Guide: How to buy a brick on Ebay

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by wakinghour, Jun 18, 2015.

  1. wakinghour, Jun 18, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2015

    wakinghour macrumors regular

    Jul 16, 2012
    Disclaimer: I own a used iPhone 5 and never bought one brand new.

    Many carriers like T-Mobile began a blacklisting service a couple years ago to prevent stolen phones from being sold. Little did they know, they opened up an entirely new opportunity for a new type of theft simply because of their policies.

    IMEI Verification Won't Help
    You probably received some advice to check the IMEI number to make sure the phone was not blacklisted either due to theft or no payments. You go ahead and call your service provider or use their online tool and they verify the IMEI is good. A few months later the original buyer reports the phone as stolen to defraud insurance (that's a crime by the way). What you may not realize is some companies such as T-Mobile has no safeguard against this.

    "T-Mobile IMEI look up tool is for informational purposes only. The status of a device is subject to change at any time. T-Mobile is not responsible for any device blocking that is not disclosed or that occurs at a later date."

    Do CDMA networks protect me?
    Apparently these tactics makes the IMEI useless for GSM carriers. CDMA carriers, however, such as Verizon and Sprint restrict who can call and blacklist the phone. GSM carriers as far as we know do not do this at all.

    If you buy a Verizon phone which are always unlocked, Verizon may be only be able to do this if you are their customer. Obviously, people bring them to other carriers so that may require more work.

    Then can T-Mobile protect me?
    I spoke with a T-Mobile rep that claimed you can verify your ownership of the phone, in case it is blacklisted, by providing the Ebay receipt. YMMV of course, since some cases of showing evidence of the sale didn't help. That still doesn't solve the situation of preventing the problem - it's only a workaround if it does come up.

    They also said in order to verify if it's not financed, you must show a copy of the receipt that shows it was paid off. But then, if it really was paid off then you shouldn't even have that issue anyway, right?

    Can a factory unlocked phone be blacklisted?
    Yes. Even though someone would likely not be insured or have any incentive to do this, technically it could.

    Ebay/Paypal Protection
    If your phone gets blacklisted months after a purchase online, you are way past the protection window for Ebay and Paypal. T-Mobile and AT&T only answer to the original buyer, so no help there either.

    Other FAQs: Sealed Phones Require The Same Checks
    This guy got a new contract, bought insurance, didn't use the phone, then sold it to someone and the blacklisted it. In other cases, some people even have a plastic wrap machine to reseal phones. I bet this is rare though. In either case, you should check sealed phones with the same scrutiny as used phones.

    Other FAQs: Identifying a Legitimate Seller
    It's not as straight forward as you think. Many phones bought from highly reputable sellers on Ebay still somehow get blacklisted months down. This is because resellers try their best to buy legitimate phones, but they are no more protected than you are.

    Other People's Experiences
    Macrumors 2013

    What To Do
    The current advice is to stick with Verizon/Sprint. They will verify the financial situation of the phone and may be able to remove the original user from the account. Any other advice is welcome!
  2. noles1983 macrumors regular

    Aug 9, 2009
    San Antonio, TX
    most people are scum, i hate the whole financing the phones fad. If you cant afford it upfront you shouldnt get it.
  3. jbachandouris macrumors 601


    Aug 18, 2009
    Upstate NY
    Check Paypal terms of use again: you have 180 days to file a claim as significantly not as described. They almost always side with the buyer.
  4. eyoungren macrumors Core


    Aug 31, 2011
    ten-zero-eleven-zero-zero by zero-two
    I financed my wife's phone and mine with $0 down. 128GB iPhone 6 (her) and 128GB iPhone 6+ (me).

    Part of the deal also gave me two Android tablets and financing on a 50% off Harmon Kardon speaker.

    16 years with Sprint gave me that option. As much as I'd like to leave for T-Mobile (and my 6+ is unlocked) I have no serious plans to do so yet and if I did I would not do this.

    Not everyone who can't afford it up front is intent on ripping everyone else off.

    Just saying.
  5. C DM macrumors Sandy Bridge

    Oct 17, 2011
    If you want to pay little by little over time rather than all at once, what's it to anyone else?
  6. Nermal Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 7, 2002
    New Zealand
    There can also be restrictions: To get my iPhones (4S and 6) on launch day I had to use monthly payments. My operator didn't sell the phones "outright" until about a month after launch, when stock levels were higher. I can certainly afford to buy outright but didn't have the option to do so (although in the case of the 6, I cancelled my plan after the first month and received a bill for the complete cost of the phone).
  7. mpavilion macrumors 6502a

    Aug 4, 2014
    SFV, CA, USA
    That's after a few months of the phone being used by a different owner (the buyer) with a different SIM. The previous owner's claim would be easily verified as fraudulent: the phone wasn't just stolen, it hasn't been in their possession for months (since they sold it).

