With second-hand smartphone sales increasing rapidly – and an expected £38.5 billion’s worth in sales in 2022alone – the market has never been better for finding a good smartphone deal, and saving money on long contracts and expensive new models. But the second-hand market can also be a dangerous place – which is why the statement on the lips of any shrewd consumer in the market for a phone should be “before I sell my iPhone X, I want to be sure my next phone is the real deal.” The following three tips are crucial for ensuring you get the second-hand phone that was advertised.

Does It Match the Seller’s Description?

The very first thing you should do when evaluating a second-hand device in person is to check it against the seller’s description. If there are scratches on the phone which were conspicuously hidden from the seller’s photos, what else are they hiding about the phone? Check the phone’s specs against the reported specs of the model; if there are any differences at all, you could be looking at a fake model, which could turn out to be far less reliable in the long run.

Mobile iphone

Is It Water Damaged?

This is perhaps the easiest thing to miss when on the hunt for a second-hand smartphone. Water damage can fly under the radar with most sales, especially where the seller knows the phone has been in water, and taken steps to hide it. Water damage doesn’t often leave evidence on the screen or body, instead wreaking havoc with the internal circuitry and potentially causing problems over time. There may be tell-tales signs in the exposed metal contacts of the phone’s ports; presence of a green, crystalline substance implies corrosion, hence water damage.

But corrosion is relatively easy to remove, meaning you could be none the wiser about the phone’s internal conditions. This is why most modern-day smartphones have a water damage indicator at some accessible point in the phone, usually the SIM card reader. The indicator, like a litmus test, changes colour in the presence of water, giving you concrete evidence as to whether or not the phone has been water damaged.

Is It Stolen?

Though the intentions of the vast majority of second-hand sellers on marketplaces and auction sites may be pure, that doesn’t mean you aren’t likely to come across a bad actor every now and then. Before you agree to purchase a given phone, you should first check whether or not it’s been registered as stolen. Buying a phone which turns out to have been stolen can present a number of issues for you – firstly, you would be expected to hand the phone in to the police. Doing anything else with a phone you know was stolen could be considered a criminal act: ‘handling stolen goods’. Secondly, your only recourse for recouping losses would be requesting a full refund from the seller under the Consumer Rights Act of 2015; but of course, if the sale was done privately, you may never get that money back.

Instead of running the risk of losing out on a phone and your money, be sure to find the IMEI number of the phone you want to buy – a 16-digit number which service providers use to identify devices -, and run it through any one of the various IMEI checking services online. The result will let you know if the phone is reported missing or stolen, giving you the chance to swerve a dodgy purchase.