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Anonymous asked in Consumer ElectronicsCell Phones & Plans · 2 months ago

Could one get away with "stealing" a Phone this way?

Most major carriers you can get the latest thousand dollar iPhone or Samsung Galaxy for little to no cost up front, because you can have the payments spread out over 24 months, they just ad a little to your monthly phone bill.

Well here's the thing:

If you walk into a phone store and snatch a phone and run out the door with it, that is theft, and a crime.

BUT if you sign up for the 24 month payment plan, then default on the payments, then it's a civil matter, not criminal.

Yes, they will deactivate your phone if you don't keep current on your monthly bill, with one key exception.

You can switch to another carrier and "Bring your own device."

Then they port your number and device over to their network, most devices are compatible these days.

Then whomever you defaulted with no longer has access to shut you down, you're not with them anymore.

Usually for a smaller amount, the collection agency doesn't bother to sue, they charge it off eventually. I knew folks who defaulted on a FEW grand and were never sued.

A credit report ding can harm your ability to get a new cellulcar contract, but all major carriers have no contract, pay as you go plans where you pay first month up front so credits not an issue.

What if I just did this?

Get the latest iPhone from AT&T, then before my monthly bill is due, switch to Verizon with the bring your own device program?


I should ad that it is notoriously easy to unlock a locked phone, even when the carrier doesn't want you to. I can think of like five guys I know right off the bat who could do it for me, and there are guides for it all over the internet.

8 Answers

  • 1 month ago

    Let us know how that works out for you...

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  • 2 months ago

    It's could be both civil and criminal, since you had intent to keep the phone without paying for it.  Using it on another network would be all the proof of intent needed. 

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  • 2 months ago

    Carriers won't port a number unless the account is in good standing and all contractual obligations are satisfied.  This includes full payment of the device.  There is often a minimum service time to have an account, often 6 to 12 months before you can port  You need permission to port, even with prepaid.

    The phone won't get unlocked until it's paid for.  Most of the unlock services don't work well or end up getting locked again in a month or two.

    Blacklists of devices are nearly universal.  It doesn't matter what the previous carrier was, they all share the same lists.  Screw Verizon, AT&T knows shortly and will kill the device.  Apple and Google blacklists work over Wifi. 

    The use of eSIM will make this more difficult in the future.  

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  • 2 months ago

    Even if you are not with the carrier, once they blacklist the IMEI or ESN, the phone stops working, Even if activated on another carrier. 

    This is how people that steal or find a phone, will post a low price for a newer phone, the buyer can't believe their luck, buys it and weeks later when it's reported lost/stolen, it's gets blacklisted. Then BYOD and you paying for a plan become moot, as the device becomes a brick, and you still keep paying on the plan, if not prepaid or pay as you go. 

    And now that the USA has started blacklisting phones, once blacklisted, the phone can't be activated in North America (Canada, the US or Mexico), South America, Europe or Australia, New Zealand and Asia (for compatible cell frequencies). Do only the truly non-tech savvy person would be suckered into buying the phone. 

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  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    I hate to tell you but every phone has a unique serial number and between that and the video coverage at the store, you'll soon be on your way to jail.

    • michinoku2001
      Lv 7
      2 months agoReport

      The police will just say "it's a civil matter". 

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  • 2 months ago

    NO, you CAN'T switch to another carrier. The phone is LOCKED so it won't work on another carrier until you finish the payments. Changing sim cards won't unlock it and the new carrier will tell you to go to the original carrier to unlock the phone.

    In addition, what you describe IS criminal fraud, and you can be tracked in REAL TIME by the phone's electronic serial number.

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  • 2 months ago

    Well, first of all they would know the phones IP and use that to track the phone down. This is smart, but law enforcement can still get you,

    • jack2 months agoReport

      Law enforcement doesn't get involved in civil matters, just criminal matters. Defaulting on a bill is civil.

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  • .
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    The carrier will cut your service, lock your device, and send your account to a collections agency.

    • jack2 months agoReport

      Again, that's why you bring your device and have it ported over to another carrier. Once the phone leaves the original carriers network, they no longer have the ability to lock it down.

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