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ESN / MEID / IMEI Checker FAQ

How to find your ESN / IMEI?

Open your keypad as if you're going to make a call and dial *#06# to have your IMEI show on screen. This trick should work on most smartphones.

Other ways to find your IMEI / ESN number to an iPhone

- Settings: Open Settings > General > About and scroll down to the bottom to see all the info. This is the most reliable and easiest way of finding your device's true IMEI number.

- iTunes: The IMEI can be found in iTunes sync on your computer, but it's a little hidden. Click on the "Phone Number" label on the Summary page and iTunes will cycle through the identification numbers related to that device. The IMEI number will be one of the included numbers associated with the iPhone.

- On the back: The IMEI number is printed directly on the back of some iPhones or on the SIM card tray. You'll find it in the fine print near the bottom and it's usually one of the last numbers. Be careful using this method because the backplate or SIM tray of an iPhone could have been changed. Refurbished iPhones from a third-party may have had their backplate or SIM tray replaced with an incorrect IMEI or without one at all.

What is an IMEI number?

Think of an IMEI number like your phone's fingerprint— it is unique to your phone and can be traced to identify you as the owner. An IMEI is a 15 digit number that can be found on the phone itself, e.g. on the phone's backplate, or with other general information in your phone's settings menu. You can also trigger your IMEI to appear on your phone's display by entering *#06# on your phone's keypad.

IMEI numbers are used world wide to combat the smartphone theft by "blacklisting" or blocking a stolen phone from accessing any cell network. This is done by the phone's owner, who calls his or her network provider to report the phone as lost or stolen. The phone is then useless and, in turn, the lack of resale value makes for little incentive for thieves.

What is an ESN number?

Much like an IMEI, an ESN is a number unique to every mobile phone. This number usually takes the form of an 11-digit decimal number or an 8-digit hexadecimal number.

An ESN number is used to identify a CDMA [source link re: CDMA] phone in particular, which are phones that do not require the use of a SIM card to access the carrier network. ESNs were allocated to new phones up until 2006, when unique ESN numbers effectively ran out. Although phones are not currently being manufactured with ESN numbers, existing phones with a ESN identifier can be used to blacklist a phone from accessing a cell network when reported stolen.

What is an MEID number?

As unique ESN numbers ran out in 2006, a new serial number format called MEID was implemented by Verizon. Much like its predecessor, the ESN, an MEID number is used to identify a cell phone that uses CDMA technology to access a cell network. Your phone's MEID number is unique to it and can be used to blacklist your phone from use after you have reported it lost or stolen.

How is an ESN different than a MEID or IMEI number?

Any cell phone manufactured will have either a unique IMEI, ESN, or MEID number. Cell phone manufacturers and wireless carriers use an IMEI / ESN / MEID number to identify specific cell phones. There might be thousands of a specific make or model of a phone but each of those individual phones will have its own identifying number.

So, these numbers function in the same way: to identify a phone. The main difference between these numbers is the configuration of the numbers themselves and which phones will likely use either an IMEI, ESN, or MEID number. See a quick breakdown below:

IMEI Comparison

What can an IMEI / ESN / MEID track or show about my phone?

An IMEI / ESN / MEID number can be used to track several key points of information about a phone. With the right tools, your IMEI can show:

  • - what type of phone you have
  • - when that phone was activated for the first time, down to the second
  • - what telephone numbers have been used on that phone
  • - the warranty start and expiration date
  • - whether a phone has been blacklisted from use

Our focus here is using an IMEI / ESN / MEID number to check if a phone has been blacklisted or not. For information about other ways that wireless carriers and manufacturers use these numbers, we recommend reading this article for a more comprehensive picture.

Why would you use an ESN / MEID / IMEI checker?

The checker above can be used to verify whether a phone has been blacklisted.

When buying a used cell phone, it is crucial that you run the phone's ESN / MEID / MEID number beforehand. Some people will explicitly mention that the phone for sale has a "bad ESN", "bad IMEI", or "bad MEID" number, though some more unsavoury characters will attempt to pass the phone off as normal. For more tips on how to buy a used phone on online classifieds like Craigslist or eBay, see our article here.

What does it mean to have a clean ESN / IMEI / MEID?

A phone that has a clean ESN / IMEI / MEID number can be activated on a carrier network like normal. Note: this is not the same as a phone being unlocked.

In contrast, a phone with a bad ESN / IMEI / MEID has been blacklisted, which means it can't be activated on any wireless network. Most often, a phone will be blacklisted if the original owner reported the phone as lost or stolen. In some cases, carriers will blacklist a phone if the owner's account falls out of good standing, i.e. if the phone is attached to a cellular carrier account with a large outstanding balance.

Regardless of the reason for being blacklisted, the phone cannot be used to make calls or use any other service that requires a connection to a carrier network, making the phone effectively worthless.

How does this ESN / IMEI / MEID checker actually work?

This is a great question because, based on everything we've said here so far, what happens with a phone's IMEI / ESN / MEID number only involves its owner and their cell carrier.

Put simply, when a phone becomes blacklisted, the carrier adds it to a database of blacklisted phones. This database is managed by a third-party association and can be contributed to by cell carriers throughout the world. The widespread use of this central database means that stolen or lost phones are blocked both nationally and internationally. This data is updated in real time, 24x7.

In the interest of helping more people avoid stolen or lost phones, Orchard maintains this portal to check an IMEI / ESN / MEID number against the blacklist registry.

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