What is the Cell Phone Blacklist, Anyway?

In the conversation of second-hand smartphones, the words Blacklist and IMEI get thrown around a lot. So what is this cell phone blacklist anyway?

Read our updated post about blacklisted iPhones here.

What is the Cell Phone Blacklist?

The blacklist is a shared database that lists smartphones that have been reported stolen in Canada. If a phone is listed on the blacklist, wireless carriers will not allow the phone to connect to the cellular network even if using a valid SIM card. Devices are listed by their unique IMEI Number. Many countries have a similar Blacklist, and these are shared on an international database administered by the GSMA. This means that a phone that is put on the Blacklist in Canada will not be able to connect in any of the other participating countries, and vice versa.

What is an IMEI?

IMEI stands for “International Mobile Equipment Identity.” It is a unique identifier that is hardcoded into all of the latest-generation smartphones. Because (unlike a SIM card) it cannot be easily removed and because it follows a common standard across carriers and countries it is used to identify stolen phones.

Why Was the Blacklist Implemented?

The Blacklist was implemented in 2013 to counteract cell phone theft. A phone that cannot be activated on any network, even if sold outside of the country, is not very valuable.

How can I check if a phone is on the blacklist?

To check if your phone is on the blacklist, you can enter your phone’s IMEI Number into our IMEI checker, here.

If my phone is blacklisted, what can I do with it?

A blacklisted phone will still work with WiFi, but will not not be able to make calls, send texts, or use mobile data.

Only the person who reported a phone stolen can have it removed from the blacklist. If you purchased your phone through a classified listing (like kijiji or craigslist) then your only option is to contact the seller and ask for a refund or to remove the phone from the blacklist (if they were the ones who put it on). If you purchased the phone via eBay, you may be able to make a claim for a refund.

At Orchard, we guarantee that any phone you buy from us will never be blacklisted. If a phone ever ends up on the blacklist, we will replace it (even if your warranty is up).

If a phone you found is on the cell phone blacklist, take it in to the original wireless carrier and they may be able to return the phone to it’s owner.

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36 comments

    • jake 24 July, 2017   Reply →

      my phone is running on a network and its listed as a lost or stolen what do i do

      • Bianca @ Orchard 24 July, 2017   Reply →

        Hey Jake, if you’re the owner of the phone and it was blacklisted by mistake, you should be able to reverse this. First step would be to call your carrier. 🙂

        • Robert 9 February, 2018   Reply →

          I forgot my pass code to my iPhone how do I get it open

          • Orchard 10 February, 2018  

            Hey Robert. If you really can’t remember your passcode, you’ll have to erase all the data from the phone. Hope you’ve made a recent backup!
            Here’s Apple’s step by step of how you can wipe the phone: https://support.apple.com/en-ca/HT204306

        • Raelen 3 March, 2018   Reply →

          Hey, if I put an old SIM card from someone’s old phone that they blacklisted, will the blacklist travel to my new phone? It’s a brand new IPhone 6s, and I was told it was blacklisted.

          • Orchard 5 March, 2018  

            Hi Raelen. A blacklist is limited to one phone. It can’t be transferred to another device through a SIM card, or any other way. If you got this phone new from a carrier, give them a call and they should be able to clear things up.

      • John 25 April, 2019   Reply →

        Can I still use a blacklisted phone as just a iPod and not be put in risk?

        • Orchard 29 April, 2019   Reply →

          Hey John! In short, yes you can.
          The blacklist prevents the phone from being used with any SIM cards, so you’ll never be able to use it for calling, texting, or data use. It will however still work on Wi-Fi, and can be used as an iPod without any risk.

  • Berhane Teklu 26 March, 2016   Reply →

    my phone says not registered on network

    • Orchard 8 April, 2016   Reply →

      It sounds like this might be a problem with your SIM card. When a SIM card is not able to talk to the cell network, your phone can’t register with the network and fails to connect. Getting a new card from your carrier should solve your problem, and they can transfer your phone number from the old card to the new one. Hope this helps!

  • Berhane Teklu 26 March, 2016   Reply →

    please tell me a solution

    • Matthew Benjaminn 25 November, 2016   Reply →

      Getting a new card from your carrier should solve your problem, and they can transfer your phone number from the old card to the new one.

  • Berhane Teklu 26 March, 2016   Reply →

    phone blacklist

    • Stephen McCarthy 12 December, 2018   Reply →

      I was on my friends plan with my own phone and he had my phone blacklisted I called the carrier and they said since he blacklisted my phone I said my phone they said there is nothing they can do can anybody help me thank you

  • Seth 27 August, 2016   Reply →

    Someone is offering to sell me a blacklisted phone from Kijiji. She sounds innocent enough and apparently bought it online herself unaware it was blacklisted. She was honest enough with me about and is selling at a discount. And I don’t use cellular service anyways, and would only want it for the camera, wifi, and apps. But if I have a blacklisted phone, can I get in trouble for it? Can I be charged with posession of stolen property even if I bought it off Kijiji?

