Buyer Beware! Purchasing a used cell phone

Dec 15, 2022

Think twice before buying a used phone from a stranger on Marketplace or from buy and sell groups.   A trending scam is for the seller to purchase a mobile protection plan for replacement insurance for a lost, stolen or damaged phone.  They will then put their phone up for sale.  The buyer will be able to check it out and everything will seem fine for a day or so, until the seller puts in a claim for their “stolen” or “lost” phone.  The cellular company will then turn off the phone, or “blacklist” it, rendering the phone useless, as any Canadian wireless service provider will not allow it to be used on their wireless network. 

A blacklisted phone is a phone reported lost or stolen by an owner or blacklisted by a telecommunications company due to an unpaid contract bill.   The phone is identified through an IMEI number (International Mobile Equipment Identity).  If the phone has been reported as lost or stolen, the phone carrier will then label the IMEI number as blacklisted.  Only the phone carriers can remove an IMEI number from a blacklist.  Most people don’t even know what this is until they become an unsuspecting victim. 

Before you buy, you can check the status of the phone by looking up the IMEI at, but that is little help if the device gets blacklisted after a sale.

Once your phone has been blacklisted, there is not much you can do to fix it.  You can try to contact the phone provider, but if you aren’t the original owner that reported it, you are normally out of luck.