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Ideally, you should meet with the seller face to face in a safe, public location. This is just common sense for purchasing anything through online classifieds. Make sure to bring a device that can connect to the Internet. You can check the device’s Activation Lock status before any funds are exchanged.
It’s often the case that your transaction will occur remotely, and the phone will be delivered via a parcel delivery service. In this situation, your risk of being ripped off increases. After all, the seller can use a fake identity and remain anonymous. With these transactions, it’s best to use a payment method that can be refunded. You can stop payment on a check. Most credit card companies are helpful when it comes to disputing a charge. Going through PayPal may also be a good idea. They have a fairly decent dispute resolution process. It would also be more difficult for a con artist to rip people off repeatedly over PayPal, as they would eventually be banned. Re-establishing their identity isn’t as easy, as they would need to get new credit cards or banking information.
Similarly, if you purchase an iPhone over eBay, there are dispute resolution mechanisms. They also ban offending users. I know this all too well. Someone hacked my eBay account and used it to sell laptops that were never delivered to customers. To re-establish my account, eBay wanted me to provide numerous documents to confirm my identity. Of course, if my account was hacked, it doesn’t make sense to give them even more of my personal information. I personally think it was an inside job, as the culprit was Malaysian and eBay has a customer service center there. My user ID and password were very strong. I haven’t bought or sold anything over eBay since this incident. That said, you are probably better off going through eBay than through an anonymous online transaction.
If you are purchasing a used iPhone remotely from an individual, you might not want them to remove Activation Lock themselves. After all, if the iPhone is intercepted, anyone can activate it. In this case, have the seller change the Apple ID and give you the login information. You can go to Apple’s official Apple ID site to verify that the email address and password are legitimate. It would be best if the seller uses your email address. That way, you can reset the password if you lose or forget it. When you get your iPhone, you can login with the shared Apple ID and change the password. Remember to re-configure TouchID so you can login with your fingerprint.
This scheme is by no means foolproof. A malicious seller can create an Apple ID and send you a stolen phone. There’s no way to know this until you get the actual phone and sign in. This is all the more reason why it’s best to go with a reputable reseller of used Apple devices. You may pay more, but you won’t get ripped off. After all, if it’s to good to be true, it probably is. Some of the prices for used iPhones are hard to believe and they may very well be scams. Despite Activation Lock, iPhones are still being stolen and sold over the Internet. You may be able to recover your money, however, the risk and effort just aren’t worth it. If you are going to buy a used iPhone outside of an established reseller, a face-to-face transaction is ideal. If you don’t mind taking risks, however, you may be able to get a better deal by remotely purchasing an iPhone from an individual.
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