13 Things You Can Do with a Blacklisted or Stolen iPhone (2021 Guide)

(Last Updated On: December 31, 2020)

Bought a really cheap iPhone recently but later found out that it’s stolen or blacklisted? Don’t worry, one of these 13 tips may help you.

Introduction to Blacklisted or Stolen iPhone

The first thing you found out when you got your iPhone is that it’s not getting any signal from your carrier, or that probably happened a few days after your purchase.

You’re pretty sure that there’s no hardware issue but after spending hours online looking for a solution or explanation, you finally found out that the iPhone is blacklisted by your network provider.

A few years back, we wrote a blog post about ‘What Ever Happens to IMEI Blacklisted iPhones or Other Popular Smartphones?

This will help you understand more on what does blacklisted mean and why your iPhone is blacklisted in the first place. The most common reason is either the iPhone is reported lost or stolen.

How to use a blacklisted iPhone in this case or would a blacklisted iPhone still work?

Things You Can Do with Blacklisted or Stolen iPhone

It may feel that it’s the end of the world. Don’t worry because someone out there had gone through what you’re feeling right now.

How do I know if the iPhone is Stolen or Lost?

The most immediate way is during activation you will see the following message on the activation screen:

There is a problem with your iPhone. This iphone has been reported lost or stolen

Let’s get things straight and check out these helpful tips. Do note that some of the advice below are only valid if the iPhone is not stuck on the iCloud activation screen. Also, currently there’s no way to do this for free.

Before we proceed, perhaps it’s important for you to check if the phone really has a bad IMEI by doing a check online using an bad ESN or blacklisted IMEI checker.

The free tools are available by most US carriers and the blacklist checking is done directly on US carriers blacklist databases. The IMEI checks can be done without any limit.

Tips on Buying Used iPhone Online on eBay or Craigslist to Avoid Scam

Let’s admit it, iPhones are not cheap. The last thing you want to happen when buying it online is being cheated or scammed by the seller. Were you on eBay or Craigslist today trying to find that perfect deal?

Well, before you proceed and completing any online transaction, please read these important tips below.

Read the Description Carefully

When buying anything online, always read the description carefully and thoroughly. If you’re new to iPhone, be sure to ask a friend or someone who’s experienced with this device.


Be very careful not to purchase iPhone which is stuck on recovery mode or with a missing IMEI, Bluetooth and WiFi. Find out about its condition, history and what the seller offers such as additional accessories etc.

Locked or Unlocked?

Typically, locked iPhones are cheaper than unlocked iPhones because you’re limited to using the mobile service which is locked to the phone.

Unlocked iPhone allows you to use it on almost any GSM network worldwide.

In addition, iPhones sold by Verizon in the US may not work in many countries because of difference in standard.

AT&T iPhone can be unlocked for free to those who are eligible or using a paid service.

Ask for Photos

If the seller is genuine, he or she will be more than happy to provide you additional photos of the iPhone. Look for dents, cracks, condition of the screen etc. A picture paints a thousand words.

Verify the IMEI and Serial Number

This is probably one of the most important tips- verify the iPhone’s IMEI. Every mobile phone has a unique 15 digit IMEI number.

Based on this number, you can check some information about the device such as the brand or model.

Even if the iPhone is in excellent condition, you may end up with an expensive toy if the IMEI is blacklisted, usually if it was reported stolen or missing.

Once the IMEI is blacklisted, you won’t be able to use it on any mobile service provider in your country, it’s that simple.

Request the IMEI

While most sellers won’t publish this information online, you may want to request for the IMEI. We provide a service to check if an iPhone is reported missing/stolen/barred/blacklisted.

You can use various websites to verify the iPhone’s information. I use this website a lot because it tells me the model, color, capacity, purchase country, warranty information and even if it’s SIM locked or otherwise.

Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid or feel guilty to ask questions. The seller might have forgotten to put additional details of the iPhone. Here are some example questions you should consider asking:

  • Have you disabled Find My iPhone or iCloud Activation Lock?
  • How long have you been using this iPhone?
  • Reason for selling?
  • Any warranty?
  • Any hardware issue?
  • Any water damage?

Use your common sense when purchasing anything online; deal locally or meet the seller face-to-face if possible.

The tips above may help you getting the best for your money, and above all, they may help you from getting scammed.

Activating Blacklisted iPhone

Now, what if you’ve already got scammed and bought a blacklisted iPhone?

What’s worse than a blacklisted iPhone with bad ESN is the iPhone’s iCloud activation lock is turned on. This means the device can’t be accessed at all due to its ESN or blacklisted IMEI is recorded on the carrier database.

