Can I sell a stolen mobile phone?

Mobile phone recyclers are happy to buy phones in all sorts of states - handsets with cracked screens, big chips and dents, and damaged buttons can all be sold for cash. But there's one thing that recycling companies are a lot less happy about: stolen gadgets.

Can I sell a stolen mobile phone?

The short answer to this is no, you can't sell a stolen mobile phone. Selling a phone you don't own may be a criminal offence, in fact.

That means you cannot sell a phone or tablet that you reported as stolen and then found again; you cannot sell a lost phone that you happened to find; and you certainly cannot sell a phone that you or someone else has stolen. You can only legally sell a gadget that you own and is yours to sell.

When a mobile recycler receives a phone, the first thing it does is check it against a register like CheckMEND. This is a national database that stores information about mobile phones, and lets companies and users know whether a device can be bought or sold.

CheckMEND uses the phone's IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number, and logs the phone's status, insurance, networks, make and model, and of course whether it's blocked by a network, reported as lost or stolen, counterfeit, previously recycled, and more. You can check your own phone's status on for a small fee, if you like.

Can I sell a lost, barred, or network blocked mobile phone?

No, you can't. CheckMEND also flags whether a phone has been reported as lost, or if it's locked by a network for any other reason, and recyclers won't buy it if so.

What happens if a recycler receives a stolen, lost, or barred phone?

Each buyer has its own policy - check the company's terms and conditions before selling if you're concerned - but in most cases, this is what will happen if a mobile recycler is sent a stolen, lost, or network barred phone.

  • Firstly, the recycler will not pay you, at least for the time being. It will keep hold of the phone in 'quarantine'.
  • It will then contact you to let you know a red flag showed against your phone. You'll have a grace period - usually 28 days - to sort it out and remove the flag. See below for how to do this.
  • If the flag is revoked… the sale can proceed as normal, and the recycler will send you the cash it owes you.
  • If the flag is not revoked… the recycler is legally required to report the incident to the police, or dispose of the device. You won't be sent any money for the phone.
  • A police investigation may ensue.

If you're concerned that your phone may be flagged, it's best to check it on CheckMEND and sort out any issues before you sell it on. That way, the sale will go as smoothly as possible.

How do I remove the network bar from my phone?

The good news is that it's fairly easy to revoke a network bar, so long as you are indeed the rightful owner of the phone.

If you’re the one who reported it as stolen or lost, all you need to do is contact your network. Call the same number you used to report it in the first place, or just call the network's regular customer service - it should be fine to do so from any phone or number.

Tell the network you recovered your phone and would like to remove the bar. They'll then perform some security checks. Once they've done so and are satisfied, the bar will be revoked within a few days with no red flags against the phone any more.

You can also contact CheckMEND directly. You'll need to prove that you're the rightful owner of the phone, and again go through some security checks.