Despite Apple’s persistent efforts to curtail incentives for stealing iOS devices, there continues to be a steady stream of iPhones making their way to eBay. These devices have likely been lost or stolen. When Apple introduced iOS 7, they added a much sought after feature to the Find My iPhone service. iPhones and any iOS device that supported iOS 7 could now render a lost or stolen device useless, provided Find My iPhone was enabled. With used iPhones being sold at premiums, they had become attractive targets for thieves. In previous versions of iOS, an iPhone could be restored to its factory default state, making it easy to find a buyer. Despite changes in iOS 7, online marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist continue to allow sales of iCloud locked devices. As of today, eBay has over 1,000 listing for iCloud locked devices. Not only does this line the pockets of possibly unscrupulous individuals, it leaves uninformed buyers with a locked iPhone.
One seller describes a 16GB iPhone for AT&T as:
Icloud locked please make sure you understand what’s that before you buy . The phone is in great condition GOOD IMEI esn is clean include all accessories plus waterproof case. Not returns.
For an unsuspecting customer, this may sound like a good deal. After all, it’s being pitched as having a good IMEI and comes with a waterproof case. More users would know that it is impossible to use without the iCloud password (who apparently has the Gmail address firstname.lastname@example.org), so the perks of a waterproof case here are nil. However, some might think they can use this iPhone, as long as they don’t use iCloud. If it were being sold for $10, that would be suspicious. Priced at $250, it would be easy for a novice user and perhaps first time iPhone owner, to not clearly understand the meaning of an iCloud lock.
Yet another listing describes their AT&T iPhone 5 as having a clean ESN and ‘legitimately bought‘. “It is locked with iCloud and previous owner can’t be contacted.”
We’ve had a few people wander into our iPhone forums pretending to be customers who purchased a locked iPhone, claiming they weren’t able to contact the previous owner. It seems incredibly suspicious that most transactions would involve a discussion over phone or email, so this excuse of not being able to contact the previous owner falls short.
This isn’t limited to the iPhone 5. One listing for a Sprint iPhone 5c is slightly less offensive. It describes the iCloud locked phone as be in ‘excellent condition‘ and ‘good for parts‘.
Prices for these auctions vary from $125 to $250. Sales of iCloud locked phones aren’t limited to eBay. There are also numerous listings on Craigslist. Some listings are offering to buy iCloud locked devices. Perhaps these individuals are running the smartphone equivalent of a chop shop. Breaking them down and selling off the parts at a profit.
Earlier this month, Apple was among a group of manufacturers who voiced their support the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment. It outlines a list of capabilities that include support for remote wipe of data, rendering a smartphone inoperable and preventing activation. While the pact does not take place until July, 2015, Apple is already in compliance. Despite these measures, the aftermarket for lost and stolen iPhones continues to be problematic. The next logical step would be for eBay and other online marketplaces to restrict the sales of iCloud locked iPhones. Until that time, consumers need to be vigilant about not purchasing lost or stolen iPhones.