How to avoid getting scammed when buying a phone in a peer-to-peer marketplace!

In a recent study conducted by the vendi team amongst 105 participants, it was found that 90% of the respondents either knew someone or have themselves been scammed when buying or selling a smartphone in a peer-to-peer marketplace. 90%!

So how do you go about buying a phone online when there are minefields of scammers scattered around these marketplaces? In a recent article, we covered the many different scams that people face in online marketplaces, but in this article, we are going to be looking at how we can unearth these eCommerce scams.

This 10 step guide should equip you in ways to seek out scams on peer-to-peer marketplaces!

  • Quick note: If you prefer to avoid having to go over the 10 steps, remember that on vendi you won’t get scammed as we do all this for you :)


1. Meet in areas where there are CCTV cameras around but…

Never carry out a transaction in the middle of a street or station. Make sure you are sat down in a comfortable area with people around you.

Before meeting with the buyer or seller make sure you decide a cafe, bank, or similar place to meet. If they resist this avoid meeting them.

2. Do not pay in obscure ways.

Sometimes scammers will ask you to send money for the product you are purchasing through an unorthodox and insecure method. This includes MoneyGram, Western Union and other payment portals. Do not agree to this, as you’re not fully protected as a buyer.

Similarly, when paying through PayPal, do not use the Friends & Family setting as you’re also not protected. What the sellers will do is make you pay before the product is with you and then never send you the product.

3. Sign a proof-of-transaction with the seller

We always recommend leaving tractability with the transaction. This is key to demonstrate the transaction was made. Write a short receipt/page whereby both buyer and seller sign to confirm that the transaction was done. In this receipt include the payment method (e.g. cash or bank transfer), ID, and IMEI of the phone.

This way, there will be a way to prove that this transaction happened in case anything goes wrong. Without tractability, very little can be done.

4. If the price is too good to be true, be careful!

Unless you can trust the seller, extremely low prices are always an indication that something is wrong.

The iPhone 11 Pro 256GB is currently being sold by Apple for £1,199 (as of 23rd October 2019). We searched for what a new sealed one would cost on a peer-to-peer marketplace and immediately came across this listing.

£645 for a brand new iPhone 11 Pro 256GB is rather fishy. After running checks on the IMEI number (which was shown in the right picture) we found out that the phone was not ‘brand new sealed’ but instead had been activated over three weeks ago. The seller is clearly misinforming the buyer that the product is sealed. There is also the possibility now that the seller has tampered with the original product, or swapped it with a fake which is why they are looking for a quick sale.

5. Check for original parts.

There is nothing wrong with refurbished parts, in fact, it is great as it extends the lifetime of a product. Nonetheless, the risks come from sellers that don’t inform buyers of this and have replaced parts with fake or bad quality ones. If the seller says all parts are original it’s best to do some quick checks:

  • Battery: Check for battery health. A phone which is over one year old and has a battery health of 100% means usually that the battery has been replaced.
  • Screen: Check for screen replacements. You can do this by running your hand along the rim of the phone to see if there are any openings along the screen ridge. Remember once a phone’s screen has been replaced, the warranty is void. Some screen replacements are not compatible with Face-ID.

This phone has had a screen replacement; you can tell by the bottom right-hand corner where there are a few marks indicating someone has previously opened the phone screen.

  • SIM Tray: Check the IMEI of the SIM tray and see if it matches with the IMEI within the phone.

6. Make sure the seller has erased all contents and wiped the phone

Ensure that the phone is fully reset and erased of all contents and that it is logged out of an iCloud or Google Account.

7. Check the phone is not blacklisted

You can run IMEI history checks on the phone to make sure it hasn’t been previously blacklisted. It is illegal to buy or sell a blacklisted phone! A phone which is blacklisted will mean it won’t be able to connect to a network.

Is this case, we can run a check for you, just ping us in the app and we can help!

8. Make sure the phone works with your SIM card

With regards to networks, when buying a phone online, ensure that it is compatible with your SIM and network provider. You can check this by inserting your SIM card into the phone you’re purchasing and checking if it can receive calls.

9. Make sure the phone is not on contract to a network

When purchasing a phone, especially a sealed or excellent condition phone, check with the seller if it is under a contract with a network. There is currently an increase in scams where sellers sell a phone which is under a contract and then stop paying for the contract. This will immediately blacklist the phone.

If it is, ask for proof of purchase, address, and ID!

10. Check for reviews and account creation

If you’re buying a phone on a marketplace with a review system, e.g. eBay, make sure that the seller has a good reputation with previous customers. Another way to check the authenticity of the seller is by checking the date the account was created. If a seller has just created an account within the last few days then it is usually a fake account. Similarly, when buying on Facebook Marketplace, be wary of sellers who have created an account in 2019! Also, sometimes reviews can be faked, so be careful with that too (we’ve found scammers with 300 “5 stars” on eBay or with 1,500 friends on Facebook).


Use this 10 step guide or…

Simply head to vendi app and use vendi!

  • We have secure payment escrow service, so your payment is not sent to the seller until the product has been verified.
  • We verify phones thoroughly — physical checks, software checks and IMEI blacklist, network lock tests.
  • We verify the buyer and the seller and ask for ID to run KYC (“Know Your Customer” checks).
  • We deliver the phone at your convenience so you don’t have to meet people in shady locations.
  • We offer a 30-day money-back option for peace of mind!