How To Verify An Iphone Is Not Stolen

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  Posted by N/a - How To Verify An Iphone Is Not Stolen :
I'm buying an iphone off of craigslist but is need to make sure the iphone is not stolen. I know it needs the previous owners apple ID setup otherwise the iphone cant be used, how can i verify that the iphone being sold is not a stolen iphone and that I'm ok to set it up after I paid for it. This is on craigslist so i dont trust that its not a stolen one.

Guest Says:
There is a couple simple steps that everyone should do. I wouldn't buy any used iphone without being able to validate the following things first.

1) When you are there to purchase the phone, ask the seller to wipe the iphone. Have them go to settings, then general, then reset, then erase all content and settings.  This will be needed so you can setup the phone as your own, and it will require them to enter the password. If stolen they obviously wont know that.  I would actually tell them before you meet, that they will be required to wipe the phone in front of you before you pay for it.  If its stolen, they probably wont even want to meet you because they know they cant erase or wipe the iphone without the password.

2) If they tell you they already erased it, then attempt to set it up to find out.  Pick the stuff it asks for as if you are setting up the iphone as your own.  It will ask for country and language and network and stuff like that before it can begin activation.   At that point if the iphone wasn't previous wiped as stated in #1 above, it will require an ID and password, make the iphone seller enter it.  At this point do NOT buy it until you know it can be activated and that that can put in the ID and password, if they cant its probably stolen.  

Guest Says:
I just looked this up on the apple site also and it says to verify you get to the screen that says "setup your iphone" as this means you are now past any id and password entry and will be able to set it up as your own.  The apple documentation also says that this is true with ipods, iphones and ipads also that you should get to that setup screen before ever buying a used one.  If they say some excuse like the owner isn't available now, then they can still remove the iphone from their account remotely by signing in to  

(I have never tried that but its good to know thats an option, I would never buy a used iphone no matter what the excuse is, if they cannot do these things above).

Joe Says:
The other thing outside of this that I can see is if the iphone has a contract that wasn't paid and has a bad history, thats separate from the stolen/setup validations listed at the top

Joe Says:
Here is how you can now verify the iphone is not stolen, in addition to validating it can be setup above, verify the ESN - IMEI - MEID number below.  

1) Ask the person selling it to send you the ESN number. It may be called IMEI number, MEID number or ESN number, as its based on your carrier but just say ESN as they are all the same thing. The number is often on the back of the iphone but its really small letters so you may not be able to read it, but you can just go to settings-general-about and scroll down until you see the number listed there, it will be a 14 digit number. Note that they may not know where to look this up, so give them these instructions also so they can easily find it for you.

You can also get this in person and check it on your phone when you meet in person, but I would check up from and tell them you need the number to verify its not a stolen or reported lost iphone. If the seller is shady and knows its stolen or flagged lost, then they probably wont even give it to you so it will save you time politely asking for this  :)  

2) Go to   Put in the number and this will check the nationwide database to validate it.

Guest Says:
When you meet in person, and everything checked out as explained above, I would meet in a nice parking lot during daytime where people are around, like a store or restaurant. Ask them if they dont mind that you spend a few minutes now to check a few things, any reputable seller will not mind but ask first to be polite.

1) Look at the phone closely in the light. Is it scratched up on the screen? Is it in the condition they said?

2) Do you have the chord charger?  Does it come with the headphones or car charger chord also?  If you have the car charger, connect it in the car and see if it begins charging.

3) Can you take a picture?  Does it work?

4) Move around a few things on the phone and go into wifi, does it bring up any wifi settings? (It may show restaurants depending upon your area, etc, just a good check to do)

5) The battery will be weaker on a used phone but you can always take that to an apple store, have them put a new battery in, and it will be like a new phone as long as everything else works fine.

Moderator Says:
All this above is great advice!!!!

Here is how I would email or text someone before meeting (you can cut and paste this). This way you also make it easy for them if they dont know how to do these things.
Anyone that does not want to do this below, or is making excuses, would probably know its stolen and that you know how to check it, and they will probably back out of the deal. This is great as it saves you the time and risk.

I'm interested in buying but there are a couple things I need to verify first to make sure the phone is not blacklisted before I buy this.

1) I assume you already wiped the phone (this will get rid of all your stuff on it too). I need to make sure I can set it up as my own and that there is no password required on it. If you haven't done this then go to settings, then general, then reset, then erase all content and settings. It will ask you for your password to do this. (Otherwise you can do this when we meet before I purchase it, but this will save time if you reset everything first. Then all I have to do is verify your information is gone).

2) Please send me the ESN number so I can verify its not blacklisted. Go to settings, then general, then about and scroll down until you see the number listed there, it will be a 14 digit number and will say IMEI or MEID or ESN as the name. This will allow me to check the phone before we meet, otherwise I will have to do it in person before I purchase it, so this will save time.


