How to safely buy used mobile phone from Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree

Ideally, we like you to buy phones from us ūüôā but if you don‚Äôt here are some tips on what to look for when buying a used mobile phone from Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree.

Tools you’ll need:

  • ¬†SIM card¬†
  • ¬†SIM card opener
  • ¬†Charging cable and power bank
  • ¬†Magnifying glass if you have poor eyesight

When we test the phones, we go through a series of steps that will check every functionality of the phone. As a buyer, you won’t have time to do this. To simplify the process, we have divided this article into two sections. The first is for the most important tests, these are the test that you¬†must do¬†on every purchase. The second are tests to do for a more thorough inspection.

Must do tests:

iCloud or¬†Google account locked¬†– Sellers will erase their data before selling the phone, this will leave the phone in a factory reset state where the phone requires setting up before being able to use.¬†As a buyer, you physically inspect the phone and think that it looks fine, the seller seems friendly enough, you will take their word that the phone is fine and you will set it up when you get home.¬†This is a NO-NO. It is possible to factory reset a stolen phone even if you don’t have the access code. Buying a phone in this state leaves you to potentially buying a locked phone. Even though the phone data have been erased, the iCloud or Google account is still locked to the phone. When you go home and set it up, the phone will contact Apple or Google to see if there’s an account locked onto the phone and if there is you will need the password to unlocked the account. Without the password, you cannot go forward with the setup process thus making the phone useless. The term “iCloud locked” phone comes from this.

 It is very important to set the phone up on the spot to make sure that it is not locked to any iCloud or Google account.

On the other hand, if the phone has been setup, it is important to check that the account has been removed from the account. 

For iPhone, go to Settings and check to see if the account has been removed. If an account is still there, ask the seller to sign out of it. 

For Android handsets, go to Settings >>  Accounts and back up to see if the account is still there.

IMEI check¬†– Most websites recommend that you search to see if the IMEI has been blocked. In Australia, IMEI can be check through the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association(AMTA)¬†website. For us, the quicker and better way to do this is to insert a working SIM card into the phone and make a test call. If the phone’s IMEI has been blocked by the network providers, you won’t be able to make the call.

 Making a test phone call not only shows that the IMEI is unblocked but you are also testing the microphone and speaker at the same time. 

Water damage –¬†Manufacturers often installed a Liquid Contact Indicator (LCI) on their device as a way to show whether the phone has been in touch with water (therefore the warranty is voided) The LCI will turn to red if it has been in touch with liquid. The LCI is a quick check that you can do whilst inserting the SIM card. See pictures below to see where it is located. A magnifying glass is a good tool to have if your eyesights are poor.

More thorough inspection:

If you have time, these are what we would look for if we were buying a second-hand phone from Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace.

Camera functionality РCheck both the selfie and main camera(s) are working. Regarding the rear camera(s), newer model tends to have multiple lenses on the back, it is important to check all the lenses. We have seen cases where one lease works fine but the other have problems. 

FaceID or fingerprint reader – Some iPhone X/Xs/Xs Max have problem of FaceID no longer working. Older iPhone, the fingerprint no longer works due to the screen/home button being replaced with non-original Apple part.

Correct model –¬†Make sure the advertised model is the correct model being offered. We have seen iPhone 6 being advertised as iPhone 7. It’s possible that the seller is not aware of the model and have mistakenly advertised as such (although we never seen an iPhone 7 advertised as a 6). You can check the phone’s model details by going into settings and look for “About”.

As a buyer, it is your responsibility to make sure you’re buying the correct model.

Correct capacity¬†– Same as checking to make sure the model is correct. It is your responsibility to check the advertised storage capacity configuration is the correct one. A quick way to find the capacity is to search “Storage” in the phone search function.

Charging port РCharging port is used every day, it is easy for it to become loose or damaged over time. Bring a power bank and charging cable to test it out. After inserting the charging cable, wiggle it around a little to see if it still maintains the connection. 

Screen condition¬†– Used phone often comes with a pre-installed screen protector. Having a screen protector already installed is great as you save money on buying it again. However, a screen protector can hide small scratches. If you’re concerned about the screen condition, you should ask the seller for permission to remove the screen protector to have a proper inspection.

Australian stock¬†– Generally speaking, manufacturers tend to release the same handset everywhere in the world. However, different region/country does that have laws and requirements that manufacturers cater for. It’s always a good idea to buy a handset for the Australian market as you won’t run into problems with features or repair issues. Here’s a guide on how to check for Australian stock phone.

Fake phone¬†– Rarely does a seller sells fake used handset on Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace. Fake phones are obvious as they tend to be slow and their built quality is nowhere near the original handset. However, we have seen plenty of sellers selling fake brand new iPhone/Samsung. Be careful if you buy brand new handset on these marketplaces. Here’s a guide on spotting fake new Samsung/iPhone.

Buying without seeing:

The above tips are based on the assumption that you can physically inspect the phone. This is not always possible as the seller might not be close by. If you do make a purchase without inspection we recommend that you do so through PayPal. We have seen numerous scams on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree to know that not every ad out there is an honest seller and you should be very careful with buying with without seeing. 

Here’s an article we have written about Facebook Marketplace scams. It’s worth a read if you are considering buying from it.


Buying a phone on these marketplaces can be risky but it doesn’t have to be. Follow our steps and you can eliminate a lot of the common pitfalls. As always, safe buying.¬†¬†