Sometimes, however, people may find themselves in possession of a phone that was previously reported stolen, either through purchasing it unknowingly or receiving it as a gift. If you find yourself in this situation, there are a few steps you can take to activate a phone that was reported stolen ethically and legally.
How to activate a phone that was reported stolen
Below are the steps to activate a phone that was reported stolen:
1. Verify the phone’s status
Before attempting to activate a phone that you suspect may be stolen, it is crucial to verify its status. You can do this by checking the phone’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, a unique identifier for every mobile device. You can find the IMEI in the following ways:
- Dial *#06# on the phone
- Check the phone’s settings
- Looking for a label on the phone’s original packaging
Once you have the IMEI number, visit an IMEI checker website, such as imeipro.info, to verify the phone’s status. If the site confirms that the phone has been reported as stolen, you should not attempt to activate it. Instead, follow the steps below to resolve the issue.
a. Contact the seller
If you purchased the phone from a third-party seller, contact them and explain the situation.
Inform them that the phone they sold you was reported as stolen and request a refund or a replacement. Remain calm and assertive during your communication with the seller. If they refuse to cooperate, you may need to take legal action or involve local authorities.
b. Report the incident to the police
If you suspect that the phone was stolen or if the seller refuses to cooperate, report the incident to the police. Provide them with all relevant information, such as the seller’s contact details, the phone’s IMEI number, and any correspondence you have had with the seller.
Reporting the situation to the police is better than trying to activate a phone that was reported stolen because it can help protect you from potential legal consequences and may aid in the recovery of the stolen property.
c. Contact the carrier
If you cannot find the original owner, the next step is to report the situation to the carrier to whom the phone is connected. They can help verify whether the device was indeed reported stolen and provide guidance on the appropriate course of action.
If the carrier confirms that the phone was stolen, they may have a process in place for you to return the device or, in some cases, may even be able to activate it for you if the owner has given up on retrieving it.
2. Reach out to the original owner
The most ethical step to take when you have a phone that was reported stolen is to try and locate the original owner. You can do this by accessing any available contact information stored on the device or by researching the phone’s IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number. The IMEI is a unique 15-digit number assigned to every mobile device, and it can be found on the phone’s packaging, under the battery, or by dialing *#06# on the device.
Once you have the IMEI, contact the carrier or use online services like the National Stolen and Lost Property database or the GSMA Device Registry to try and find the owner. If you manage to locate them, you can arrange for the device to be returned.
In some cases, you may be able to find the original owner of the phone by searching online or using social media. If you manage to locate them, contact them and explain the situation. They may be willing to remove the stolen status on the device, allowing you to activate it legally.
This step should only be taken after you have exhausted all other options for activating a phone that was reported stolen, as it may not always be possible or safe to contact the original owner directly.
3. Explore legal options
If you have exhausted all other options and the seller refuses to cooperate, you may need to seek legal advice instead of trying to activate a phone that was reported stolen. Consult with a lawyer who specializes in consumer rights and fraud to discuss your options for recovering your money or obtaining a replacement device.
4. Wipe the device
If you decide to proceed with activating the phone, the next step is to factory reset the device and erase all personal information and data from the previous owner. This process will vary depending on the phone’s make and model, but it generally involves accessing the settings menu, selecting the appropriate option to reset the phone, and following the on-screen instructions.
Keep in mind that wiping the device will not remove any security measures in place, such as activation locks or carrier blacklisting.
5. Try to bypass activation locks
If the phone has an activation lock, such as Apple’s iCloud Activation Lock or Google’s FRP (Factory Reset Protection) Lock, you will need to bypass it before you can use the device. This step is where legality and ethics become questionable, as bypassing these security features can be considered a breach of the original owner’s privacy and may be illegal in some jurisdictions.
We would advise you to weigh the risks and consequences before attempting this step.
There are several methods to bypass activation locks, including using third-party software tools, online services, or following specific manual procedures for each type of lock. Be cautious when using these methods, as they may not be reliable or secure and may potentially harm the device or compromise your personal information.
6. Change the IMEI number (not recommended)
Changing the IMEI number of the phone is another option to activate a phone that was reported stolen, especially if bought from a store like Walmart. However, this method is illegal in many countries, including the United States, and can result in severe consequences if caught. Changing the IMEI number can also cause the device to malfunction or become entirely unusable.
There are several tools and methods available online to change the IMEI number, but we strongly advise against using them.
7. Use a prepaid SIM card
Once you have wiped the device and bypassed any activation locks (keeping in mind the legality and ethical considerations), try using a prepaid SIM card to activate the phone.
A prepaid SIM card allows you to use the device without being tied to a specific carrier or plan. However, this method may not work if the phone is carrier-locked or blacklisted by the carrier.
To use a prepaid SIM card, simply purchase one from a local retailer, online, or from a carrier store. After acquiring the SIM card, insert it into the phone, and follow the activation instructions provided by the SIM card provider.
Preventing future incidents
To avoid purchasing a stolen phone in the future, follow these tips:
1. Buy from reputable sellers
When purchasing a phone, buy from a reputable retailer or carrier to minimize the risk of buying a stolen device.
If you choose to buy from a third-party seller, make sure to read their reviews and ratings carefully.
2. Check the IMEI status
Before buying a phone, request the IMEI number from the seller and verify it using an IMEI checker website to help you determine if the phone has been reported as stolen or has any other issues.
3. Inspect the packaging and accessories
Stolen phones may come with generic or missing accessories, as well as damaged or tampered packaging. If you notice any discrepancies, it may be a red flag.
4. Request a receipt or proof of purchase
Always ask for a receipt or proof of purchase when buying a phone, especially from a third-party seller. This documentation can be helpful if you need to prove that you purchased the device legally.
5. Be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true
If a phone’s price is significantly lower than the market value, it could be an indicator that the device is stolen or counterfeit. Be cautious when considering such deals and trust your instincts. Usually, people sell out such phones cheaply to prevent being traced back to them.
6. Use secure payment methods
When purchasing a phone, use secure payment methods such as PayPal or a credit card that offers buyer protection.
Avoid paying with cash, wire transfers, or other methods that do not provide any protection in case of fraud.
Read also: steps to track your stolen items online
Understandably, the seller was dishonest about the stolen phone. However, it is now left for you to either return the phone to the owner, try breaking into it (which is illegal), or sell it for parts. The decision is yours to make but we’d advise locating the owner. If possible, make sure to report the seller. Keep the chats and records of voice call safe because you may need them as evidence.