If you’re looking to buy a used iPhone, iPad or iPod touch device, Apple is now offering an online tool to let you first check if it’s been locked down by the previous owner, which could indicate that it was actually stolen or lost.
The service is available on the iCloud website and doesn’t require authentication. It allows users to input the IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity) or serial number of any iOS device to see its Activation Lock status.
Activation Lock is a feature first introduced in iOS 7 as part of the Find My iPhone service on iCloud. Once it is turned on, the device is locked down and the user needs to input the Apple ID and password associated with it in order to be able to use it again.
At least that’s how it’s supposed to work, but hackers figured out a way to bypass the locking mechanism by tricking locked devices into using an alternative iCloud server.
Apple’s new online tool could help prospective buyers determine if the device was stolen or lost even if it was unlocked with unofficial tools, because the IMEI/Serial Number check is done against Apple’s real Activation Lock database.