What happens when the phone you bought was stolen?

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You may be looking for a deal on a smartphone, but what if you end up buying one that's stolen? (WLS)

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
You may be looking for a deal on a smartphone, but what if you end up buying one that's stolen?

The I-Team is getting results for one woman whose phone service shut down without warning. Phones for sale can end up on a "blacklist."

She used her iPhone for about seven months, and out of nowhere, she says, the service stopped. When she called her provider she was told her phone was put on a "blacklist" and reported stolen. She says when she couldn't get answers, she called the I-Team for help.

"It completely stopped working, I tried to send text messages, I'm thinking, what, did we not pay our bill?" said Jordan Hedgren. "All of a sudden I go to call someone and I get a random message saying your phone is locked."

When she called her service provider, AT&T, she was even more shocked to hear the phone was reported stolen.

"She said my phone was blacklisted and reported as stolen, I asked her what I do next. She was very nice and told me you have to get a brand new phone, there's nothing we can do," Hedgren said.

Because she's in college, the Sugar Grove woman was looking to save money and had purchased her iPhone 6s on eBay for $459. She did it through a third-party company called Cell Works Unlimited, which sells new and used smartphones.

Jason Knowles: "You called eBay and what did they say?
Hedgren: "They continued to tell me there is nothing we can do for you."

After Hedgren called the I-Team, we checked her phone. It was mysteriously working again, but when she called AT&T, she found that the phone will not continue to work because Hedgren's international mobile equipment identity number is still flagged.

"So what will happen is, as she is using it at one point it's going to realize when it runs through the stolen device system, it's going to realize this device is stolen and it will block her service," said a representative for AT&T, who gave ABC7 permission to record her.

Jason Knowles: "So she'll get shut down again?"
AT&T Rep: "She'll get shut down again."

Cell Works Unlimited said Hedgren had not contacted them but that "...if there is a issue with a product we sold we will rectify the situation immediately." Hedgren says police told her not to contact the seller. eBay told the I-Team "eBay's money-back guarantee covers the rare instance when a stolen good is purchased for up to 12 months" and said customers need to provide police reports or a device history report from the website checkmend.com.

Days after we emailed eBay, Hedgren's $459 was refunded, and she bought a new phone.

"I want to say thank you to ABC7, Jason Knowles and the I-Team for coming out and helping me resolve my issue with my phone. I have been refunded my money and couldn't be happier," Hedgren said.

If you're buying a phone online or secondhand, you can first check the IMEI number with your service provider to see if the phone has been reported lost or stolen. You can also research the number on various websites, which claim to tell you if the phone is on the black list. Although, that's not going to help if an online seller is giving you the wrong IMEI number.

In September, the city of Chicago passed an ordinance to crack down on the problem happening in secondhand stores and online.

The ordinance contains a mix of new and strengthened regulations to help authorities track stolen cell phones and increase enforcement against those who profit from their unlawful sale, whether online or in-store. These include mandatory cross-checks with the stolen phone database to protect consumers, holding illegal cell phone dealers accountable through license revocation and confiscation of stolen cell phones at second-hand dealerships throughout the City, increased transparency and notification requirements and additional public education.

Related Topics:
technologycrimesmartphonescellphoneconsumerI-TeamSugar Grove
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