How to check for a bad esn on a mobile phone

Written by charles poole
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How to check for a bad esn on a mobile phone
Phones with bad ESNs will not work on any cell phone provider's network. (black cell phone image by timur1970 from

When buying a cell phone on Craigslist or eBay, for example, you might think that you're getting a great deal on an otherwise hefty purchase. For some people these sales are legal and the buyer will come out on top. In other scenarios the buyer is cheated because the phone has been flagged with a bad ESN number. Bad ESNs can mean that the phone has a delinquent account balance or that the phone is stolen. Don't waste your time or money on phones with bad ESN numbers. Check them out before you buy.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Computer
  • Internet access
  • Telephone

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  1. 1

    Contact the seller that you are trying to buy your phone from and ask him to provide proof that the ESN has not been blacklisted by the service provider. This should be a confirmation sheet from your service provider. For example, if you're buying a phone to use on the Verizon network, your seller can provide you with a Verizon confirmation sheet dated the day you are purchasing the phone.

  2. 2

    Ask the seller to send you the ESN number so you can confirm that the phone is clean. Go the References section of this article to get your service provider's hotline number. Call your service provider and ask it to check the ESN of the cell phone you are trying to buy. The representative will tell you if it is on a blacklist.

  3. 3

    Go through a third party to check the ESN. There are websites and services that will check ESNs for a small fee or for free. Check the Resources links below to find several companies that will check the ESN number for you against the blacklists of all service providers.

Tips and warnings

  • Always go through reputable parties when you are buying a used or unactivated phone.
  • If you plan on changing your service provider in the near future, also check with that service provider to make sure that the ESN is not blacklisted on its network.

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