What Is A Blacklisted Phone?

You may have heard the term “blacklisted phone” at some point. Maybe it was on an iPhone message board, or a Genius at the Apple Store mentioned it. But what exactly does “blacklisted” mean when it comes to phones? What can you do if your iPhone or Android has been blacklisted? Let’s explore this concept for a moment and talk about the implications if your device has been given this designation.

What Does “Blacklisted” Mean When You’re Talking About Phones?

The simplest answer to this query is that a blacklisted phone is one that has been reported stolen or lost, presumably by the original or previous owner. It makes sense that you may want to buy a phone used. That’s because new, top-of-the-line iPhones can easily cost upwards of $1,000, and Androids aren’t much cheaper.

If you’re not careful, though, you could end up getting stuck with a blacklisted phone, and that’s bad news when you’re trying to get it activated. There are ways to tell whether a used phone has been blacklisted, though, so let’s go over that now.

What is a Blacklisted Phone

How to Check Whether a Phone has Been Blacklisted

Most mobile phones have what is called an IMEI. That stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity. Think of it like a barcode that gives you all the information about a product. If your phone doesn’t have one, then it will have an ESN instead. That’s an Electronic Serial Number. Some devices have both.

IMEI Check for Blacklisted Phone

It’s easy to find these numbers. To do so, type #06# into the keypad. That will cause the numbers to show up on the display. It’s on the back of some phones, or the battery. If you got your used device in the original box in which it came, then you might see this number on the packaging as well. That’s the case with Apple products.

If you have an iPhone, you can also go to Settings, then About, and then IMEI/ESN. It should be displayed there.

IMEI Reveals a Blacklisted Phone

Is Your Device Clean, or has it Been Blacklisted?

As for whether the device you’re considering buying has been flagged as lost or stolen, the easiest way to know that is to contact the carrier when you’re trying to get yourself set up with a plan. You’re probably going to get put on hold for a while when you do this. It’s worth it, though. If you buy a used device without going through this process, then you might be in for a nasty surprise when you do get around to activating it.

There are also websites and apps like PhoneCheck. PhoneCheck is a mobile diagnostic company. You can use it to get all kinds of information about a used device, including whether it is on the so-called blacklist.

But What Exactly is the Blacklist?

The blacklist is a master list of all the electronic devices that have been reported lost or stolen. It’s a database containing all of those ESNs and IMEIs that correspond to the phones on the black market. If your phone matches one of those numbers, it’s highly likely that a carrier won’t provide service for you. What’s more, they might even make a report to the authorities that you have that particular device in your possession. If that phone was blacklisted for a valid reason, you might be forced to give it up so the previous owner can retrieve it.

 Do You Have a Blacklisted Phone

What Can You Do with a Blacklisted Phone?

Let’s say that the worst-case scenario has come to pass. You bought a used phone, called a local carrier, and they tell you that it’s blacklisted. What’s the next step?

What you’re going to do depends on how you bought the phone. If you purchased it used or refurbished through a carrier, then the onus of responsibility is on them. You can simply tell them about the problem, and they’ll have to do whatever is necessary to get your phone off the blacklist or refund your money.

If you bought the phone from a private seller, then that makes things a little more complicated. Hopefully, you still have their contact information. You can tell them the same thing that you would a carrier: get this device taken off the blacklist, or give me my money back. If they refuse to do so, then you can always go to the police or take them to small claims court. Probably a judgment will go in your favour, though you will have to take the time to make a court appearance.

 Small Claims Court for a Blacklisted Phone

It’s also vital for you to know that in most cases, only the individual who first reported the phone lost or stolen may get it removed from the blacklist. If you’re able to get in touch with the person who owned the device previously and they’re willing to do that, then you should be able to get the phone activated with no further problems. However, keep in mind that what’s more likely is they’ll want to reclaim their property, leaving you with nothing.

What if You Don’t Get Your Phone Taken Off the Blacklist?

Maybe you bought a phone that you find out has been blacklisted. The carrier you called does not bother to report the device to the authorities. You decide that you still want to keep it, and you don’t want to go through the trouble of taking it off the blacklist. What is the phone suitable for then?

Well, in theory, you could still use the device for things like playing music, games and watching movies or TV shows. There’s not something inherently wrong with this. However, most people want a phone primarily so they can make calls and exchange texts, and you won’t be able to do that without a carrier for it.

Realistically, when you buy a phone, and you find out that it’s on the blacklist, you’re going to have to do everything you can to get it off of there. That will mean communicating with the carrier, the entity or individual who sold you the phone, and possibly the person who put it on the blacklist in the first place.

The wisest course of action is to check into a used phone’s status before any money ever changes hands. That way, these sorts of problems can be avoided. If you do buy from a private seller, like someone who’s getting rid of their used iPhone on Craigslist or something along those lines, make sure that it’s someone about whom you feel reasonably confident. If the person seems evasive about where they got the phone, or they won’t let you check out the IMEI or the ESN, then walk away from the deal.

Generally speaking, it’s better to buy a used electronic device from a recognized online or brick-and-mortar entity that you can hold accountable. If someone online is offering a phone that seems like too good of a deal to pass up, then proceed with extreme caution. More than likely, they got ahold of that device through dishonest means, and it could be on the dreaded blacklist.  

 A Blacklisted Phone Was Probably Stolen