unblocking your mobile
Mint condition iPhones available at Freedom Mobiles

Blocked phones are as much use as a chocolate teapot, but we see them advertised on Gumtree and eBay with the promise that you can ‘probably’ get it unblocked for £20 from one of those phone repair shops you see scattered along the high street. Well Freedom Mobiles: being experts in the field of mobile gadgetry is finally going to present to your good selves a guide on how to unblock your phone…

How to unblock a cell phone

You can’t!

Sorry to get your hopes built up, but save yourself the time and effort of Google-ing the issue further and simply put the kettle on and read why it cannot be unblocked. We’ll also throw in some tips for avoiding the practise of buying barred phones.

First what does blocked actually mean? Well being blocked basically turns your phone into an expensive paperweight. Your phone can now no longer send or receive calls or texts, in some cases your phone may even refuse to pick up a signal. Doesn’t matter what sim card you put into the phone, it will not work.

Why is my device blocked? It could be as simple as not paying your bill: in order to stop people from simply entering a contract, taking the phone then not paying the bills, all UK operators will blacklist a phone in the case of non-bill payment and it will remain on this list until the bill has been paid. Blacklist is another term for blocked, it simply refers to a list of blocked devices that all UK phone companies block from their networks.

Your phone may also be blocked because it has been reported lost or stolen. This may not happen on the day you buy your phone; it could happen months down the line.

Is there honestly no way to unblock a phone? Strictly speaking no, there is technically a way. All phones are identified by their IMEI number: A unique string of numbers which you can find out by dialing *#06# on your phone. If this number is on the blacklist, your phone is blocked; simple! So the only way to unblock your phone is to change the device’s IMEI number. On modern phones this is extremely difficult and is getting harder and harder. Also it is highly illegal and is punishable with up to 5 years in prison. Phones are not exactly hard to trace so you can see why this isn’t really an option.

OK the ad says it is blocked, but it can be used outside the UK. Is this true? Really does depend. The IMEI number is an international scheme and subscription to the blacklist; or as it actually called the CEIR, is voluntary. That is except in the UK where it is actually a legal requirement for networks to subscribe to the list. So yes it is true that some foreign networks may not choose to subscribe to a national list, but you can never guarantee this. Best to stay safe and avoid, it’s still highly likely that you’re buying stolen goods anyway!

How else can I determine if a phone is blocked? You can sometimes ask for the IMEI number before purchasing and check for yourself using checkMEND: a web service that can give you a status report of the phone, including whether it is blocked. Unfortunately it costs £2 to use checkMEND and many people will not give you the IMEI number as they can simply wait until someone buys without asking or they simply don’t have the technical know-how to find the number.

Well that’s great isn’t it, how am I supposed to know if what I’m buying is a brick!? When buying from Gumtree you do at least get the opportunity to check the phone before handing cash over. Put your sim card in and fully test it before handing over money; make some calls, send a few texts. Be aware that it can still become blocked at any time and buying from Gumtree offers no protection; you’d best hope that the person you’re buying from is honest.

If you’re buying from eBay you are offered some protection if you pay with PayPal. If your phone is blocked through fault of the seller and it doesn’t say this in the description, so long as you go through the proper steps with PayPal you will get your money back.

Yes but I still want to avoid the hassle of making a PayPal claim, what indicators are there that a phone may be blocked? Search the description for some of these key phrases: -

  • Blocked (obviously),
  • Barred,
  • Will only work outside of the UK,
  • Has a few signal problems,
  • Bricked,
  • Comes with no charger (a stolen phone often comes with no charger),
  • Found this phone in the park/car park/gym/etc,
  • Needs unlocking.

The last one is a cautious one, people sometimes get unlocked and unblocked confused. Unlocked is supposed to mean it can work on any network as opposed to just one. If an ad says it needs unlocking without saying what network it’s currently locked too then it’s safe to assume they mean it’s blocked and needs ‘unblocking’, which as I hope you now realise is virtually impossible!

A blocked unlocked phone is still a blocked phone!

The ad says I can still use the phone over Wi-Fi: This is true, but it still doesn’t hide the fact you’re in possession of a potentially stolen phone; a device that is easily tracked! Also a phone isn’t really a phone unless it can do ‘phoney’ things, like make or receive calls or texts.

OK I’m now permanently put off buying used phones! Fear not, Freedom Mobiles does offer 2 years blacklist protection: in the highly unlikely event that a phone bought from us is blocked, we’ll replace it with another one free of charge. We offer this up to 2 years from the date of purchase!

