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Everyday Legal Problems

Buying a Used Cellphone

Tips to avoid buying a phone that is stolen or damaged.


Buying used can be a great way to save money (and conserve resources). Here are five tips that can help you avoid buying a used cellphone that is stolen or damaged.

1. Buy in a safe setting

If you can, buy from someone you know or from a business that deals in second-hand phones. If you decide to buy from an individual you don't know, try to meet the seller in a public place during daylight hours.

2. Ask lots of questions

If you're buying from a stranger, ask lots of questions:

  • Where did the phone come from?
  • What phone did you get to replace it?
  • Why are you selling it?

Beware if the answers are vague, if the seller seems rushed, or if the seller says the phone belonged to a friend.

3. Check the condition of the phone

Check the battery; older phones may have a short battery life.

Check for cracks or scratches.

To see if there are signs of water damage, open the compartment on the phone containing the "liquid contact indicator" (also called the "liquid damage indicator"). This indicator is a small sticker or shape that turns from white to another colour after contact with liquid.

4. Test the phone

To check the quality of the phone, try these checks:

  • Try connecting to a wireless network so you can test that the phone connects to the internet.
  • Try the camera to make sure there are no dark spots or dead pixels.
  • Bring a SIM card so you can check the phone's network connection.

5. Make sure the phone isn't stolen

You can check the National Blacklist maintained by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association to find out if the cellphone has been reported as lost or stolen.

Learn more about your legal rights and ways to solve problems as a cellphone user.


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