eBay - Bought a stolen iPhone, what happens next?

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Place your bets on how this story ends up

Bought an iPhone off eBay. The IMEI # is shown in one of the pictures in the auction. When the phone arrives, it hasn't been wiped clean, so the former owners APPs, photos, etc are still on the phone. In addition, the email and facebook accounts are still signed in. I look through one of the email accounts and see the 'Find My Phone' app that Apple uses has sent messages to the phone AFTER it was listed on eBay.

So I emailed one of the email accounts asking if they sold the phone, or if it was stolen. The response back was that it was stolen. They have sent proof from AT&T that the phone was reported stolen 2 days prior to my email.

Contacted eBay, they said to contact AT&T to verify the IMEI is stolen and open a case. Called AT&T, they said they have no way of confirming whether it is stolen. (That doesn't sound right to me, but the lady was insistent.)

So I opened a case with eBay. I spoke with eBay, saying I know in most cases of 'Item not described' they have you ship the phone back to the seller, and I don't know whether that is appropriate in this case.

So how do you think this turns out? (My one bet is that the former owner gets impatient with me, because I won't send her her phone back.) For what its worth, I am NOT worried about the money I spent, because I am pretty confident eBay will return it to me.

Member Summary

What proof did the original owner send you?

gyzo33 said:   What proof did the original owner send you?

Printout from AT&Ts computer system showing it was reported stolen on 7/3, 2 days before I contacted them.

eBay will not force you to return stolen items. Just like they won't force you to return counterfeit items.

Ask the owner to get you a police report or something as evidence would be my suggestion though there may be a better way.

Treefarn said:   

Printout from AT&Ts computer system showing it was reported stolen on 7/3, 2 days before I contacted them.

Called AT&T, they said they have no way of confirming whether it is stolen. (That doesn't sound right to me, but the lady was insistent.)

Which one is it? Yeah, probably AT&T just takes in the report from the customer, they have no way of checking whether it was stolen or not because they can't accuse the customer of anything, maybe they lost it, etc. I don't know man, I'd try to get in touch with the original owner as well, but who knows, maybe they sold it and reported it stolen. Who knows..... I mean you paid for it, you're entitled to it, whether it was stolen or not I don't see how that's your problem, you didn't buy it knowing it was stolen either. Good luck to you.

cout said:   
you're entitled to it, whether it was stolen or not I don't see how that's your problem, you didn't buy it knowing it was stolen either. Good luck to you.

I'm not sure that's true. If someone steals my car and you buy it for $50, you're telling me I don't get that back? I find that hard to believe.

I'm sure that no matter what they paid for the car, you (or your insurance company, if you filed a claim) would be entitled to it back. Just that buying an item for a price too good to be true would provide a stronger case for you in court and prosecution against buyer who paid $50 for a car.

Seattle 911 — A Police and Crime Blog

“It will more than likely be confiscated,” Witt said, “so they’ll be out for the money and the cell phone.”

FWIW, What happens if you purchase stolen goods on Ebay?

In commerce, title usually transfers at time of the buyer takes physical possession of the goods. Since title can never be transfered with stolen goods (as the illegitimate seller doesn't have good title), little can be done other than confiscation of the property and its return to the legal owner. Hence, the buyer of fenced goods is out. Convicting a buyer of aiding and abetting a criminal seller is another story - unless the buyer knew (for instance, as in colluding together) or highly suspected (left a paper trail questioning them before purchasing) they were stolen in advance of possession or at time of taking possession. There is no statutory limitation in prosecuting stolen property in most jurisdictions as long as the legitimate title owner can show proof of loss and that which is in the current possession by others is was illegally obtained - witness the Nazi theft of European art that occasionally comes up for sale and the ruckus this creates when the provenance is traceable to a particular family.


Translation: The police can come and take the stolen goods back legally. It would take a court order. No repayment to the buyer. Unless it's a really valuable item, however, this is unlikely (the cost of recovery often exceeds the salvage value).

Possession of stolen goods From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In the United States, Receipt of stolen property is a federal crime under 18 U.S.C. § 2315, defined as knowingly receiving, concealing, or disposing of stolen property with a value of at least $5,000 that also constitutes interstate commerce (i.e., has been transported across state lines).
A person can be found guilty of that offense only if all of the following facts are proven:
The person received or concealed or stored or disposed of items of stolen property.
The items were moving as, or constituted a part of, interstate commerce.
The items had a value in excess of $5,000.
The person acted knowingly and willfully.
The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person either received, concealed, stored, sold, or disposed of the stolen property.
To be guilty of the offense, a person must know that the property had been stolen, but he need not know that it was moving as, or constituted a part of, interstate commerce. The term "interstate commerce" merely refers to the movement of property from one U.S. state into another; and it is sufficient if the property has recently moved interstate as a result of a transaction or a series of related transactions that have not been fully completed or consummated at the time of the person's acts as alleged.
All US states also have laws regarding receipt of stolen property; however, there usually is no minimum dollar amount in many jurisdictions, and, of course, the requirement in Federal law regarding interstate commerce does not apply. Also, in many states (Ohio, for example), the burden to prove criminal intent is not as stringent or is nonexistent.[5] This means that one can be charged with the crime - usually a minor degree of felony - even if the person did not know the item in question was stolen. In the Ohio case of State v. Awad, the goods did not need to actually be stolen, just represented as such.[6]
Receiving stolen property and possession of stolen property are treated as separate offenses in some jurisdictions. The distinguishing element is when the person knew that the property was stolen. If the person knew that the property was stolen at the time he received it, the crime is receiving stolen property. If the person did not know the property was stolen at the time she received it but found out after receiving possession, the crime is possession of stolen property.
The state must prove that the defendant received or possessed the property for a dishonest purpose. If, for example, the person acquired possession for the purpose of returning the property to its lawful owner, no crime has been committed.

BTW, was talking with the property manager at my storage facility and he said something about pawn shop owners having to have $250K bond and every day the police come in and check new items to make sure they weren't reported as stolen and seize everything that was.

One episode of Pawn Stars a guy came into the shop to sell a Russian policeman's cap, hoping that selling it would cancel the international warrant for his arrest. Claims he stole it while in Russia off of a policeman who was asleep in his car. Needless to say they refused to buy it since it was stolen.

Return with proof of delivery through SNAD. Report eBay listing as stolen property, report seller to Paypal at aupviolations@paypal.com.

Try calling Paypal and telling them it's stolen and that you would like to return it to Paypal. This is often an option with counterfeits.

I'm inclined to think it's some sort of scam, depending on what the detective want you to do. Firstly, why wouldn't Apple contact you themselves and cut out the middleman, and secondly, why use a detective from Colorado. They don't manufacture anything there, nor are they based there.
Bottom line, find out what they want and don't give out any personal details.

I am the OP. Forgot all about this thread.

eBay allowed me to return the phone to my local AT&T store. AT&T gave me a receipt that I returned the phone to them, which I faxed to eBay. eBay refunded my money based on that, and AT&T returned the phone to the original owner.


Thanks for the update

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