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SCAM WARNING: The "clean ESN" myth and why you shouldn't buy a used phone.


  1. TimSmooth

    TimSmooth Member

    Are you 100% sure about this? After its activated on my line can the original owner report it stolen? If its purchased on Ebay?
  2. spottedcatfish

    spottedcatfish Well-Known Member

    When you report it stolen, Verizon and Assurion both want you to file and have proof of a police report. If they just report it lost, I'd expect that a quick call to Verizon and a statement of something along the lines of "Hey, he reported this phone lost X months after I activated it, and I have a receipt from the seller to prove that I acquired this phone legitimately" would resolve the issue. The automated process of reporting it may go through, but on a human review, they'll be able to see the issue in the timeline.
  3. TimSmooth

    TimSmooth Member

    Well Here is some insight on my trouble. Somehow my ESN has been reported stolen. Its been activated on and off my account since august. Last night I explained whats going on via the Sprint online chat (which was a task itself) and the flag was supposed to be removed. My phone was activated used it for 24 hours and decided to switch back to my work phone. Just to be thorough I wanted to see if my right to activate my "flagged" phone at will was reinstated, and I was greeted with the same error. So it can be reactivated, but looks like its a bit of trouble.

    Lesson here is 6 months later the esn can still be reported stolen by the original owner. That is seriously messed up. I confirmed this fact with Sprint and Paypal says that they only cover you 45 days from purchase. On the 46 day the seller is free to report the ESN stolen.

    FYI I am using stolen and lost interchangeably. I dont think you need a police report for lost.
  4. spottedcatfish

    spottedcatfish Well-Known Member

    I'd say you need to kick this farther up the responsibility chain at Sprint. Sprint and Verizon both advertise their ability to switch phones easily, and to acquire used phones pretty actively, so it's in their best interest to make that process hassle free if they can. A low level rep probably doesn't have the tools to actually fix this kind of problem, and they probably don't encounter it very often. I'd recommend trying to get up to tech support (they're usually smarter) or finding a regional executive office to call/write a few times. Be polite, but firm, and I'd imagine there's a way to fix this.

    On the 46th day, PayPal may not care, but Verizon/Sprint should, and what the original owner is doing is fraudulent. Not sure about the legality of that, but there's also the possibility of suing them in small claims court.
  5. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum Moderator

    Only the carriers themselves can unblock phones from their networks. Anyone claiming to be able to do that for a fee is scamming you.
  6. Steven58

    Steven58 Reformed PH VIP Member

    ^^^ Thank you. Furthermore anyone showing anyone else how to "clean" an esn is engaging in illegal activity, which will not be allowed here.
    lunatic59 likes this.
  7. IOWA

    IOWA Mr. Logic Pants Moderator

    Actually, after a bit of research, there is a legal method for it provided that

    a.) the person doing the switching owns both devices.

    b.) This isn't going to be used to defraud a company. (i.e. Using a feature phone ESN on a Droid)

    c.) ESN's are swapped and NOT duplicated.
  8. Yeahha

    Yeahha Usually off topic VIP Member

    Given that is the case why would someone need/want to to do this.

    Currently I can't confirm or deny your statement being true it has been a few months since I bother researching ESN swapping legalities but I don't recall any loophole
  9. IOWA

    IOWA Mr. Logic Pants Moderator

    It's not a loophole. ESN swapping is defined as illegal only if you break one of the above listed rules. There are plenty of great reasons for ESN swapping. For instance, people switch parts between phones all the time. What about the radio? That would be tedious, time consuming, and damn near impossible. So if you have a broken unit with a good ESN, and a functioning unit with a bad ESN, swap the ESN's and poof you have a working device with a good ESN. What would be the difference if all the parts on the 'blacklisted' ESN were swapped with the good ESN to repair the broken device?

    None.
  10. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum Moderator

    My question (all seriousness) is if you have two phones and one has a blackisted ESN, how did it get blacklisted in the first place? I would think that carrier error could be corrected without swapping. And that system glitches or random data input errors would be fairly infrequent and again correctable by the carrier.
  11. IOWA

    IOWA Mr. Logic Pants Moderator

    Chances are, it got blacklisted because someone didn't fullfil their contract and they sold their phone. Now the buyer is stuck with a bunk phone.. or are they?

    It's no different than selling a phone "for parts" and salvaging one phone to save another.
  12. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum Moderator

    It still doesn't sound quite Kosher.

    So you're saying that Bob walks into a Best Buy or Radio Shack and picks up an EVO for $50 on contract and breaks the contract so severely that Sprint (or whoever the carrier is) deactivates the device and blacklists the ESN. Meanwhile on the other side of town Mary drops her EVO on the sidewalk and it shatters the screen right before it bounces into a puddle. Assuming Mary was still under contract and didn't have the means or insurance to replace the phone for full retail, she see's Bob's EVO listed on Craigslist or eBay for $200 and buys it. When she goes to activate it under her number, she can't because the ESN is blocked and Bob is long gone. You are saying that it would be legitimate and acceptable to Swap Mary's unblocked ESN with the blocked one on Bob's phone?
  13. IOWA

    IOWA Mr. Logic Pants Moderator

    Yup.

    What's the difference between transferring a "digital part" and a physical part? If just the screen was broken on Mary's phone, but everything else worked, would it be wrong to buy Bob's phone and switch the screen out? ;)
  14. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum Moderator

    If I had a blue Ford Fusion that I totaled and I found an identical vehicle from a local "dealer" that had a VIN on the stolen vehicle roster, should I be able to swap VIN's from the wrecked car to the stolen car so I can get it inspected?

