used iPhone 5

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I would like to get an iPhone 5 as a present to use on prepaid like Straight Talk or AirVoice Wireless, so a GSM iPhone. To save some money, I don't mind getting used, and since it's a present, it would need to be legitimate. I would start with Cragislist and eBay, but I know it's a shady world out there in used cell phone land and I'm not savvy to the things people can do to scam on used cell phones. So my questions are related to things that can be done to phones to scam.

1) is there a scenario which makes the phone work while I'm checking it out but will stop working weeks or months later?
2) what price is a good price vs "too good to be true" for an unlocked AT&T or Tmo iphone5 right now? $500 for 16gb version? That's about eBay price.
3) since Tmo just got iPhone in April, is there even any legitimate unlocked ones (not factory unlocked) or is that immediately a red flag? I know about different versions of the GSM where older ones can't use Tmo's DC-HSDPA so I will be checking that part out in case I ever put it on Tmo prepaid.
4) any way to check for stolen phones like calling carrier?
5) is carrier unlocked (not factory unlocked) available right now since it's still newish, or is it that a red flag too?
6) any way to check if it's under contract? (related to item 1) I've heard of people calling a carrier to check, but takes couple months for the unpaid balance to kick in and phone gets shut off. If if seller says it's not activated with any carrier right now, so nobody to call to check, can the serial # be used for checking anything?
7) since SIM determines service, can a GSM phone be shut off?
8) any trick unlocks that will revert? any way to check for legitimate factory unlock vs carrier vs "fake" (Gevey or whatever I've heard of)
9) ultimately, if i pop in a SIM card, and it works, am I home free??

I know it's a lot of scattered questions, but there's so many questions and doubts in my mind I would like to know both for the iPhone and just in general about used phones since I think it's a good way to save money for the same service. So far I've purchased just one used phone (HTC Sensation 4G) and it's worked out, but in the back of my mind I know it's a shady world of used iPhones and I'm not savvy to the criminal ways.

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Phone Carriers are now blocking stolen phones based on their device ID, or IMEI, and linking their databases of stolen phones together. That means that regardless of SIM used, the phone can still be blocked from use on the major networks. So if you buy a used phone and it's later reported stolen, it could become unusable as a cell phone (wifi would probably still work).

As for unlocked iPhones, Apple sells them directly, starting at $650 for a 16GB iPhone 5:

+1 on the stolen phone database link. Is the IMEI sent to carriers automatically, because I've only given IMEI on Sprint based service and not SIM? If I pop my SIM from one phone to another, which do they link to the SIM (account)? Otherwise can't anybody report anybody's phone stolen once you get their serial#? So if they do "dry up the after market for stolen phones" they still leave the fraud open. There should be also be a period after which if a phone is activated on a different SIM it cannot be blocked, which will give the thieves a smaller window to sell the phone lest they become "stale". Individuals defrauding by reporting their own phones stolen will still have the opportunity, but I would think that market is much smaller and doing that profitably by repeatedly reporting phones stolen will raise a flag with the insurance.

Of course I doubt this is completely altruistic to help the consumer, it's probably to help limit the resale market and force people to buy more new phones (and signing new contracts)...

see3po said:   Is the IMEI sent to carriers automatically.....
Yes, when a phone connects to a carrier, it transmits its IMEI as well as SIM. I have T-Mobile and they're able to tell what phone me and my family members are using without me telling them. T-Mobile also recorded the IMEIs when I purchased the new phones, partially for the rebates.

Otherwise can't anybody report anybody's phone stolen once you get their serial#?
I doubt many people are recording their phone's IMEI to begin with. Most likely what happens is that you call up as a customer and report the phone you were using on a particular line as stolen. They look up the IMEI on file for that line, and block that IMEI. I doubt they just let anyone call up with an IMEI and have it blocked.

maybe you should seek help from its company once you it.

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