Buying a Used Cell Phone-Tips and Things to Consider before Purchasing. May 02 2017

Buying used electronic devices can save you money. But of course this comes with some risk. Mobile apps such as OfferUp and LetGo have made it extremely simple to purchase, sell or give away used personal belongings. Hence, for this article we want minimize that risk and focus on individuals interested in purchasing a used cell phone or tablet. 

The issue with these apps are the accountability if the item it reported stolen/lost or the device has some sort of malfunction that the seller isn't telling the buyer. The following are focal points you should consider before you purchase a used cell phone or tablet.     

1. Make sure it's not Stolen: Check the IMEI 

The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) is unique serial number given to each cell phone device. It is used to identify if the device is stolen, lost, or blacklisted. This is one of the first things you should check if you're considering purchasing a used cell phone or tablet. 

Easy way to check the IMEI. For Free!

    Find the IMEI on your device:

    • iPhone 7 and other Apple devices: Settings > General > About
    • Samsung S7 and other Android devices: Settings > About Phone > Status > IMEI information
    • On the back Side of the Phone
    • Behind the battery
    • On the SIM card tray

    2. iCloud Lock or Google Account Lock

    iCloud and Google Account lock is a factory reset protection (FRP). FRP is activated when a cell phone or tablet is reset to factory settings and the device was attached to an iCloud or Google Account.  FRP is the second most common way people get ripped off when purchasing a phone on eBay, Craigslist, LetGo, and OfferUp. FRP is nearly impossible to remove unless you're the original owner. We wrote about this subject in another blog post. Click here to learn more. It may be possible to remove it.

    Best way to avoid FRP lock:

    • Don't hand over the money until you verify the cell phone is working properly
    • If the pass code lock screen or the Home screen appears, the device hasn't been erased. Ask the seller to completely erase the device by going to:
    1. (Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings) on Apple devices and
    2. (Settings > Backup and Reset > Factory Data Reset) on Android devices.

      Don't take ownership of any used cell phone or tablet until it's been erased.  
    • Once the device has been erased and set to factory settings, then the device may ask you to enter the e-mail attached to the device. If you see this, then hand the phone back to the seller and ask them to enter the e-mail and password. This does not remove the e-mail. Ask them to remove the e-mail associated with the device. 
    • If the device is a used iPhone, iPad, or iPod and they are not present then they can remove the device by signing into icloud.com/find or on their current iPhone under iCloud. For Android users, you need to log into the e-mail account attached with the device and remove the device. 
    • Don't take ownership of the device until this is removed.

    3. Meet at a Public Area

    Don't meet anyone that doesn't want to meet at public area. This is for the safety of both parties. Accessibility to WIFi is also a plus.  The following are suggestions for public locations:

    • Starbucks: has plenty of people around and they allow you access to the Starbucks WiFi. 
    • At a store owned by your cellphone provider: That way you can verify that it works for your provider and also if you need a new sim card
    •  A local mall may also offer you easy access to both a store owned by your cell phone provider and WiFi

    4. Verify that the device will function with your cellphone provider

    About two year ago I bought a brand new Blackberry Priv from a seller in Amazon. The Blackberry Priv came At&t factory unlocked (GSM) and I was super excited to bring into the Verizon network (CDMA). At that time my understanding of unlocked phones was that unlocked meant you can use it with any carrier without restrictions. To my disappointment it didn't work. All I can do is text and call. Not even changing the APN setting worked.

    Do the following to tests to verify if the used cell phone is compatible for your cellphone provider:

  1. Make a call to see if you can receive and make calls
  2. Send a multimedia text (picture text message or group text)
  3. Surf the web and watch a video
  4. Change the APN settings if one or more of the top things don't work. Simple Google [[your cell phone provider]] APN
  5.  

    5. Be patient and compare online prices 

    If the price if too good to be true, then it probably is. More often than not, a cell phone selling at a good price will mostly be stolen or have something wrong with it.

    Make sure you get the best deal possible. Compare online prices and use that towards your price negotiations.

    Make sure that that the device is working properly. Try out:

    • Selfie camera
    • Back camera
    • Loud speaker
    • Earpiece 
    • Earphone jack
    • WiFi and GPS
    • Volume Buttons
    • Home Button
    • Power Button
    • Vibrator