One thing that is all over the streets of Nairobi is smartphone snatching. This is so common that it has become a norm where you’ll be snatched a phone and its business as usual. No one cares!
Those guys who snatch these phones from you while busy making a call or via a lady’s handbag don’t intend to use the phone, rather, they sell it to willing buyers for quick money, usually, a designated second-hand smartphone seller in the city. These second-hand smartphone sellers have some form of “legit” businesses going on in their stalls, for instance, instant loans on electronics – businesses that act as cover to what is exactly going on behind the scenes.
As the name suggests, these stalls are where you might run to with that old TV, home theater, or even an unused smartphone lying in your room and come out smiling, especially at such a time of the month. You may also be in need of emergency cash and with these instant loans’ guys, you are sure that you’ll get instant cash. Usually, they demand that the cash is paid back within a week or a period that you’ll both agree on, failure to which they’ll sell the device in question to raise back the loaned funds.
You might at times be the victim of this snatching or maybe you are just running on a budget and you need a phone for your day-to-day business. Suddenly, you remember – or a friend reminds you – about these second-hand smartphone sellers in the city. At times, you might be lucky to come across a really decent and genuine device, probably that which the owner was unable to pay back the money owed within the agreed period of time and it’s time to recover the loaned money. However, there are cases where you might meet a device that was snatched or rather stolen from someone.
If the victim of the snatching – or maybe robbery – goes ahead and reports this matter to the police, the device in question could easily be blocked from ever accessing wireless carrier networks such as Safaricom and Airtel. But as you are busy buying the phone, you might not know whether the device in question is genuine or stolen. Since these thieves usually sell the stolen phones a few minutes or hours later, it’s possible that you could unknowingly be sold one of these stolen devices immediately after the vendor buys it from their snatcher client.
Which brings me to the main point.
Apparently, there’s a new tool by CTIA that has just entered the market – a tool that is aimed at showing you the status of a smartphone before you proceed and buy it. Dubbed Stolen Phone Checker, this tool lets you check whether the phone you are about to buy is clean or dirty by simply entering the IMEI, ESN or MEID number of the phone in question.
To get the IMEI number of this phone, simply dial *#06#. Once the number shows up, enter it into the Stolen Phone Checker tool and bam! You’ll get the details of the phone, just in case the owner has already reported the case to the police. This should be a welcome idea for those who fear to buy refurbished smartphones on retailers such as eBay.
One problem, though, is that the Stolen Phone Checker tool is currently limited to the U.S. Whether or not it will expand to other markets is unknown, but it would really be a great idea for the Kenyan market, especially with platforms such as Jumia and PigiaMe continuously offering third-party retailers a platform to sell refurbished or rather second-hand smartphones. Hopefully, it – or a mimic of the tool – does make it to these sides of the continent. We’ll keep you updated. Stay tuned!
The Stolen Phone Checker tool is free of charge and takes less than a minute of your time.