    If I only blew the water pump in my car should my garage buy the part from a chop shop to save me a few bucks?
  15. IOWA

    IOWA Mr. Logic Pants Moderator

    There's a difference. Huge, difference.

    VIN swapping is a felony. ESN Swapping isn't.

    Edit: And notice, I said you have to be the OWNER of both devices, implying neither of them are stolen.
  16. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum Moderator

    Okay, then how about this ... Bob takes his $200 that he got from Mary and buys a Ford from the junk yard that had been totaled by the insurance company. He fixes it up and sells it to Mary (with title transfer) whose similar car just blew a head gasket and seized the engine block. Now Mary is the owner of both vehicle, but she discovers she can't register the car because the VIN is reported as totaled.
  17. IOWA

    IOWA Mr. Logic Pants Moderator

    Still, there's a difference. There are laws put into place to prevent this for safety and vehicular reasons. There are no said laws for ESN swapping.
  18. Yeahha

    Yeahha Usually off topic VIP Member

    I think IOWA may be right about this.

    The Wireless Telephone Protection Act of 1998 made it illegal to own the software or hardware to change the ESN.

    Source

    So having the hardware or software to change the ESN can only be legal if you are working for the carrier and unless it is part of your job. So given you own both devices legally the carrier may be able to swap the ESN for you, the only hitch I see is getting them to do it and coming up with a situation where it would need to be done. I don't think any carrier would do it however.

    The original FCC rule that created the need of ESN initially in 1995 made it illegal to change it ever but it was repealed in 2002 which is good because I believe it also made it illegal to change the OEM firmware :eek:
    lunatic59 likes this.
  19. dirkbonn

    dirkbonn Well-Known Member

    Okay, then how about this ... Bob takes his $200 that he got from Mary and buys a Ford from the junk yard that had been totaled by the insurance company. He fixes it up and sells it to Mary (with title transfer) whose similar car just blew a head gasket and seized the engine block. Now Mary is the owner of both vehicle, but she discovers she can't register the car because the VIN is reported as totaled.


    If someone buys a junked vehicle with a totaled title and then rebuilds it, but before he can sell it he must get what most states refer to as a salvage title. This way, if you purchase said vehicle you know it was a totaled/junked car at one time and rebuilt. In the scenario described above, Bob could not legally sell the car to Mary without getting a salvage title and as such Mary would be able to register the car because it now has a good title. But with a "Salvage" title, Mary would know that the car had once been junked. That was why Bob sold it to her so cheap.
    IOWA likes this.
  20. IOWA

    IOWA Mr. Logic Pants Moderator

    And there's a good reason behind salvage titles, a few actually.

    1.) Safety.

    -and-

    2.) The value of the vehicle. The value of a phone won't change with an ESN exchange, nor will the safety of the device.
  21. EarlyMon

    EarlyMon The PearlyMon Moderator

    damewolf13 likes this.
  22. xjestersdeadx

    xjestersdeadx Well-Known Member

    i know this thread is kind of stale, but I thought I would throw in the cautionary tale talked about here.

    I had a Fascinate bought from ebay on a line for about 12 months. Bought a Nexus for that line, so I activated the Nexus and the Fascinate was now deactivated.

    Thought, hey, I've got an old Droid on another line, I'll put the Fascinate on that one. (This is five minutes later). Guess what?

    Whoever owned the phone before went on some fraud list, and Verizon still lists the Fascinates MEID as "bad". This phone WAS active on my account for 12+ months.

    The effort to track the ebayer would probably be worthless at this point, and I've spent over 4 hours on the phone with Verizon, including one CSR yelling at me about how if I wasn't "fraudulent in my account dealings" there's no way I would have this problem. Then she wouldn't give me to a supervisor, kept telling me they would tell me the same thing.....ugh....

    So I'm on hold with my 8th or 9th person and I'm ready to give up. I guess I'm out $300 bucks (from the ebay sale) and a LOT of my time.

    I'm sure this is just a policy issue, but no one seems to be able to change the policy.
  23. Yeahha

    Yeahha Usually off topic VIP Member

    Wow that has to be a PITA. You could put it back on ebay and state that it has a bad MEID if you want to try to make some of that $300 back...I think you are SOL on the time part ;)
  24. xjestersdeadx

    xjestersdeadx Well-Known Member

    Just an update... after calling back and finally getting to a supervisor, reexplaining my situation, the supervisor decided to go around the system and send out a replacement phone (I think they are documenting this as a warranty type of replacement even though I'm past that- as a customer loyalty thing).

    I get a phone from Verizon, and I send them the naughty MEID.

    So, as often is the case, call back again and again and again until you get someone willing to do something to help you.

    So eventually I did get this fixed--- but you really need to be aware that buying a used phone could mean you get stuck big time. The supervisor had no way of removing the current phone from the "bad" list. It is not an option on his computer. Luckily I got someone smart who was willing to bend a little to help me find a solution.

    However, be aware I asked him, "if i buy 10 used phones from 10 different people, and you tell me the MEID's are "clean", 12 months later all ten of those could be deactivated for the prior owner's being on a "bad" list and I would have no recourse?"

    The answer: "Yes". :eek:

    I don't know any way to avoid the risk being on your shoulders when you buy a used phone now. My advice is the same that goes with lending money to a friend...if you can't afford to lose the money, then don't do it. :eek:
    scary alien, dirkbonn and Yeahha like this.
  25. Yeahha

    Yeahha Usually off topic VIP Member

    Glad it got fixed for you :D
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