I Accidentally Bought a Stolen iPhone; Help Needed

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by M1ckey, Oct 13, 2014.

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  1. M1ckey macrumors newbie

    Nov 16, 2013
    Backstory, Skip if You Like: I am a college student that was buying a new iPhone 5s. Last Thursday, I bought a, unbeknownst to me, stolen iPhone from a guy off craigslist. Before I went, I check a bunch of websites to ensure that it wasn't stolen. I even went to AT&T to ensure that the IMEI wasn't blacklisted and I spent probably 30 minutes just researching to see if it was stolen. Everything came back clear. I went back to my dorm to get it activated with my SIM and to start enjoying the phone. I start the process and I come to iCloud Activation Lock, which is impossible to completely get past nor do I want a stolen iPhone. After I found out that it was stolen, I saw that iCould provided a number to call. I thought, "Great, I may have been scammed, but maybe I can get a person their phone back". I called the number and it went to a voicemail box that wasn't set up so I couldn't leave a message. I called four times with about an hour between each call. I decided that maybe I can go to AT&T and give them the IMEI and then they can call the account holder, which I did the next day. I went over and they couldn't pull up any information off the IMEI, so I gave up on that. I went back to my dorms and looked at a few videos that showed you could bypass the iCloud lock and then get the email address that it was locked to. I tried this for about an hour with no luck because the iPhone is on 8.0.2. But during this time, I decided to just plug it into iExplorer, which on a normal iPhone lets you see contacts. I thought that maybe there would be a contact named "Mom" or "Dad" and then I could call that number. Well, that didn't work because the phone was wiped, but I got the phone number that was tied with the ICCID/ iPhone. I decided to call that number because if the previous owner might have gotten a new phone and the number would go to that phone. I called and it went straight to voicemail, which I think means the owner hasn't gotten a new phone yet. Well, great, no progress. But, I had the idea that I could go to the AT&T store, give them that number, and they could call the account holder's, which they did. They got a voicemail box and left a message. So, at this point, I was ready to give up and just return it to the police, but I talked to my parents first. They told me that I had focused a lot of my energy on contacting the old owner, but that person may not want the phone anymore or may have already got her insurance money.

    So here is my question: Is there anyway that I can legally own this phone or get my money back out of the phone? My mother suggested that I turn it over to the police and if it goes unclaimed that I could ask them to contact me before an unclaimed property action and they may give it back and write me a recipe that states it is my property. With this recipe, I could go to Apple and have they unlock it. My father suggested that I send a certified letter to the address on file with AT&T (I would write the letter and have them mail it after I paid for the postage so that I never get the customer's information). Then I would wait thirty days after confirmed delivery and then call the phone mine. Ultimately, I need to prove the phone is mine for Apple to possibly disable Activation Lock.
    Any suggestions would be great. I would just like to get my money back out of the phone or have a working phone because I have tried really hard to return the phone to the owner.

    TL;DR: I bought an iPhone and have been trying to return the phone with no luck. I am a college student and would like to get my money back or have a working phone in some legal way. I need some suggestions on what I could do. Thank you for your time.
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    You're pretty much out of luck. There's no legal way of owning stolen property.
  3. Bacong macrumors 68020


    Mar 7, 2009
    Westland, Michigan
    Unfortunately, this is what will happen:

    - Your money is gone, and you will not get it back unless you can find the person who sold it to you (good luck) and prove without a doubt that he sold it to you knowing it was stolen

    - Apple will not, under any circumstances, remove activation lock.

    - your only recourse is to keep calling that number and hope someone eventually picks up (or responds to the voicemail I'm sure you're leaving)
  4. iBlazed macrumors 68000


    Feb 27, 2014
    New Jersey, United States
    Seems like you're SOL. You have an expensive paperweight. How much did you pay for it?
  5. arftech, Oct 13, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2014

    arftech macrumors regular


    Aug 17, 2010
    I'll be honest and say I didn't read the whole thing but I want to applaud you in at least trying make contact with the individual to see if the phone was stolen.

    I applaud you sir!:cool:
  6. veedubshafer macrumors 6502

    Sep 30, 2012
    Buy a smashed phone on eBay and hope the motherboard is good. Make 1 good phone out of the 2.
  7. KdParker macrumors 601


    Oct 1, 2010
    Not sure what options you have.

    Apple should be able to get in touch with the previous owner. (I guess) one way or another, but I think you are out of luck and will have to get a new phone.
  8. Resqu2 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 23, 2011
    lesson here is to always check the iCloud settings on a ph in a situation like this. Either give it to the police or just toss it, its pretty much worthless. Not sure the cops would even want it.
  9. cymolia macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2012
    Orange County, FL
  10. deeddawg macrumors 604

    Jun 14, 2010
    Absolute best case you end up with a locked phone that you either Frankenstein via a smashed phone logic board or you sell for parts with full disclosure.

    Either way you should first follow whatever the process is in your jurisdiction for turning in lost property. Maybe you get it back if it's never claimed, maybe you don't, but you'll have followed the law and not need to worry about possible repercussions.

    Plus you can perhaps file charges against the sleezebag who sold you the phone. Probably won't result in anything happening but you'll have that as documentation just in case.

