Unlocking AT&T iPhone for eBay buyer?
October 24, 2013 7:31 AM   Subscribe

Overseas eBay buyer wants me to fill out a "Request to Unlock" on att.com. This wasn't part of the auction; should I do it?

I sold my girlfriend's old iPhone 4 on eBay a few weeks ago, and the buyer got in touch to ask for the last four digits of my social security number. Red flag! It turns out he sent the phone to someone overseas, and they want to unlock it. I told him providing this info wasn't part of the sale, but both he and the overseas buyer have been persistent.

They now request that I fill out this "Request to Unlock" at https://www.att.com/deviceunlock/client/en_US/termsAndCondition. Should I do it? I don't want to leave the buyer unable to use the phone, but but I also don't want to give away any personal information of my girlfriend or her parents (she's on a family plan). What happens to her account if I do this? Is there any way they could keep using the phone and bill it to her?
posted by electric_counterpoint to Technology (10 answers total)
Did you sell the phone as an AT&T-locked iPhone? You could simply state the conditions of the sale and refuse to unlock.

You can read a bit about AT&T's unlocking policy here. It does seem like a current or former AT&T customer needs to unlock the phone through the official AT&T channels.

HOWEVER, there are still third-party unlocking services that they can go through to unlock the phone. It will likely cost them some money, but that is the risk of buying an locked phone.
posted by muddgirl at 7:39 AM on October 24, 2013

There shouldn't be any privacy concerns. You'll get a code you can give the buyer to put into the phone, and the device will be unlocked but no more tied to her account than it was.

I still think this is a sketchy thing for the buyer to do, though. If they wanted an unlocked phone, they could have ponied up the extra cash to buy one. I don't think it's unreasonable for you to ask them to cover the price difference between an average locked and unlocked phone on eBay in exchange for the unlock code.
posted by R a c h e l at 7:39 AM on October 24, 2013

I've used that form before to carrier unlock a phone that I had sold to a friend. So I would tell you that the form itself is legitimate. It didn't have any impact on my account, though I'm reasonably sure my friend didn't make any attempt to somehow mess with the billing this way. My understanding is that the entire process is only impacts the phone and not your account, especially because the form can be filled out by former AT&T customers who want to unlock their phones.

posted by Mercaptan at 7:41 AM on October 24, 2013

If you sold it as an AT&T iphone, then I wouldn't do it without an extra charge -- one assumes you charge more for an unlocked device than a locked device. However, I wouldn't have a privacy issue with filling out the unlock request myself. I've used the online form before and it was really simple, and at no time was my information sent anywhere other than my email address; you can also have it unlocked over the phone, though I'm not sure if that will work if you don't have it in your possession anymore.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:43 AM on October 24, 2013

There's no reason not to do the unlock. The current owner of the phone will get no information about the previous owner -- all they'll get is an unlocked phone the next time they restore it through iTunes.
posted by BurntHombre at 7:47 AM on October 24, 2013

Yeah, they saved money by getting yours instead of one that's already unlocked. They can give you money for your trouble, or they can pay to bring it to a mall kiosk to do it.

There's no risk, though, AFAIK.
posted by supercres at 9:01 AM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nthing it wasn't part of the original deal. They can either pay you or the guy at the kiosk.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 9:12 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

They could pay you, I guess. But really? You sold it. You could just do them the kindness of filling out that form. Think of it as a premium on your karma insurance.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:57 AM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's auctions on eBay that'll unlock iPhones for anywhere from $.99 - $5 , if they wanted it so bad they can just do that.
posted by wcfields at 11:32 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just fill out the form. It'll only take a minute.

There's nothing nefarious about wanting to use your cell phone in other countries.
Put yourself in their position as a buyer. It's an easy thing that you can do, so get it out of the way.

Now if you sell lots of iPhones on eBay, maybe those minutes filling out forms add up, and you should charge, but I'm not sure it's really necessary to make things complicated in this situation. You want positive feedback, right?!
posted by oceanjesse at 11:33 AM on October 25, 2013

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