Apple introduced iCloud Activation Lock in iOS 6 to disallow illegitimate activation of iPhone that’s lost or stolen. It also meant to control the amount of iPhone thefts.

The only way to activate it is to get the actual iCloud email and password However, a remote service is also available which can be found at the end of this article.


If you need to remove the iCloud activation proceed to order the service from here or tapping the image above.

13 Things You Can Do with a Blacklisted or Stolen iPhone

Let’s get things straight and check out these helpful tips. Do note that some of the advice below are only valid if the iPhone is not stuck on the iCloud activation screen.

Ask for a refund from your seller

This may be a long shot, but if you bought an iPhone on eBay, you can ask for a refund from the seller by following the refund procedures set by eBay.

You will have to arrange to have it shipped back to the seller, once he or she confirms that the iPhone is in order, eBay will release the funds back to your account.

The case may be different if you got your blacklisted iPhone over on Craigslist or on the street.

It may be difficult to get your money back because these types of sellers probably won’t entertain your calls at all. They may use a temporary email address and will no longer respond to your email.

Use it as a glorified iPod or games console

Since you can’t make calls with your iPhone, just use it as an iPod or install as many games as you can to keep you entertained for hours.

You can also download movies and TV series on it which you can watch while on the subway or hanging out in the park.

Get the ESN or IMEI Cleaned (IMEI Whitelist)

There’s a bit of a good news if you have a blacklisted iPhone that’s locked to Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile (USA and UK), Orange (UK) and EE (UK).

It’s possible to remove them from blacklist (fix for blacklisted iPhone) using a remote service that doesn’t require you to ship the phone.

The video before shows a T-Mobile device before the blacklist was fixed remotely:

After it was fixed remotely, the device is now shown as cleaned:

Unfortunately, many other GSM networks are still not supported but we are working with various sources to make this service available on other carriers.

The blacklist removal we provided are highly reliable and have helped many people to use their bad ESN (IMEI) iPhone again. This process is also known as IMEI whitelisting.

You might also want to know that these services are not limited for iPhone only, any device such as iPad or Android smartphone can only also be removed from network blacklist.

Click on the link below to learn more:

If the device – iPhone, iPad WiFi, Apple Watch (iWatch), iPod has iCloud lock on it, you can also remove it by one of the method below:

Once the bad IMEI is fixed please do use the blacklist checker mentioned earlier to verify that the iPhone blacklist is removed using the blacklist removal service (Note: this service is also known as unblacklist iPhone service).

Example if for AT&T, the device below can be cleaned remotely:

  • is Network Locked with AT&T
  • is BLACKLISTED as lost or stolen by ​AT&T inside UNITED STATES
  • is NOT iCloud Locked

Swap the Logic Board

Since IMEI blacklist is usually localized to a country’s particular service provider, that means your iPhone’s IMEI is not blacklisted in other countries.

For instance, if you have a factory unlocked AT&T iPhone that’s blacklisted in the USA, if you travel to Australia it will work perfectly on any network there.

iPhone IMEI chip

There isn’t a way to change the IMEI of an iPhone except by physically replacing the baseband and CPU chips; and this is only possible on iPhone 4 and earlier models.

Attempting to change the chips on the latest models of iPhones will only cause damage to your iPhone. This is the reason why swapping the logic board is quite a practical solution. If you’re willing to take the risk, you can also do the exchange with another iPhone owner from another country. We can help facilitate this process as long as you can find that person.

Also Read5 Things You Can Do to Activate a Blacklisted iPhone

Get it officially unlocked and sell it

You might be wondering, can you really activate and factory unlock a blacklisted iPhone? Yes, it’s possible.

There’s still a market for your blacklisted iPhone including lost and stolen iPhones.

If you live in the USA, you know that there are millions of foreigners coming to your country especially students. When they finish their studies, mostly would return to their home countries.


This is where your iPhone becomes valuable. If you have an AT&T iPhone that’s already officially unlocked but blacklisted, you can sell it off to them.

They always want to find good deals while they’re there and even though it’s blacklisted in the USA, it can still be used in other countries.

A lot of people get good deals when buying AT&T or T-Mobile iPhone online or other models, but they ended up buying blacklisted iPhones.

Increase the value of your iPhone

This is where your iPhone becomes valuable. If you have an AT&T iPhone that’s already officially unlocked but blacklisted, you can sell it off to them.

However, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint iPhone 6s, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s Plus and later models such as iPhone 8 and iPhone X that are blacklisted can still be unlocked. Please be sure to tell them the whole truth about the history of the phone to avoid any complication later.

