Make the right call: What to look for when buying a used phone online

Buying a used phone online is a great way to land an amazing deal.

Phones released a year or two ago have almost all of the same features as the latest models, but they can be found at steep discounts, especially if you buy them used.

However, it’s important to take some precautions to make sure you buy a phone you’ll be able to enjoy. From phones not working with your carrier to hard-spot defects with its operating system, it’s important to be thorough so you end up with a great phone.

Below is a step-by-step guide for buying phones online and how to avoid stolen, counterfeit or defective phones.

Finding the IMEI number

The most important step for finding out if a phone has been reported as lost or stolen is by checking its IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity) number. All of Canada’s major wireless carriers maintain a blacklist of lost and stolen phones. Each phone has an IMEI number which will let you know if it’s on the blacklist.

On most phones you can find the IMEI by calling *#06# from the phone you want to check or by looking behind the battery inside the phone. You can then go onto to see if the IMEI has been reported lost or stolen.

Double checking

Not all phones that are lost or stolen actually get reported and even those that are reported can take a few days to show up on the blacklist. Just because a phone’s IMEI isn’t blacklisted now doesn’t mean that it won’t be in the near future. Remember, if a phone is reported stolen then you won’t be able to use it on any of the major wireless networks.

Both iPhones and Androids also have features that allow their users to remotely lock and reset (i.e., “brick”) phones that have been lost or stolen. The phone’s home screen will reflect that and you will not be able to reboot it. If you try resetting it and can’t or the phone is locked, the phone has been “bricked,” don’t buy it.

Other red flags to watch out for is a seller refusing to enter the password on the phone, a seller trying to sell a phone in a wrapped package without letting you inspect it, a suspiciously low price, or if a seller is vague about why they’re selling the phone. These may be signs this is a counterfeit or cloned phone.

Ensuring everything works

After ensuring the phone you’re buying isn’t lost or stolen, you also need to make sure it is in good working condition. Here are a few checks to give you extra peace of mind:

  • Ask to meet the seller in a public place that has WiFi and outlets. This will allow you to check that the phone’s WiFi is working as well as its battery charger.
  • Bring a SIM card to check that the phone has good connectivity. Better yet, meet at your preferred wireless provider and ask a person working there to verify that the phone will work on their network
  • Check the screen to make sure it is sensitive to touch. A screen that has discolouration or spots may be a poor-quality replacement.
  • Check to make sure the camera is working properly.
  • If buying an iPhone, connect it to another Apple device. If your Apple device doesn’t recognize the phone then it may be counterfeit.
  • Lastly, check whether the phone is unlocked, so you can see if you can use it on any carrier or only a specific one.

Buying a phone online can help you grab a great deal. But make sure you follow the above advice in order to avoid buying a phone that doesn’t meet your expectations.

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