Apple Removed iPhone-Tracking Tool That Says If It Got Stolen, So We're All Screwed

If you're thinking about buying a used iPhone, you may want to hold off: It's now harder to find out if the device has been stolen or is locked to another account.

Apple has unexpectedly and surprisingly removed its Activation Lock status checker from the iCloud website, reports MacRumors.

The tool invited users or prospective buyers to enter the serial number of an iPhone or iPad to verify whether or not the Activation Lock had been turned off.

If it was still locked, it could be a stolen device — so, the tool helped people avoid buying stolen goods or a device locked to another user.

But if you visit activation lock's website now, a “Not Found” page appears.

It's not known if the tool has been deliberately removed or taken down for maintenance, but Apple has since removed a reference to it from a related document.

It previously read,

How do I check for Activation Lock before purchasing a used device? When you buy an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple Watch from someone other than Apple or an authorized Apple reseller, it is up to you to ensure that the device is erased and no longer linked to the previous owner's account. You can check the current Activation Lock status of a device when you visit from any Mac or PC.

Activation Lock is enabled when users turn on the Find My iPhone app, which prevents other people from using a lost device.

A phone with Activation Lock turned on requires the owner's Apple ID and password before it can be used.

The removal of the tool makes it harder to work out if an iPhone you're considering buying from eBay, for example, is a stolen device that the seller is looking to move on as quickly as possible.

Apple first introduced Activation Lock on its devices in October 2014.

Citations: MacRumors