This section is for tutorials that explain different situations that can apply to various devices.

What's a Bad ESN Phone?

A phone with a bad ESN (Electronic Serial Number) is a phone that can’t be connected to a new cellular account due to it being blocked by the original carrier. ESN’s are used to identify CDMA cell phones that are under carriers like Verizon, Sprint and U.S. Cellular, to name a few. Phones that fall under this category can only be sold as “parts”, being that they can’t be activated and used to their full potential.

How does the ESN become “bad”?

There are different situations that would make the phone impossible to activate, such as: The original owner switching carriers before their contract expired, canceled service without paying the termination fee or having a balance due on their old account. However the most common cause for a bad ESN is due to the phone being reported as lost or stolen.


On eBay you may notice that phones with bad ESNs still sell, but at a heavily discounted price compared to a fully functional phone. The reason these phones still sell is because they can be used for parts or to listen to music and use apps over wi-fi. If you’re willing, you too can sell it as parts but remember to set your expectations, see what other phones similar to the condition of yours are selling at  (search eBay now).

How can I check to make sure my ESN is clean?

As the original owner looking to sell, the best way to make sure is to check in with the phone’s original carrier (like calling or going into a Verizon or Sprint store) and ask if the phone is eligible to be activated to a new account. Other ways are as simple as notifying your carrier that you are switching service to a new phone or making sure that your account has no open balances.

For those looking to buy a phone from eBay you can use the IMEI or IMEID provided in the description of the listing (if you cannot find this information in the listing you can message the seller to add it otherwise it's a red flag) and call the related carrier if the phone is good to add to a new account.

In the event the phone has been reported lost or stolen it won’t have any chance of being activated unless it is returned to the owner or original carrier.

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