How to Check If a Used iPhone is Stolen or Blacklisted (IMEI Check)

Learn how to check if an iPhone is on blacklist or stolen by checking the IMEI and looking for an Activation Lock

By Moses Johnson - Editor
5 Min Read
  • If you’re looking to buy a used iPhone, there are a few things you should check first.
  • You should check if the iPhone is on blacklist, stolen, Activation Locked, or locked to a carrier by checking the IMEI.

There’s a large market for previously used iPhones. You can buy used iPhones from private sellers on eBay, Craigslist, etc.. A used iPhone is exactly that — used — and it usually comes as-is without a warranty.

There’s always a risk that a used iPhone has been stolen or blacklisted, which means it might be Activation Locked and won’t respond to your SIM card. The risk is greatest when you buy a phone from a private seller because most reputable retail and reseller sites will check this for you.

What happens when an iPhone is blacklisted?

When an iPhone is blacklisted, it’s IMEI is blacklisted and it won’t be able to work on most mobile networks. You can only watch movies, play games, or use as a Wi-Fi-only device.

To make sure that your potential iPhone hasn’t been stolen or blacklisted, you can check the phone’s IMEI number. In this article, we’ll tell you how you can make sure a used iPhone you purchase isn’t stolen by checking if it is Activation Locked, locked to a carrier or IMEI blacklisted.

What is an IMEI

IMEI stands for “International Mobile Equipment Identity.” It’s a unique number for identifying a device on a mobile network. You can think of it as your phone’s social security number. It has 15 digits and is assigned to every GSM phone.

Your phone’s IMEI number comes in handy when your handset gets lost or stolen. No, it won’t magically bring the phone back to you, but you can make sure whoever found or stole it won’t be able to use it. Your carrier can deny listing a device based on its IMEI number and request other carriers to do the same. This means the phone won’t make/receive calls anymore or connect online via the cellular network, even with a new SIM card.

The number also reveals loads of other details about a phone. These include the brand and model, year of release, and specifications.

What is an IMEI Check

There are online databases of phone IMEI/ MEID numbers for phones that have been reported stolen. With the help of a free IMEI checker, you can check whether a used iPhone has been reported lost, is blacklisted, was subject to an insurance claim, and more.

What is Activation Lock

Activation Lock is an Apple feature designed to prevent the unauthorized transfer or use of Apple devices. Once Activation Lock is enabled on a stolen Apple device, it’s nearly impossible to use the device without knowing the right Apple ID password. You can’t even erase its data — it’s totally locked down.

How to find the IMEI number on an iPhone

You can do this if you have the iPhone with you. To find the iPhone’s IMEI, you can use the Settings app, dial code or SIM tray of your device. If you don’t have the iPhone in your hand, try to get a video, preferably live stream, from the seller showing the IMEI.

Find the IMEI number on your iPhone using Settings

  1. Go to Settings > General > About.
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page, and you’ll see the IMEI number.

Tip: Alternatively, if the iPhone is signed in to your Apple ID, you can go to Settings > [Your Name]. At the bottom of the screen, tap on the device to see its IMEI at the bottom.

Find the IMEI number on your iPhone using a dial code

  1. Open the Phone app.
  2. Dial *#06#.
  3. A pop-up will show, and it will have the IMEI number on it.

Find the IMEI number on your iPhone using the SIM tray

  1. Straighten a paper clip or find a similar-sized pin or tool. Insert it inside the SIM tray, and push it in – not too hard – for the SIM tray to pop out.
  2. Look for the IMEI of your device on the SIM tray – It will be on the side where you place the SIM card.

How to check if iPhone is on blacklist

For this, we’ll use an international blacklist checker for reported stolen or missing iPhones. Follow the steps below:

  1. Find the iPhone IMEI using any of the methods discussed above.
  2. Copy the IMEI by tapping and holding the number,.
  3. In your favorite browser, go to the iPhone IMEI blacklist checker by visiting this link:
  4. Below the ad, enter the IMEI number in the search field where it says, "Enter IMEI Number here…"
  5. Enter the Captcha and then clickCHECK.
    IMEI Pro website results: Find My iPhone, Simlock status, Blacklist status  NOTE! You want to Find my iPhone OFF!
  6. Scroll down past the ad to see the results. You’ll want to see:
    • Find My iPhone should be OFF — Unlike the screenshot above.
    • Simlock status should be Unlocked.
    • Blacklist status should be CLEAN.

Other IMEI databases to check

There are other sites you can check, including CTIA’s Stolen Phone Checkeror the IMEI Check managed by reseller Swappa.

How to protect yourself from being scammed

Not every stolen phone gets reported, so it may not show up in the databases mentioned above. There is also the possibility that the phone was recently stolen and so hasn’t shown up yet in these databases. Here are a few tips:

  • Try to avoid paying in cash due to the lack of a paper trail and the inability to recover payment. Credit cards are better than debit, cash cards, or bank transfers in this regard too. Your bank can usually dispute a transaction to obtain a chargeback. Always check your specific bank’s terms and conditions and you may have to send in a dispute form to initiate the process.
  • If you can make the purchase in person, do that. With the iPhone in your hand, you can check the IMEI and try to set up the phone so you can be sure it isn’t Activation Locked.

  • If the iPhone asks you for the previous owner’s Apple ID, then the phone is Activation Locked and you won’t be able to use it. If you’re with the seller, ask them to enter their password to turn off Activation Lock. Don’t buy an iPhone if Activation Lock is enabled.

  • When you turn on the iPhone, you will want to see "Hello" on the screen in various languages. If the iPhone is protected with Face ID, Touch ID, or a passcode and you’re with the seller, ask them to erase the iPhone so you can test it.

  • If you are buying online, understand the return policy of the seller.

  • Find out if the seller certifies their preowned devices and what the process entails. You should be able to learn about their certification process and what they inspect.

  • We’d also recommend trying to obtain proof of purchase and a detailed item description from the seller to act as evidence, just in case. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the seller’s reputation online via reviews and forum posts before committing to a purchase. A quick Google search ahead of time might save you lots of agony after the fact.

Can blacklist iPhone be unlocked?

If your carrier blacklist your iPhone by mistake, you can request them to remove it from the list for free. If it is because of outstanding payments, you’ll need to settle the bill to unlock a blacklisted iPhone.

If you bought a second hand iPhone and the original owner blacklisted the device by reporting it as lost or stolen, then the carrier will be unable to remove or unlock the blacklisted phone. You can only contact the original owner and request that the bad status be removed or get your money back.

What can I do if I bought a blacklisted iPhone

  • Request a refund. If you purchased it on Amazon, they will issue you a refund once you provide proof, even if Amazon was not the seller. If it is a third-party seller or a one-night online e-commerce store, you may not get a refund.
  • If the seller refuses to issue a refund, file a chargeback to dispute the sale with your credit card issuer if you paid with your credit card.
  • If you purchased the device from a seller from a marketplace like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, etc., write a review on the site so others will know.
  • You can also report it to the local police office and file a report.
Share This Article
By Moses Johnson Editor
Moses Johnson is the Editorial Director of, who has a keen eye for news, rumors, and all the unusual stuff around Apple products. Moses is commonly referred to online as The Professor, with decades of experience in tech under his belt.
Leave a comment