A possibly profitable theft didn’t go very well for teenager India Carmouche from Slidell, Louisiana. After stealing a smartphone from a distracted customer at Walmart, who had left his gadget on top of a drink cooler while searching through other items, she quickly put the device up for sale on Craigslist. But she never expected the original owner to come across her listing while searching for a replacement handset (and he probably didn’t think he would see that, either).
Needless to say, the victim quickly alerted local police, an act which was followed by an investigation from an undercover officer pretending to be an interested customer. The potential buyer then revealed his identity as a police officer, to which the thief responded by running away, something that obviously never ends well. She was apprehended and arrested for possession of stolen property and resisting arrest.
These stories are always interesting, and we are glad to see the police is keeping up with the times and adopting new ways to stop theft in the tech realm. It’s a big step forward, and definitely a victory against an issue so many of us have suffered from.
“We quite frequently warn legitimate buyers and sellers about the dangers of Craigslist, but rarely do we issue a warning to criminals. So let this be a warning to all the criminals out there. You may also become a ‘victim’ on Craigslist when trying to sell stolen property.” – Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith
This specific event turned out to be victorious for the good guys, but keep in mind this will not always be the case. In fact, recovering a lost smartphone is a bit of an oddity. It has never happened to me or anyone I know, so you must be cautious to avoid being another victim.
After all, Lookout Mobile Security’s study shows that 3.1 million smartphones were stolen only in 2013, a number that happens to double the statistics from 2012. One in every ten smartphones were stolen that year, and while we haven’t see more recent details, this proves that smartphone theft is a problem which should not be ignored.
How to stay safe from smartphone theft
Of course, you can always go back to our guide on recovering a lost/stolen smartphone, but that is not exactly what we will focus on today. Following this story’s nature, we would like to give you some tips on how to be a smarter used phone buyer and avoid buying stolen gadgets.
Remember, Android Device Manager is now a complete kill switch method, which means that stolen phones could be reported, locked and deemed unusable whenever the rightful owner wishes. In addition, people could report them lost to the carrier, which efficiently blacklists any mobile handset. You need to be careful with who you buy from! Let’s show you how to buy a used smartphone with little to no risk.
Buying tech on Craigslist
Remember, Craigslist is like the Wild West of trading. It’s not really monitored, and can be used with full anonymity. I could post anything in there, with very little evidence of who I am and how to contact me. I’m not saying Craigslist is a bad platform, but you definitely do need to be more careful.
If interested on buying any device, make sure to ask questions about the situation. Does it have a clean ESN? Why are you selling it? Do you have the original box and accessories? Answers to any of these questions can serve as red flags.
I also like meeting people at a very public place. Just don’t go into a dark alley with them. You should opt for a restaurant or store, but I usually go the extra mile and tell them to meet me at a carrier store location. I never give them a penny until I realize the phone is working and not blacklisted. And since we are already at the store, I can just ask any representative to check up on it. If you are not at the store, though, you can always call customer service to check if any phone is blacklisted or not.
The key is to not really trust everyone, which could be an uncomfortable feeling to many of you. This is why we only advise the adventurous to deal with expensive gadgets through this platform.
Buying tech on eBay
eBay has plenty of horror stories that would make any camp fire plenty entertaining, but the good thing about the popular online trading point is that the company has much more control over what’s going on. Customer support will always have your back and you can file any issues to get them resolved. In addition, eBay and PayPal have a full record on both buyers and sellers. Reviews and comments are also put in place, so it’s hard for a thief to just get away with things. Sure, eBay can be slow and a little unreliable sometimes, but it beats going with Craigslist.
Swappa is actually my favorite website for buying and selling used smartphones. It has a solid system! Users can easily report if someone is selling a stolen phone, altering ESNs or screwing you over in any shape or form. You will then get your money right back to your PayPal account, should you report any issues.
But people are not the only ones doing all the work here; Swappa actually verifies every single listing, so there’s a much lesser chance of someone trying to rip you off or sell you a stolen device. And if it happens to be, you get your cash back. Simple, safe and clean.
I would honestly say eBay and Swappa are about the safest ways to deal with used smartphones, just because these sites have a better level of control with their sellers and buyers. If you really want to buy a used handset and stay on the safe side, we would advise that you stick with those two. And if you are willing to step into the wild side, just make sure you do your homework before handing over the money.