Buying & Selling Mobile Phones Safely on eBay
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Buying & Selling Mobile Phones Safely on eBay

To prevent the sales of stolen mobile phones within the eBay marketplace, members are prohibited from listing “blocked” or “barred” handsets.

eBay works closely with the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit (a part of the Metropolitan Police Service) to eliminate the sales of such items. We have collaborated to create the following guidelines to help you have a safe and successful experience when buying or selling a mobile phone on eBay.

Advice for selling mobile phones safely on eBay

Advice for selling mobile phones safely on eBay

It's a criminal offence to sell a stolen mobile phone or to have the handset / SIM card un-blocked without authorisation from the phone manufacturer. Such listings will be removed from the site as they are in breach of our policy on Encouraging Illegal Activity.

For these reasons, and to maintain the level playing field within the marketplace, please check that the mobile phone you’re intending to sell is in full working order.

Additionally, we recommend taking the following steps when listing your item:

  • To reassure buyers that your mobile phone is legitimate, the police recommend that you get a checkMEND certificate. checkMEND is a database of lost and stolen property and a certificate will show that you have verified that the item that you are selling is not stolen. There is a small fee for this service. 

  • Be ready to provide potential buyers with the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number (serial) of the mobile phone you’re selling. They may use this to search the checkMEND database if you haven’t provided a certificate. You can get this number by typing in *#06# on the handset or looking inside the phone where the SIM card is housed.   

  • Be prepared to answer questions from buyers. They’ll want to be reassured that the item is yours to sell (or whether you’re selling on behalf of someone else), why you’re selling it, and if you operate as a business seller, your location, company number or whether you have shops on the high street.   

  • To save time answering buyers questions, you could create a list of frequently asked questions, which will be displayed to buyers when they click on the Ask Seller a Question link from your item listing. You’ll be able to display up to 15 FAQs as well as any questions (and answers) that you’ve already posted in your listing. To customise your Ask Seller a Question page, go to your Preferences in My eBay. In the Selling Preferences section, click on "Show" next to "Ask Seller a Question". From there, click simply click "Edit" and begin customising.

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Advice for buying mobile phones safely on eBay

Advice for buying mobile phones safely on eBay

To minimise the risk of buying a stolen mobile phone there are some basic steps to take. Many of these steps are those that we would recommend as part of any eBay purchase and some of them are things that the police recommend that you should do:

  • Read the item description very carefully and make sure that you know exactly what you’re buying. If you’re unsure, ask the seller to explain the description. They are normally very happy to help you if it means they will get a sale   

  • Search the text of the listing for words such as “barred” or “blocked”. You can do this in your browser by pressing CTRL and F together and searching the text – the words can be hidden in long streams of product information in the hope that you won’t spot them. If the words appear, report the listing to eBay Customer Services straightaway.   

  • You can now search online databases, such as the checkMEND database, to see whether a phone you want to buy has been reported as lost or stolen. It is recommended that you search the databases using the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI serial) or checkMEND certificate number (where provided by the seller) for the mobile phone you want to buy. If the seller has provided a checkMEND certificate, it’s free for you to view this online. 

  • If you are at all suspicious of the authenticity of a mobile phone listing, you can get more information at the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit website. It has more advice and information about the problem of stolen mobile phones. You can also have a look at the NMPCU’s About Me page.  

  • Learn as much as you can about the seller. Check their feedback – not just the score, but also dig deeper and look out for some of the following 

    - whether the person has been buying a lot of low-value items, because they may have been doing so to build up their feedback score, and is now selling large numbers of high-value items

    - the kinds of items that they have been buying or selling – make sure that the person’s eBay record makes them look like either an established mobile dealer or a private individual selling an old handset

    - how long they have been registered on the site – if they have been trading for a reasonable period of time, with a positive feedback score, they are more likely to be a safer person to purchase from

    These factors do not necessarily mean that someone is selling a stolen phone, but they should alert you to do some further research before you buy.

  • Ask the seller questions – make sure that it is their’s to sell, ask them why they are selling and if they are a business ask them where they are based, whether they have shops or what their company number is. Unscrupulous sellers will tend not to answer such questions or their answers will be evasive. You can even ask for the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number of the mobile phone.

  • If you are buying, make sure that you are paying with PayPal. It is a much more secure way of paying on eBay than any other because it offers purchase protection to buyers. If anything does go wrong, using PayPal means that we’ll have the seller’s contact details (address, financial details), so will be able to work with law enforcement to track the seller.

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Staying safe once you’ve bought your mobile phone

Staying safe once you’ve bought your mobile phone

If you’ve bought a second-hand mobile phone, check the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number by typing in *#06# on your handset or looking inside the phone where the SIM card is housed. This is a unique code that is used to identify an individual “GSM” mobile telephone on a “GSM network”. By keeping the 15-digit code safe, you can immobilise your phone if it is stolen, which will mean that the handset can no longer be used on any network.

You can use sites such as to record your IMEI number online. By registering the number with, the police can track you down if your phone is stolen and is handed in or recovered from criminals.

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Buy with Confidence

Buy with Confidence

Before making your purchase, make sure you know exactly what you're buying, research your seller, and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know your purchase

Carefully read the details in item listings.

  • Figure delivery costs into your final price. If you spend a lot of money, make sure the seller will insure the item when it ships.

  • If you want more information, ask by clicking the "Ask seller a question" link under the seller's profile.

  • Always make sure to complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy It Now, or Best Offer). Transactions conducted outside of eBay are not covered by eBay protection programs.

  • Never pay for your eBay item using instant cash wire transfer services through Western Union or MoneyGram. These payment methods are unsafe when paying someone you do not know.

Know your seller

Research your seller so you feel positive and secure about every transaction.

  • What is the seller's Feedback rating? How many transactions have they completed? What percentage of positive responses do they have?

  • What do buyers say in their Feedback? Did the seller receive praise?

  • Most top eBay sellers operate like retail stores and have return policies. Do they accept returns? What are the terms and conditions?

Buyer protection

In the unlikely event that a problem arises during your transaction, eBay and PayPal are there for you.

  • Pay safely with PayPal: PayPal enables you to pay without the seller ever seeing your bank account or credit card numbers.

eBay Safety Centre: Visit the Safety Centre to learn how to protect your account and use eBay's quick and efficient resolution tools.

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