  • Valerie L Lessley 27 September, 2016   Reply →

    My phone is blacklisted but I didn’t put it on there nor did my carrier. How do I find out who put it on there?? I bought it from the manufacturer paid in full. I want it removed from the blacklist but I have to find out who put it on there first. I’m assuming it was done by error maybe someone mistyped the number of another phone and entered minexpensive by accident. Please help

  • Valerie L Lessley 27 September, 2016   Reply →

    I’m assuming it was done by error maybe someone mistyped the number of another phone and entered “mine” by accident. Please help

    CORRECTION FOR PREVIOUS COMMENT

    • Mohale 27 February, 2019   Reply →

      My phone is blacklisted but I cant find the person who gave it to me what can I do to make it work again J5 Prime

  • Libby 10 November, 2017   Reply →

    My t mobile phone blacklisted and blocked for non payment of overcharged bill. T mobile won’t accept phone b.a.ck

  • Aurelia Valeanu 8 February, 2018   Reply →

    I ve bought a phone that is blacklisted. I didnt know but when i got home i ve noticed that its blocked. I tried many times to contact the seller but he didnt answer me. It seems i ve been rip off. How can i sort the problem? I bought from Shpock . Can be any chance to get my money back?

    • Orchard 10 February, 2018   Reply →

      Sorry to hear that Aurelia! If you’re not able to get in touch with the seller, you do have the ability to report a user on Shpock. Here’s how you can do that: https://en.shpock.com/faq/#faq-tailor-your-experience-9
      If the Shpock support team isn’t able to help you, you might be out of luck. That being said, the phone will still be useful for surfing the web, apps, and music!

  • Amanda 11 February, 2018   Reply →

    I brought iPhone 7 Plus was able to use EE sim but doing a IMEI check it said T movie had black listed it but iCloud was clean not sure I understand please help

  • Simphiwe Khanyile 9 March, 2018   Reply →

    I reported my phone stolen and i had both the sim cad and the phone blocked ,cab i still be able to trace the cell phone ?

  • Emi C 10 October, 2018   Reply →

    I bought a iphone from someone and when I went to activate my phone it came out on the blacklist. Do you help with unlocking iphone?

  • Michelle 17 November, 2018   Reply →

    If a phone is blacklisted can you keep the same phone number when you get a new phone?

    • Charlotte 16 February, 2019   Reply →

      I’m wandering this too.

      • Orchard 19 February, 2019   Reply →

        This is a great question! The blacklist actually only applies to a specific device, not a phone number. If for any reason a phone that you have is blacklisted, you would be able to remove the SIM card from it, and use the same phone number with another phone.

  • Faizan 24 November, 2018   Reply →

    Orchard my country is blocking all the smuggled phone. I dont consider my phone smuggled because i bought it in saudia and now i brought it here in pakistan. So if my phone gets block (which they announced will happen on dec 3) what can i do to unblock it.

  • ASAP 8 December, 2018   Reply →

    There’s literally no point in stealing phones nowadays.

  • Chris DesJardins 14 January, 2019   Reply →

    I saw a Note 9 for sale on Ebay at a really cheap price. It’s locked by Sprint (but I’m a Sprint Customer so great).
    Before purchasing, I got the IMEI number and called Sprint and they told me it was free and clean. So I bought it.
    The next day, I brought it to my local Sprint store and they said its now locked but wouldn’t tell me why.
    I looked it up myself and it says its FED Financial Eligibility failed because its still under contract.
    Is there anything I can do so I can use this phone?

  • Rico 26 February, 2019   Reply →

    If i unlock my phone and use a sim card from a different carrier before they try to blacklist my phone, will they still be able to blacklist my phone?

  • Chad Olsen 20 March, 2019   Reply →

    Yeah, I used a SIM card that must have been stolen cuz now my phone is blacklisted even after I swapped sims

  • Ronnie 23 March, 2019   Reply →

    I recently allow a friend well I thought it was a friend to purchase some phones on my account they were post to pay for them, they haven’t paid for them and now I have a high monthly bill I recently suspended and black list the phones from AT&T their iPhones my question is can a blacklist phone be used in other countries like Ghana or Nigeria

    • Orchard 26 March, 2019   Reply →

      Hey Ronnie. This is a bit of a tricky question to answer. When a phone is placed on a blacklist, the information is made available to all carriers worldwide, however it is up to individual carriers to decide what kind of action they will take based on this information. In North America, carriers would take heed of AT&T’s blacklist and block use of the phone, but we can’t guarantee that this would be the case in every country worldwide.

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