    There was another thread like this recently. I'm not at all the conspiratorial type, but I find these efforts on here to discourage buying a second-hand phone a bit curious. Many use Swappa, etc. without issues. Of course I also recognize fraud happens and you need to keep your eyes open.
  8. mpavilion macrumors 6502a

    Aug 4, 2014
    SFV, CA, USA
    The insurance fraud scenario outlined above (skeptical though I am of its pervasiveness) isn't specific to financed phones...
  9. wakinghour thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 16, 2012
    I've never owned a brand new iPhone. Actually, the entire reason I posted this was to see if someone knew a safe way to verify these things so I can buy a used iPhone again.

    Easily verified as fraudulent, sure. But what is the point of proof when a carrier will not use it in your favor? I even cited a story where someone brought proof and their carrier looked the other way.
  10. mpavilion, Jun 19, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2015

    mpavilion macrumors 6502a

    Aug 4, 2014
    SFV, CA, USA
    If the carriers and their insurance companies will look the other way when you're ripped off like this, then it sounds like there is no foolproof way to prevent it. I suggest buying only from Swappa sellers who have good feedback.

    You wrote above, "Many phones bought from highly reputable sellers on Ebay still somehow get blacklisted months down." -- but it only has to happen once for that seller to no longer be reputable, as someone will leave negative feedback with the story. I guess you can always be the unfortunate "first victim"...

    EDIT: It occurs to me that you could only buy phones that were not purchased from / insured under a carrier in the first place. Ask the seller to email you a PDF of their receipt (if they still have it), to prove they bought the phone from the Apple Store. Of course, this would limit your choices... but you would know the insurance scam could not be pulled.
  11. The-Real-Deal82 macrumors 604


    Jan 17, 2013
    Wales, United Kingdom
    Rubbish. Most people have phones on contract these days and pay a monthly tariff. I personally don't know anybody who pays £650 outright for a mobile phone, and it's less if a pain spreading the cost. If you can afford to pay up front then that's great but it's a bit stupid suggesting those who opt for contracts can't afford it and shouldn't get it. Welcome to the 21st century btw ;)
  12. wakinghour thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 16, 2012
    That's an interesting idea. I suppose someone could still just blacklist your phone to be a jerk, but they wouldn't have any incentive in that case.
  13. C DM macrumors Sandy Bridge

    Oct 17, 2011
    The phone can still be insured though other means outside the carrier and would still be blacklisted if reported as lost or stolen to those sources.
  14. mpavilion, Jun 21, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2015

    mpavilion macrumors 6502a

    Aug 4, 2014
    SFV, CA, USA
    How does the carrier block the IMEI of a phone that they did sell? How do they even know the IMEI?

    EDIT: And if they in fact see the IMEI of every phone using one of their SIMs (even an unlocked phone) -- wouldn't that work in the buyer's favor?

    SCAMMER: My phone was stolen, I've reported to police and insurance.

    CARRIER: We see that phone was activated on our network last week, by a customer across the country from you. Either that customer is the thief, or the thief must have shipped your phone to that customer. We can't release that customer's name, but we can work with police on the investigation.

    SCAMMER: Er, no thanks... I've already paid the $125 deductable for a replacement phone. Don't care about the old one anymore.

    CARRIER: Hmm, ok. And this new owner wouldn't say they bought he phone from you, would they?

    SCAMMER: Hangs up...
  15. C DM macrumors Sandy Bridge

    Oct 17, 2011
    If the phone was on your account before then they can blacklist it. Either you or they would know its information since it would be used for insurance purposes in a similar fashion whether it's through the carrier or directly through the insurance company. The whole bad part about it all is that people can blacklist phones that they no longer own.
  16. wakinghour thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 16, 2012
    So these guys can even get your carrier to blacklist the phone based on a 3rd party insurance?

    It seems like the only solution would be to cut off all the power from the original seller once the phone is sold. Like an account transfer of some sort so no one has the right to declare a phone blacklisted.
  17. wakinghour thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 16, 2012
    So I found a used phone seller that suggested T-Mobile's policies were the problem.

    The claim is that AT&T, Sprint and Verizon can verify an account is not being financed (avoids blacklisting for no payment) and also disconnect it from the account (avoids blacklisting by making fake stolen claims) so you won't have any future issues.

    T-Mobile won't release any information at all - and the IMEI checkers that do reveal the finance info don't work.

Share This Page