There’s no way to unlock a blacklisted iPhone (bad ESN) or unblacklist iPhone for free in case you’re wondering. Everything needs to be paid these days.

We’ve also recently published a full guide on how to unlock a blacklisted T-Mobile iPhone.

Remember that honesty is the best policy. So do explain to your potential buyer that the iPhone has blacklisted IMEI e.g. the phone was reported lost or stolen) in your current location but will work fine in his or her country.

Don’t forget to checkout other network that we can officially unlock. Note: there’s no unlock code generated for iPhone when the unlocking is performed on the remote server.

There are also other possible paid method available to activate a blacklisted iPhone.

Don’t forget to checkout other network that we can officially unlock.

RelatedWhich iPhone carrier can be unlocked even if blacklisted?

Sell it as spare parts

If all fails, your last resort would be taking it apart and cannibalize it for parts.

The screen, logic board, back casing, dock connector can all be sold separately. It may help someone with a broken iPhone and one of the parts may help revive his or her iPhone again.


It’s not the most ideal but you might doing other people a big favor while getting back some of your hard earned cash.

Consider yourself lucky if you bumped into this post while trying to find a used iPhone. The blog post I wrote about 5 Tips on Buying Used iPhone Online on eBay or Craigslist to Avoid Scam will help you prevent all these from happening.

Some charities recycle old electronics and may offer cash.

Consider Googling for it and do something nice for someone out there. Even if it’s a blacklisted phone, someone or some parties may want it.

Sell it on eBay internationally

eBay is a huge global marketplace and someone out there will want to buy your iPhone despite the condition it’s in now.

Please do mention in the eBay ad of the real situation to avoid the buyer from creating a dispute which may cost you even more.

Start your own iPhone repair business

Wait, what?

Yup! This is how most mobile phone stores started. They take it apart, learn how to put them together and offer the services to people.

There are various smartphones in the market and having knowledge to fix them can be a great income source.

Get an eBook here on how to start your own iPhone repair business.

Contact the Owner, Carrier or Authority

Some stolen or missing iPhone will have the original owner’s number shown on the activation screen. It may be worthwhile to contact the owner and have it returned. You never know how thankful he or she might be.

Credit: Hamilton Country

Reporting to the authorities may be the last resort. This is one of the reasons why local authorities have setup a dedicated internet exchange area with CCTV to help protect buyers and sellers. If by any chance you made the transaction at this place, a footage may be available as proof.

Calling a carrier is also possible to track down the original owner. They will need the 15-digit IMEI of the device.

Reporting to any relevant authority may help too.

Get the iCloud Email

If the phone is stuck on activation, it will hint the email address on the screen. Although it’s not always possible to guess the correct email, you can use this service to get the full email address.

Once you get the full email address, then refer to point #10.

Make a YouTube video of smashing it to pieces

Shooting a YouTube video of smashing the phone can make someone really famous.

Checkout on YouTube to get some inspiration. A lot of people are doing it already.

Keep It

If none of the above fancies you, just keep the phone as a remembrance. No one likes to deal with a stolen phone or if it’s reported as lost.

Somehow it can be an expensive lesson if you’ve bought an iPhone with blacklisted IMEI. The most valuable lesson is to always do IMEI checks before buying any used device.

iPhone blacklist checking will assure that you won’t get into this kind of trouble in the future.

Perhaps one day you may want to revisit one of the solutions above and may even work for you!

Obsolete Methods to Fix Blacklisted iPhone

There are also some obsolete methods which are still being published on the web which no longer work in the latest iPhones.

Changing IMEI or ESN of Blacklisted iPhone

One of these is to change, alter or replace the iPhone’s IMEI to another IMEI that’s not blacklisted. There’s an old tutorial that’s being shared online. Apple has disabled this a long time ago so it’s best that you don’t waste time looking for this type of solution. It’s also illegal to change the IMEI or ESN.

Replacing IMEI Chip

In earlier models such as the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, replacing the IMEI chip that stores the IMEI or ESN was possible due to the chip size was still relatively less complex compared to the latest iPhones.

Modern iPhones have more compact logic board and the chips mounted on the board are getting smaller. This method won’t work anymore due to the high risk of damaging the chip.


Do note that most of the tips are not only for any iPhone model but also applicable for Android smartphones too inlcuding the popular Samsung Galaxy.

Other phones such as LG, Microsoft, Lenovo and most blacklisted phone do have the options to remove the bad IMEI as well.

Finally, an unlocked iPhone will always fetch a good price even if it’s blacklisted.

We hope this article is useful for you as we did extensive research to make sure that you have all the necessary information. Do you have anything else to add? Otherwise, please do help share this with your friends!


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