Is that iPhone Stolen? A Tool to Check Before You Buy

Would-be buyers of used Apple devices have a new way to make sure their acquisition wasn't someone else's loss through theft. Apple's new iCloud tool lets users check to see whether the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch they're considering has been locked by a former owner.

A new feature on iCloud's Find My iPhone page, the Check Activation Lock Status tool requires a user to type in either the device's IMEI or serial number. Upon entering that information, a user can learn whether he or she can legitimately activate the device with a new Apple ID.

The tool is just the latest in a series of technology tweaks aimed at reducing smartphone-related crime. And officials across the U.S. and elsewhere are reporting that such efforts appear to be paying off in the form of declining smartphone theft rates.

Valuable Smartphone or Useless 'Brick'?

Hitting the market this past Sept. 19, Apple's new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are both powered by the new iOS 8 operating system, which enables the anti-theft Activation Lock system by default. Rolled out in September 2013, Activation Lock allows users to remotely lock devices and render them useless if they are lost or stolen.

Available on Apple devices running iOS 7 and up, Activation Lock requires a valid Apple ID and password before a lost or stolen device can be reactivated. Without that information, iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches that fall into the wrong hands are supposed to become little more than useless "bricks."

Earlier this year, iClarified reported that some hackers had found a way to bypass Activation Lock and reactivate devices without an Apple ID and password. With Apple's latest lock checking tool, though, would-be buyers can still find out whether a used device was locked by its previous owner...which would raise red flags...

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