So we hope you are now clued up as to why buying blocked phones is pointless, we also hope that you already realise why stealing phones is pointless!

We recommend that you pass this along to a friend or share it on your Facebook page in order to clue up as many people as possible!

If you enjoyed this article make sure you subscribe to our RSS feed, please also follow us on Twitter @freedommobiles and like us on Facebook for further updates!

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  • Dunstan Dunstan

    What if I buy a phone from someone who has not paid their personal phone bill, i.e. can I get ity unblocked as I have no contract with the Phone company and is the contract not tied to the sim card and the contract signer (and not to me)? This is about to happen (tonight November 14 2013) so I was wondering about this as the phone is not stolen and should the phoner company not try to take the contract6 signer to court and forget about me and my phone?
    Thank you
    Dunstan Dunstan, Feock, Cornwall

    • Damien

      Hi, sorry for taking an AGE to reply but we’ve only just realised that we actually get non spam replies on this! (folder is currently sitting at 1000!)

      To answer your question if the phone has been blocked due to the previous owner not paying their bill then only they can get the phone unblocked as the phone’s IMEI is tied to their contract. Also if a phone has been blocked in the past you may find that getting the phone officially SIM unlocked is either impossible or expensive should you choose to in future.

      Hope this helps.

  • nancy

    how to my sony experia unblock

  • Ian McKenna

    Checkmend tells me my phone has been blocked as being either stolen or lost.

    If the former, this is a serious crime. Should I report this to the police?

    If the latter, should not the insurance company be notified (if applicable)? And how does one find out which company was insuring it?

    And what happens if a phone is blocked by accident?

    How can the victim get these details?

    • Damien


      Unfortunately the police would probably not take the issue very seriously. Depending on where you bought the phone you may be able to get a refund and this would probably be the best option.

      We’ve yet to see a phone being blocked by accident. The closest we’ve seen to this is when the original owner has not paid their phone bill and the phone that is associated with the contract has become blocked.

      - The Freedom Mobiles Team

  • Noemy Urias

    I found a phone and it was still turned on but tge next day it did not work. I tried to go get it turned on to a new account but it did not let me. When can i go and get it turned on?

    • Damien


      If you have found a phone then the only advice we could possibly give would be to hand it in to the police.

      - The Freedom Mobiles Team

  • Michael

    I brought a galaxy note 3 brand new from a company on the internet, all the seals were intact, Worked fine for the first 6 weeks or so, So I went down to the phone shop and they did a check mend check on it, and it came up as lost or stolen so I took it to the police and they check it and came up with the same result so they got in touch with Vodafone who block it and they said they no nothing about that phone not even the IME no, so the police said I can have it back, How do I get it un blocked ?????????

    • Damien


      It sounds like the phone you purchased came from a batch of stolen phones. Even if the seals are still intact the phone inside is still traceable via the IMEI number and it is likely the original supplier has reported them stolen; Vodafone themselves probably would have nothing to do with this.

      The only option you have would be to speak to the company who sold you the phone and ask for a refund.

  • Jacqui Mayo

    Over five years ago I was given a Sony Ericson mobile and I used it for ages with my orange sim card in. Then I was given another Nokia on Pay as you go with Vodafone. But now I would like to start using my Sony Ericson one, but as I hadn’t used it for ages, I am now unable to because I believe If you do not use a fone for a while, the Company locks it. Is this correct, as it is only Orange enabled, so will not work with my Vodafone sim card in either. Any advice you can give me please

    • Damien

      Once a phone is unlocked it is permanently unlocked. Most likely your old Sony phone is locked to Orange. If you contact Orange they may unlock it for you for free as you’ve been with them for a long time. Otherwise you can pay a 3rd party to unlock it for a small fee.

  • Deanna

    hi there ive recently brought a phone of my next doorneighbur that she told me was an unwanted upgrade that i hvae found out is a phone that has gone missing i belive it to be blocked because i cant send or recive calls or texts i have informed the police about it and they said to ask for your money back or i would tell the poilce about it but if thats the advice they gave me what else can i do? they wont talk to me about it or give my money back could i re sell the phone as a spares and repairs job? or would i get into trouble.

    • Damien

      We obviously cannot advise on what to do as you would be committing an offence by reselling a stolen phone. What we will say though that the block only applies to UK and some western EU countries

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