What to Understand About IMEI Numbers

Buying a CPO (or, “certified pre-owned”) phone can be a great way to save money when you’re in the market for a new smartphone. But, before you purchase a used phone, you should know exactly what you’re buying. Some used and certified pre-owned phones sold by third-party vendors may have been previously reported as stolen or locked. Thankfully, there’s one way to find out if the used phone you want to buy is reputable: an IMEI number check. Check out our quick guide on how to check IMEI.

IMEI number basics.

An IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity. Think of it as your phone’s fingerprint — it’s a 15-digit number unique to each device. Phone carriers and manufacturers share IMEI numbers to enable tracking of smartphones that may be stolen or compromised. 

Don’t confuse the IMEI number with the serial number listed on the device. Manufacturers only use serial numbers internally; IMEI numbers are standard across the industry. 

If you’ve decided to purchase a used phone from a vendor other than Verizon, you will need to understand how to check the IMEI before activating the device on the Verizon network.

How to check your IMEI with a search.

The IMEI number is in different places depending on the device.

  • For iOS Apple, Android, Windows or basic phone devices, follow these simple steps to find your unique IMEI number. 

  • For a Google Pixel, dial *#06# on your phone’s keyboard to get the IMEI number. 

  • For phones with a removable battery, some IMEI numbers are listed on a sticker under the battery on the back of the phone. 

Tip: If you’re purchasing a phone from a 3rd party, request the IMEI number before paying for the device.

If an IMEI number is blocked or blacklisted.

If you purchase a phone and learn that the phone is blocked or blacklisted, your options are limited. Blacklisted IMEI numbers are shared between carriers and cannot be easily unblocked. When a phone is locked to a particular network, the IMEI number won’t work until the carrier removes the lock. Your only remedy is to contact the previous carrier and ask them to unlock the device.

Bring your own device with a clean IMEI.

If you have purchased a phone and it does not have a blocked or blacklisted IMEI, it’s easy to add it to your Verizon plan:

  • Connect to the Verizon network by signing on to My Verizon and adding it to an existing or new line on your account.

  • Follow these instructions for activating a new device. If you need a new SIM card, you can order one online and pick it up in store.

  • If you’re switching service and bringing your own device, you may be eligible for a rebate.

Verizon and IMEI numbers.

Rather than taking the risk of purchasing a phone with a blocked or blacklisted IMEI, log onto Verizon to see Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) wireless devices. Pre-owned devices from Apple, Samsung and others are eligible for Total Mobile Protection. Each phone’s condition is carefully noted before it is sold.     

Other refurbished phone factors to consider.

Aside from the IMEI number, you may want to consider the condition of the refurbished phone you’re purchasing. At Verizon, “certified pre-owned” refers to the selection of pre-owned smartphones Verizon sells. These phones are refurbished phones that have been inspected and are in full working order, and come in a variety of conditions. For example, a device in “Great” condition may just have a few scratches and scuffs (but is still in perfect working order). If you're in the market for a refurbished iPhone, refurbished Samsung phone, and beyond, our certified pre-owned phones might be right for you.

Get the most from your pre-owned device.

No matter which pre-owned device you purchase, it’s important to use the IMEI number to avoid purchasing a stolen or blacklisted phone, and always check the condition of the phone you’re buying to ensure it’s in good working order. Help safeguard your investment by always checking the IMEI number before you purchase, or check out what Verizon offers for certified pre-owned devices that you can be sure are in great shape. 

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