. Bookmark deleted.

      • Paul says:

        Kevin, thanks for the comment and feedback. You may be interested to know the majority of our readers are from the USA and thus these sort of US-specific topics directly address our primary readership. The remainder are from UK, Canada, Australia, and the rest scattered around the globe. Nonetheless we try to be region agnostic and the vast majority of posts are software or hardware related and thus are relevant to anyone on the planet using compatible devices, but not every post is going to be relevant to everyone – that’s just the nature of the subject matter.

        Anyway, if you want to volunteer to localize posts to your home country, you are welcome to do so! You are also welcome to find the equivalent certified industry supported IMEI checker for Monaco, Iceland, Luxembourg, etc and post it here in the comments too, if you think that would be helpful I’m sure some other readers would too.

        – Paul

        • Kevin says:

          I think if you read through the comments you’ll see I’m not alone, yet you targeted me for your reply. Your blog, I don’t give a crap, knock yourself out, but don’t shoot the messenger when you end up with zero comments and zero readers. If you think that your information that his only relevant to Americans is what you want, then name your blog accordingly so the rest of us can ignore you accordingly. As I’ve said, after this exchange I’m done. BTW, have a look at this movie. Says it all.

          • Lee Grosse says:

            The article specifically mentions the IMEI theft check website was setup by the US wireless industry, if something is setup by Martians I am not going to assume it covers Earthlings. Why does the rest of the world assume a US company is going to cater to the needs of people who are not even their customers? Why would they do that? Who wouldn’t cater to their own customer base? Is this an entitlement mentality?

            People don’t read then they complain. Does nobody bother reading anything? How can they manage to comment and type if they can’t read the article? Maybe people just want to complain?

      • Ted says:


        The answer is most likely that the great people of the USA are tired of giving everything to the world for free. Your not a special snowflake and your presence here will not be missed. Good Riddance!

      • Galtha58 says:

        More likely the Poster just did not think that he/she was posting this to anyone in another country who would even care about it. Next time try adding your country to the search criteria that YOU put in rather than blaming someone that was trying to be helpful for something they probably never even thought of. Hope Kevin enjoys being a victim rather than doing something constructive with their time.

  12. Kooper Koopa says:

    You can also run IMEI through swappa

    I would probably try both.

    The key thing to remember when buying a used iPhone is to avoid anything with iCloud lock, anything with an iCloud account on it, and make sure it is reset and setup as new. Also be sure it is unlocked or network compatible so that you can use it on your cell network.

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