CHECKMEND: Advice for buying mobile phones safely on eBay

(Article copywrite eBay: http://pages.ebay.co.uk/buy/guides/mobile-phone-advice/#2 )

To minimise the risk of buying a stolen mobile phone there are some basic steps to take. Many of these steps are those that eBay would recommend as part of any eBay purchase and some of them are things that the police recommend that you should do:

Read the item description very carefully and make sure that you know exactly what you're buying. If you're unsure, ask the seller to explain the description. They are normally very happy to help you if it means they will get a sale

Search the text of the listing for words such as 'barred'or 'blocked'. You can do this in your browser by pressing CTRL and F together and searching the text as the words can be hidden in long streams of product information in the hope that you won't spot them. If the words appear, report the listing to eBay Customer Services straightaway.

You can now search online databases, such as the CheckMEND database ( http://www.checkmend.com ), to see whether a phone you want to buy has been reported as lost or stolen. It is recommended that you search the databases using the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI serial) or CheckMEND certificate number (where provided by the seller) for the mobile phone you want to buy. If the seller has provided a CheckMEND certificate, it's free for you to view this online.

If you are at all suspicious of the authenticity of a mobile phone listing, you can get more information at the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit website ( http://www.met.police.uk/mobilephone ). It has more advice and information about the problem of stolen mobile phones. You can also have a look at the NMPCU's About Me page.

Learn as much as you can about the seller. Check their feedback and not just the score, but also dig deeper and look out for some of the following

- whether the person has been buying a lot of low-value items, because they may have been doing so to build up their feedback score, and is now selling large numbers of high-value items

- the kinds of items that they have been buying or selling and make sure that the person's eBay record makes them look like either an established mobile dealer or a private individual selling an old handset

- how long they have been registered on the site and if they have been trading for a reasonable period of time, with a positive feedback score, they are more likely to be a safer person to purchase from

These factors do not necessarily mean that someone is selling a stolen phone, but they should alert you to do some further research before you buy.

Ask the seller questions and make sure that it is their's to sell, ask them why they are selling and if they are a business ask them where they are based, whether they have shops or what their company number is. Unscrupulous sellers will tend not to answer such questions or their answers will be evasive. You can even ask for the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number of the mobile phone.

If you are buying, make sure that you are paying with PayPal. It is a much more secure way of paying on eBay than any other because it offers purchase protection to buyers. If anything does go wrong, using PayPal means that they will have the seller's contact details (address, financial details), so will be able to work with law enforcement to track the seller.

Links:
http://pages.ebay.co.uk/buy/guides/mobile-phone-advice/#2
http://www.checkmend.com
http://www.met.police.uk/mobilephone

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