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New Apple tool helps you avoid buying a stolen iPhone or iPad

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Buying a used phone from someone on Craigslist or eBay is never not sketchy, but thankfully Apple's now rolled out a tool that could keep you from paying for stolen (and useless) property. The company has launched a new website that instantly checks to see whether Activation Lock — an anti-theft feature of iOS — is switched on for any iPhone or iPad. It's part of iCloud, but you don't need any type of Apple account to use it. You will need to access it from a desktop browser, though; mobile Safari bizarrely isn't supported right now. That makes no sense, but oh well.

Just enter a device's serial number or IMEI, and Apple will tell you whether it's locked down. Getting an "Activation Lock: On" doesn't necessarily mean a phone or iPad is in Lost Mode and waiting for its owner's Apple ID password; all it's telling you is that Find My iPhone is turned on for a given device. So if someone hands you a phone that hasn't been factory reset, it's always worth checking to make sure Find My iPhone has been fully disabled before handing over your cash. Activation Lock, a feature of iOS 7 and later, makes it impossible for someone to use a misplaced or stolen iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch without the Apple ID password of its rightful owner. Apple outlines some steps you can take to switch off Activation Lock, but you'll always need to be in touch with the original owner to accomplish that.