How To Know If You Are Buying A Stolen Phone - SellUp - Blogs

How To Know If You Are Buying A Stolen Phone?


It is common for Singaporean to buy used mobile phones over an online marketplace platform. The transaction often takes place during meet up, when the physical item is handed over.

However, most buyers based on 'trust' of the seller and do not perform checks if the phone they are purchasing has been stolen or lost. Not only they risked having the phone be potentially locked with a password, rendering it useless, or worse it could get them in trouble with the law. 

A man being handcuffed

Loss or theft of phones

Mobile phones are the primary targets of choice for many robbers and thieves. As many as 52 percents of adults in Singapore have suffered from the loss or theft of their mobile phones, according to a survey, conducted by the Norton division of Symantec, the world’s largest security software provider.

Many of these then find their way onto online marketplaces where they are sold to unwitting customers who are unaware of the phone's provenance. It cannot be emphasized enough that it is the responsibility of the buyer to check whether a mobile device they are interested in buying has been lost or stolen as handling stolen goods is a criminal offense in Singapore, whether the buyer is aware or not.

Checking phone ownership

The rise in mobile-phone crime is increasingly worrying that the Singapore police has implemented an online screening system to enable people to check whether any phone they are offered has been lost or stolen. 

The potential buyer simply logs into Then, he or she can click on the ‘Stolen and Lost Property Index (SPEX)’ link, and key in the phone's IMEI number.

Screenshot of ’Stolen and Lost Property Index (SPEX)’
The IMEI code is a unique 15 or 17 digit number that is assigned to each and every phone. If a phone has been reported stolen the IMEI code will trigger the result ‘Stolen’. If this is the case then the transaction must be refused, however cheap the phone maybe, if the buyer doesn't want to risk a criminal record.

The IMEI code can usually be found on the back of a phone under the battery. However, with some smartphones, like the iPhone, it is located in Settings. To find the IMEI with an iPhone go to the Settings menu, click General and then About. 

One other simple way of finding any phone's IMEI is to use the keypad and enter *#06# This then generates the IMEI digits on the phone's screen. 

Other tell tales signs

There are other strong indicators of whether a phone is safe to buy. 
If the phone is locked with a passcode and the seller is unable to unlock it, it is a strong indicator the phone has been either lost or stolen. 

 Apple iPhone locked in the Home screen.
Similarly, when an Apple iPhone still has its iCloud Activation locked and the seller is unable to reverse this, then the phone has doubtless come into his or her possession by nefarious means. 
With iPhones, it's worth noting that if the real owner has turned on the ‘Find my iPhone’ feature then the phone and its location can be tracked down at any time. 
Another giveaway is if a seller claims a phone is new but cannot provide any receipt or invoice - which is needed for warranty purposes - then the phone is suspicious and has probably been lost or stolen. 

Better safe than sorry

Walk away from the deal if you feel uncomfortable dealing with the seller. If they cannot provide the necessary information you asked for, don't be tempted to give in no matter how cheap the phone is. 

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