    In any event sorry to hear you got scammed and I applaud your efforts to do the right thing.
  11. Lylyluvda916 macrumors regular

    Aug 28, 2012
    Did you try texting the number? After they didn't answer it would have been the first thing I would do.
  12. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6


    Aug 17, 2007
    Sadly, I have to agree with this. Keep trying to get in touch with the seller and get your money back, however, this isn't likely to happen.
  13. HolyGrail macrumors 6502


    Nov 21, 2010
    Planet Earth
    Oh boy......this is going to turn into a long thread. Time to go pop the corn.
  14. eelw macrumors 6502a


    Sep 19, 2012
    Unfortunately expensive lesson learned, always check the device is useable not just a look over for physical damage before handing over money.
  15. Gregintosh macrumors 68000

    Jan 29, 2008
    Buying Tips:

    - Use Apple's iCloud checker to see if Activation Lock is present on the device

    - Make sure the person you're buying from has the original box. Chances are if the box serial number matches the phone's then its not stolen (most stolen iPhones are stolen from people on the street or who leave phones laying around, not new in-box units).

    - Make sure the person has the original receipt. If they have the original receipt, chances are they truly were the original owner (or they received the unit from the original owner). Also useful if the unit has AppleCare (they ask to verify receipts from time to time) or if its less than 1 year old so maybe you get some warranty out of it.

    - If the person has no original box or receipt (I would accept either one if I was buying a unit, up to you to require both), then I would ask where they got it. If they got it from a carrier, their carrier may be able to look up a receipt or verify the purchase if you go to their locations.

    - If the person has no receipt, box, and is unwilling/unable to verify where they got the phone, I would stay away.

    What if the unit has no documentation but also no activation lock?
    What if its PERFECTLY USABLE when you buy it?

    I would still stay away. The reason is that if it was stolen on Monday and you got it Tuesday or Wednesday, it may work just fine. But if the original owner gives up looking for it by Friday they may call the carrier and blacklist it.

    There are a lot of stories online of people getting phones that pass visual inspection and work and then a few days later are disabled permanently (presumably when the original owner reported it).

    So basically, buying a phone that seems to work at the time of purchase from a Craigslist or other untraceable seller isn't a guarantee that it will continue to work or that the unit is safe.

    While documentation can potentially be faked or also stolen but the odds of that are so mega low that if someone has those items I would be willing to bet they're genuine.

    There are also some sellers who may be jerks and sell legitimate units and report them stolen anyway, but other than an isolated case here or there I don't feel this is a real danger (very little motivation/incentive for them to do this).
  16. Newtons Apple macrumors Core

    Newtons Apple

    Mar 12, 2014
    Jacksonville, Florida
    Unless you can get your money back you are SOL.

    Apple will in NO way going to help get the phone going.

    The police are also pretty well useless.

  17. 617aircav Suspended

    Jul 2, 2012
    Fist of all I sympathize with you. The problem here is you did not do enough due diligence. Checking Imei has nothing to do with activation lock at all. You shoud have

    1. Checked to see that find my iphone was off
    2. Connected the phone to a wifi network to make sure wifi worked
    3. Placed a test call with the phone to ensure speakers, mic etc worked
    4. Used data on the phone to make sure data was working
    5. Tested the maps application to makes sure gps is working
    6. Checked to see if the gb matched what was advertised

    Had you done any of these you would not have bought that phone.
  18. E3BK macrumors 68030


    Mar 15, 2008
    That was some serious effort to get in touch w/ the owner. Well done. I hope the universe rewards you for your efforts in trying to do the right thing.

    In case it doesn't, you could always use a service like Chronic to remove the activation lock. I wouldn't trust too many unlock places for something like this Chronic's rep on this is pretty solid. https://chronicunlocks.com/r/icloud_removal_tool
  19. sillywabbit, Oct 13, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2014

    sillywabbit macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2012
  20. Achillias, Oct 13, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2014

    Achillias macrumors 6502


    Dec 1, 2011
    Honestly you're screwed. You won't be able to use that iPhone till the user of that iCloud account wipes his account from it. Also don't turn it in. Expensive things likes smartphones will get stolen by corrupted police officers when you turn those in. Let the person who lost it call you.
  21. greytmom macrumors 68040


    Jun 23, 2010
    I would turn it into the police and call it lesson learned.

    Sorry this happened to you.
  22. TWO2SEVEN macrumors 68040


    Jun 27, 2010
    Plano, TX
    So you think they would risk their career over a (last gen) iPhone? :rolleyes:
  23. Achillias macrumors 6502


    Dec 1, 2011
    It happens alot. Things you turn in like wallets with money which will be empty when you pick it up. Same for smartphones. And yes even on the police station.
  24. IconLa macrumors newbie

    Oct 13, 2014
    This happen to me before and caused huge headache.
  25. Night Spring macrumors G5

    Night Spring

    Jul 17, 2008
    I'm sorry this happened to the OP, but why do you conclude that it is stolen? Sure, there is a high probability it is stolen, but there is also the possibility that the seller just didn't know about turning off Find My iPhone before selling it. What makes you think that's not the case?
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