How to Activate an IMEI Blacklisted Mobile Phone?

Dravid asks:

The problem buying phones online, that too at a cheaper price, is that they may be locked down to a carrier. The other day I purchased  a used T-Mobile iPhone through a classified site. When the phone was couriered home, I was excited to use my first iPhone. After carefully opening the package, I tried switching ON the phone… and I was furious to see that the iPhone was locked! I contacted the original owner who isn’t reported to this issue. So what can I do now? Why was the phone blacklisted/blocked? How do I activate this mobile phone?


The question is similar to the one I have already answered — it was related to changing IMEI number. As the phone is locked to a contract you have to contact the network operator — T-Mobile in this case — and sort this issue out. However, the phone may have been blacklisted due to the following reasons:

  • The phone has a bad history or record
  • The phone was stolen or reported as lost
  • The phone owner did not pay the bill

There are many US carriers like Sprint and Verizon that only blocks ESN numbers. However, as you have mentioned T-Mobile, you should know that it’s different from the rest of the operators. T-Mobile does not offer a protection for used cell phone buyers, which does leave you frustrated.

As the IMEI is blocked, the phone cannot be unlocked unless you can find a way to change the IMEI number. You may also want to note that changing IMEIs is against the law in the US.

Many phone owners are selling their contract-locked phones to someone else, then report to the operator that they have lost the phone. Later on they request for the phone insurance. This kind of scam are rapidly increasing, so it’s best to avoid buying such phones online.

To be able to activate the IMEI blacklisted phone, you have to contact T-Mobile and explain the issue to them. Of course, there are many IMEI code generators and unlockers available, but like I said they are not entirely legal. You may have to think twice before making such moves. For now, your best bet is to get in touch with the carrier and ask them what to do next.

More often than not, the company will be able to find out who the original owner was, then they will let you know the reason why the phone was blacklisted or banned. If you are lucky, the phone will be reactivated and unblocked, albeit that depends on a lot of factor — like, why was the phone blocked in the first place? Due to prank calls? Or no payment?

Hopefully you will be able to fix this problem and get your T-Mobile iPhone back up and running!