Guest Says:
Thanks for the comprehensive and well put together information.  Your work is appreciated.

x3x Says:
they can always report it stolen after few days / week / month. its not safe anymore, so buy your phone from the store !

Guest Says:
x3x:  If that happened then I would just file a small claims court judgement against them for the cost of the phone and court costs added on to it.  It would be a simple case to prove, and they would lose even more then the money they received, I'm guessing they wouldn't even show up for court (automatic loss) in that case because they know they cant win it.  It would be stupid for anyone to do that.

Guest Says:
In addition to the checks above, if the iphone is locked then tell the seller to have their carrier unlock it FIRST! Or inquire if their contract is paid off otherwise.  If their contract is paid off and in good standing, then they will be able to unlock it, otherwise thats a red flag.  It doesnt prevent them from reporting it stolen and getting a bad ESN number after you bought it but it does give more assurance because they cant unlock it if still under contract.

Also if buying from Ebay I would always check someone's standing and make sure they have ALOT of feedback, otherwise a few fake votes are meaningless.  I would never buy from a new account on Ebay, thats a red flag.

Ask alot of questions after doing your checks above. Also if meeting in person I think that helps, ask them alot of questions up front.

Guest Says:
What a good informations we have here. Fairplay to you guys and hope the scammers will think twice to roll the dice. Found Iphone 5 for sale lately which is stated as icloud locked and I never heard about it before. Can someone verify about this kind of lock, please.

Guest Says:
Whenever you buy on Craislist, always write down the license plate number first thing when you meet!  Always!  

Just tell them you are writing it down in case this is a scam, its good that they know you have it. Its a way to track them down if they disconnect the number or scam you after the fact, and if they know it, they are far less likely to try anything since most dont want you showing up with a baseball bat some night.

Guest Says:
To the person above, do NOT every buy a phone that someone advertises as "icloud locked".  Iphones have built in security features (which is great!) that means only the original owner can wipe it.  What this basically means is that if you buy a phone that is icloud locked, and you try to set it up as your own, or even if you try to wipe it clean, it will ask you for a password.  This is NOT the code to unlock the screen either, this is the actual icloud password each owner sets up, and you will not get past it.  Only the original owner can wipe it.  If they are selling it as icloud locked then most likely its stolen, otherwise they would be able to wipe it and sell it as a clean phone.  Even the Apple store wont help you as this is a built in security feature for Iphones.

Be aware also that using the find my iphone feature, the original owner can also go to and sign on with this password and see where the iphone is located.  They can also disable it.  You have no way to turn off find my iphone either, so make sure its always wiped if buying and not icloud locked.

Guest Says:
This is new from Apple, it allows you to always check by entering the serial number or IMEI number its called:

Thanks Apple, this is a good feature to check!

Guest Says:
You can use this link to check if there is any warranty left on the used iphone too, another good link

Guest Says:
Another thing thats helpfull is ask them to show the new phone they have as proof that the old phone has been removed from the previous account and contract.  They wont expect that and if you checked the ESN is good, and they have their new phone, then the old wouldn't have been reported stolen.

Guest Says:
Another sign of buying a stolen iphone is if it is phone only and no accessories, meaning no charging chord and no ear buds with it. I've always sold my old iphone on craigslist and always sold that stuff as part of it, so anyone thats selling iphone only and no charge chord would make me think its stolen.

Guest Says:
If you need to unlock your phone, be aware that if your contract is up just contact your carrier, most have a site where you request it to be unlocked. For example, at&t unlock has a webpage where you put it a request with the imei number, then your information, then in about 2 days they notify you its been unlocked once they verify your contract is paid off.  Its free to unlock of course.

Guest Says:
Another good link to check coverage and warranty on the apple site is

So for iphone checks from above information I consolidated these links:

Guest Says:
One other thing to check on the iphone, if meeting in person and you already verified its not icloud locked, and already verified the things above, then try to make a call with it. It should NOT have service, that would be a red flag if it was able to make a call because why would someone sell their old iphone without cancelling service first.

I would definitely be on high alert if thats the case, and I would ask them many questions on this and probably not even do the deal because that would make me think they are waiting to stop paying their contract because they know you are verifying it, no one would sell their old phone without having a new iphone first and having the old one cancelled.

Guest Says:
Another tip: If buying on craigslist, always make sure or ask for their phone number so you can text them about the iphone. People that dont want to be found again dont want you to have their number, because if something fraudulent happens a phone number is a way to find out who they are if you file a police report.

Guest Says:
I agree with the other poster, I would never buy a used iphone unless the person talked/text about it on their phone first. If someone was shady then the last thing they would want is for you to have their phone number because thats a link to who they are.

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