Police warning the public to be wary of buying used cell phones

Lethbridge, Alberta – Buyer beware! Lethbridge Police are warning the public that buying a used cellphone from an online marketplace may be a transaction they come to regret.

It’s not a new scam, but after a recent case LPS wants to ensure consumers are aware of the risks when buying a phone from a stranger.

File Photo - Cell Phone
File Photo – Cell Phone

The scam involves buying a used phone – usually a newer model – from someone online and while it’s tested and works well initially, a short time later the phone stops working and the buyer finds out it’s been blacklisted due to an unpaid contract.

In these cases fraudsters will buy a new phone with zero down or a very small deposit and finance the outstanding balance. They turn around and sell the phone for cash, then default on the contract. Once a phone has been blacklisted it cannot be connected to wireless networks. The new owner usually has no recourse and are out the money and the phone.

Other variations include the scammer selling a stolen phone or legitimately obtaining a phone, often as a contract upgrade, then selling it and later reporting it as lost or stolen so they can make a claim to have it replaced and pocket the unsuspecting buyer’s cash.

While you can check a phone IMEI number on DeviceCheckCanada to see if its been blacklisted – which is always recommended – in cases where the scammer reports the phone as lost or stolen or defaults on their contract after selling the device, doing an initial check before the sale won’t identify any issues leading buyers to believe it is safe to proceed with the transaction. In cases where stolen phones are re-sold, scammers always work to sell them quickly because it can take up to 48 hours from the time a report is made before a device is added to the blacklist so buyers checking the IMEI within that window are again lead to believe everything is above board.

The best way to avoid being victimized is to only buy cell phones from reputable distributors or someone you know and trust.

Lethbridge Police Service

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