How to check Activation Lock before buying a used iPhone

Activate iPhone

Activation Lock is a great feature coming with every iOS device that has Find My iPhone enabled. This security feature prevents anyone from activating your phone without having access to your Apple ID or password in case they found or stole your device.

Even though they might not be able to activate the lost or stolen device, they might still try to put it up for sale, and if you don’t know what to look for, you might very well be buying an iPhone that has been locked and cannot be activated.

In this post, we will show you how to check Activation Lock before buying a used iPhone or iPad from a third party.

Make sure you have a look at the Lock screen

If the device has been remotely erased or put in Lost Mode by its previous owner, it is very likely that a message will be showed on the Lock screen, warning that this device was lost or stolen. If you see such a message, it should raise some flags, but don’t be alarmed quite yet, as the seller could have put the device in this state. You’ll be able to verify that in the next steps.

If there is a passcode on the device, ask the seller to type in his passcode, then proceed to step 2.

Have the seller reset the device in front of you

If this person is selling the device, then he shouldn’t have any problem agreeing to perform a complete reset. Ask the seller to go to Settings > General > Reset >Erase All Content and Settings. If the seller uses Find My iPhone, he will have to enter his Apple ID password to confirm the erase.

iPhone being restored

The erase process should take a couple minutes or so. During that time, the device’s screen will show the Apple logo and a progress bar. Wait for the reset to be completed.

If the seller doesn’t want to reset the device or is making excuses for it, then walk away.

Begin the device set up

Once the device has been reset, start going through the set up. You will have to choose the language, country, and a Wi-Fi network. At this point, you will be asked to enter your Apple ID and password. If that’s the case, then you’re safe to buy the device.

However, if you see a message asking for the previous owner’s Apple ID and password, or a message saying this device was lost and erased (similar to the screenshot below), then you know something is wrong. Ask the seller to enter his Apple ID and password. If he’s unable to get past this screen, then just walk away as this is a clear sign this device was either found or stolen.

Activation Lock screen

Walk away if you don’t feel it

A serious and honest seller would have no problem going through the steps described above. If at any point in time the seller looks or acts suspicious, of if he is making excuses for not wanting to perform some of the steps we just went over, then there clearly is something fishy going on.

Do not take “no” or “I can’t remember my password” for an answer. These are big red flags that the device has most likely been found or stolen. If that’s the case, just walk away.

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