Amazon Accidentally Sold Customer a Stolen iPhone

If you've ever tried to buy a smartphone on Craigslist or eBay, chances are, you've seen a few listings that look pretty suspect. Since the advent of smartphones, a person's cell phone is easily among the most expensive item they carry on a day-to-day basis. The fact that they can easily be sold for several hundred dollars on the likes of Craigslist or Kijiji makes them an attractive target for thieves.

However, while it might be easy to find stolen goods on classifieds sites like Craigslist, one would assume goods purchased from Amazon would be legitimate. Sadly, as one Amazon customer found out over Christmas, even a multinational retailer like Amazon makes mistakes. Ben Dreyfuss, who a social media producer for CNet, yesterday tweeted that Amazon had sold him a stolen iPhone to give to his mother for Christmas. Further tweets revealed that Ben had purchased the phone as a refurb through Amazon's Warehouse Deals.

Dreyfuss says he called Verizon to activate the phone and the device and was informed that the the phone was stolen. "When we called to activate it I read the MEI number and they said it was stolen. Amazon says there’s nothing to do but return it," he told one of his Twitter followers.

Though Amazon was apparently very apologetic, it seems everyone involved was very surprised that this even happened (Dreyfuss says even the Verizon employee he spoke to asked him if he was sure he didn't buy it on eBay). Indeed, it's surprising to learn that Amazon's refurb process apparently doesn't include checking to see whether the device has been stolen, even if this kind of situation is rare.

Amazon hasn't yet commented on the incident, but we'll let you know if the company releases a statement.

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Jane McEntegart works in marketing communications at Intel and was previously Manager of Content Marketing at ASUS North America. Before that, she worked for more than seven years at Tom's Guide and Tom's Hardware, holding such roles as Contributing Editor and Senior News Editor and writing about everything from smartphones to tablets and games consoles.

  • catbus1
    Awesome! What a non story.
  • makaveli316
    Those kind of things just happen to.......happen. I'm pretty sure the guy will receive even a new one from Amazon after this. In the end Amazon is a serious seller.
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer
    Or he bought two phones, one from Amazon and one from somewhere else, and is blaming Amazon in order to "phone-launder" the stolen one (for various possible reasons I can think of, ranging from mostly-innocuous to criminal).

    I mean, I suspect that he is telling the truth, I'm just saying that there are other possible explanations...
  • jojesa
    I would not trust Verizon either.
    A friend of mine bought a brand new phone and when he was trying to activated he was told something similar. We tried again after 2 days and they activated the phone...Very weird.
  • chumly
    Did the person get their phone back?
  • halcyon
    Wow. I wonder how it came in to Amazon's possession and why they don't do better checks to ensure that they're not accepting phones that stolen.
  • SkateZilla
    Amazon is a Storefront (Like a Mall), One of the Amazon Store Sellers sold it, Not Amazon.
  • drenyx
    I recently used Radioshack to get some money for a phone we no longer wanted (it was our phone and we upgraded away from it)

    Before they offered anything for it, it was checked to make sure the number was good/clean. I suspect this is what happened. It was probably stolen then sold to someone that sends phones to get refurbished and the thief was paid before the phone was listed in the 'stolen' database.

    I hate to say it, but I can see this happening easily enough. A refurb shop run by amazon or not says "it's already been checked, why should we check it again". But I agree it would be more professional to not have this stuff happen.
  • makaveli316
    SkateZillaAmazon is a Storefront (Like a Mall), One of the Amazon Store Sellers sold it, Not Amazon.
    Amazon is an on-line shop, same as newegg, bestbuy ecc. It doesn't have actual store, but it has physical warehouses from which they ship their products and also products from other sellers.
    It's correct that they are many different sellers on Amazon, but Amazon is also a seller itself.
    I don't know how is it in the states, but usually in the best offers are from Amazon and not from other sellers on Amazon.
  • Camikazi
    SkateZillaAmazon is a Storefront (Like a Mall), One of the Amazon Store Sellers sold it, Not Amazon.Amazon Warehouse Deals is not a seller, it is Amazon selling and just an FYI but Amazon does sell on their own and have their own warehouses, it's not just a store front for other sellers.