Chris Ley is no stranger to buying used cellphones. He says he’s done it dozens of times without any trouble but after his recent experience he says he will never do it again.

In November, he bought a brand new iPhone XR off of Craigslist. He says it was still sealed in the box when he met the seller in a public place in Vancouver.

"Showed me the phone, encouraged me to check it to make sure it wasn't stolen. Told me his back story, gave me his contact information. Everything seemed fine," Ley said.

Ley looked up the phone’s unique identifier on a website managed by Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association that blacklists phones that are lost or stolen. 

The phone had not been reported. He plugged in the SIM card from his old phone and everything worked. Six days later he says the phone shut down. Bell had blacklisted it.

"You are completely vulnerable, completely exposed. There is nothing anyone will do for you," Ley said. "I said to them, ‘this phone's useless to me should I give it to you?’ And they don't even want the phone back."

Bell wouldn’t deal with him because the phone wasn’t in his name. CTV News reached out to Bell, which is the parent company of CTV News, to see if there was anything that could be done to help Ley.

In an email Bell wrote: In line with our policy, we informed Mr. Ley that the device will remain on the blacklist. The device was illegally obtained at a WirelessWave location by someone using a stolen identity.

It had been purchased at WirelessWave at Metropolis at Metrotown. Ley still had the contact number of the man who had sold it to him and although he no longer responded to text messages or calls from Ley, he did pick up when CTV News called.

The man confirmed his name was Robert, the same name of the man on the Bell account. But when he realized why we were calling, he hung up.

Ley reported the incident to police hoping they would gather the security camera video from WirelessWave. In the meantime, we tracked down the real Robert Darch whose identity had been stolen and used to purchase the phone.

"Somebody is out there, pretending they're me, committing these crimes," Darch said.

Now there were two victims.

Darch reported his case to the RCMP, also hoping they would gather the video from the store to catch the culprit. And CTV News reached out to the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP hoping to connect the two investigating officers working the cases. As of this point we have not been informed of any arrests.

If you are buying a used phone online it’s recommended you meet the seller in a safe zone at a police station with security cameras. Crooks tend to avoid that.

Or if you the cellphone you are buying is new, ask where it was purchased and meet the seller at the service provider’s location to verify the phone’s owner and to indicate your concerns about whether or not identity theft has been committed and whether there is any money owing on the account. A fraudster probably wouldn’t agree to that either.

What is Ley’s advice now about buying a used phone?

“Don’t,” he stated.

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