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CTIA launches a new service to keep you from buying stolen smartphones

Someone steals a phone off an unsuspecting (or at the very least unwilling) person, wipes the device and sells it off to the first person they can. That person thinks they got a sweet deal on a new phone... right up until the device turns on and is disabled by an IMEI block placed by the carrier or the manufacturer once the owner reports it stolen. No one wants this to happen to them, and the CTIA, an organization that represents the U.S. carriers, wants to help you find out if a phone is stolen before you buy it.

It's offering a free and very aptly named Stolen Phone Checker so people buying used smartphones can ensure the phones aren't shady. The site is easy to use and free for up to five checks per day for U.S. consumers. You type in the IMEI you're checking, click through a captcha, and get a quick and easy indicator that your phone is either safe or stolen. Now, there is one small problem here: this only tell you if an IMEI's already been blocked, so if the thief sells it to you before the victim hasn't reported their phone stolen and had the IMEI block placed

Bookmark it for the next time you buy a used smartphone. Tell your friends and family. Friends don't let friends buy stolen smartphones.

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

  • This is awesome.
  • This is good and all, but how is this any different than checking with someone like Swappa or checkesnfree? It doesn't sound like they have access to any different info...
  • People might not know about those things. I recently learned the hard way that Swappa has it.
  • Is there an equivalent for this in Canada?
  • Much appreciated
  • I know​ that Apple has the option to blacklist a phone based on the IMEI and pretty makes it useless, but I didn't know that other smartphone manufacturers can do the same. I've seen carriers do that in US but not Android OEMs.
    Ara, can you please clarify what you meant by it or rather name OEMs who offer that kind of the protection?
  • Whatever carrier you are using at the time of device being stolen should be able to register the IMEI as stolen. If using a WiFi only device, make sure to use passwords and Google new reset login feature that requires logging in to the old Gmail Account after a factory reset.
  • All the anti-theft measures introduced in these last few years should pretty much render smart phone stealing as an exercise in futility. But sometimes innocent and we'll meaning buyers (and sellers) get caught in these well meaning measures. A few years ago my daughter bought an iPhone from a teenager who posted it for sale as her family was relocating to another country. She checked everything and the seller helped her to set up her finger print for unlocking as well. She happily used it for a week and after her wise father came back from his business trip he explained to her that it is not advisable to use a second hand phone without resetting the device and setting it up from scratch line a new device. She went through all the steps and we then realised that the previous users icloud ID was still on and we did not have the password. We got locked out of the device. The seller was out of the country and we had no contact details. We even went to the Apple store, explained everything. They checked in the system and confirmed that the device was not blacklisted or reported stolen. We asked if they could give us the owners icloud email ID so we could write to them. No. We asked if Apple could contact seller and request them to remove device from their icloud. No. A three month old device bought and sold legitimately turned into a useless brick. :-(