UPDATE: T-Mobile got in touch to correct some of the information being shared by UpgradeSwap. Customers buying used devices can – in fact – check their devices to see if they’re financed, or if they’re clear. You can check that link here: http://www.t-mobile.com/verifyIMEI.aspx
“If a customer wants to purchase a T-Mobile phone and is checking the IMEI number, they should be using our tool for the correct information.”
UPDATE #2: UpgradeSwap also got in touch with us following the update to inform us that it is aware of the T-Mobile VerifyIMEI service, and that it has experienced inconsistent and unreliable results from that too.
“We’re not trying to spread lies, but are hoping changes happen to better protect all consumers who buy and sell mobile devices.”
Buying and selling used phones is big business these days, especially at the rates customers can now change their devices. Whether it be on eBay, Craigslist or elsewhere, there are many routes to go down in order to get rid of our old devices. One provider, UpgradeSwap, has just announced that it’ll “never buy used T-Mobile phones again”.
In a blog post, the company details reasons why its has stopped accepting T-Mo devices, and – in essence – it comes down to the way T-Mobile’s EIP system blacklists phones and doesn’t allow more in depth IMEI checking.
As an example, a customer could decide after a few months that a phone is no longer right for them. So they take sell it to UpgradeSwap. Customer tells the company that the device is all good for activation, and gives them the IMEI to check with T-Mobile. T-Mo gives the all clear, and UpgradeSwap hands over the money.
What the buyer doesn’t know, and can’t find out in any way, is that the handset is being financed by a T-Mo customer using one of the carrier’s EIPs. The T-Mo customer then decides they don’t want to pay their monthly installments anymore, and stops. UpgradeSwap has since sold the phone on to another customer who’s been using it for a couple of months before it – out of the blue – stops receiving carrier signal. The phone has been blacklisted.
Turns out, T-Mobile’s IMEI checking system is a little different to the other major U.S. carriers. It can only tell third parties that the there are no blocks on the handset at the time it’s handed over by the original customer. T-Mobile can’t and won’t tell buyers whether or not the phone has been fully paid for, or is still being paid for using a financing plan. T-Mobile can’t and won’t tell buyers if the phone is active on a customer’s account.
“Thankfully, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint have a smarter system in place. They will tell you if the IMEI or ESN (the network identification number for the phone) is active on an account by simply calling them. If the phone is released off the account and not reported lost or stolen, you can be most certain the device won’t have any issues being activated on a new line and you won’t have to worry about your service getting cut because the past owner stopped paying their bill, like on T-Mobile.”
And the sad thing is, even systems like Swappa’s IMEI checker can’t give fully accurate information on whether or not a phone is active, or being financed.
All in all then, it leaves companies like UpgradeSwap without the ability to sell on a T-Mobile device and knowing for sure that it’s clear to sell and can be activated. It’s not clear how many customers were affected by this system. Regardless, the risk is there that a customer could end up with a useless phone. And that’s not a risk UpgradeSwap is willing to take.