Buying a second-hand iPhone or iPad? Here's how to check it has not been stolen

You can save yourself hundreds of dollars by choosing to buy a second-hand iPhone or iPad. But beware, there are unscrupulous people out there trying to offload stolen devices onto unwary buyers. Here are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Thinking of buying a second-hand iPhone or iPad? Here's a quick and simple way to check to see if the device you are being offered has been stolen.

Note: This works for devices running iOS 7, iOS 8, and iOS 9.

First off, ask the seller for the serial number and/or IMEI of the device. Ideally, get the seller to send you a photo of the information you need because it's much tougher to fake a photo. Details on how to find this information can be found here. If the seller doesn't want to give you this information, walk on by, because it's not like there's a shortage of iPhone and iPads out there.

Next, armed with this information, go to Apple's Check Activation Lock Status page and enter the information. This will tell you if the device is activation locked. If it is, ask the seller to unlock it and try again. If that doesn't happen, walk away from the sale, because if the seller can't unlock it, something's up for sure.

Remember that Activation Lock has to be disabled before you get the handset, otherwise you won't be able use it.

If you're being sent the device in the mail, be sure to check that the serial number and/or IMEI match the information you were provided with.

Here are some other tips:

  • Pick a seller with a good reputation.
  • Be wary of classifieds. Remember that eBay will get you a refund if things go bad (assuming you paid with PayPal).
  • If you're picking up the handset in person, then you can get the current owner to turn off "Find my iPhone" in front of you. If they can't, then it's bad news. If it's already turned off, turn it on and get them to disable it.
  • Verify that a SIM works and that the device has not been locked by the carrier.
  • If you're buying face-to-face, don't be rushed or bullied into the sale. Take your time. For your safety, carry it out in a public place (which preferably has Wi-Fi so you can test the device).

See also:

2015: Must-have iPhone accessories

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