How to Activate a Phone That Was not Scanned?

It happens occasionally, you bought a phone from a store, and suddenly a few days later, your phone is flagged as unscanned and stopped working. Or maybe you ordered it online and were receiving an unscanned one. This could be one of these things:

  • A sales rep mis-scanned the UPC instead of the IMEI
  • A clerk forgot to scan the IMEI barcode in the phone
  • A clerk checked the code twice in the POS (system’s fault)
  • They are selling “refurbished” phones

Only by scanning the information at the register and sending it to the provider’s system can you activate the phone.

At the core, it is a safety precaution, and for whatever it is, you know at the moment you cannot use your phone. Not to fret, here are a few ways on how to activate a phone that was not scanned, but first, let’s dig out what we can do with the phone.


What do I Need to Know About Unscanned Phones?

It also depends on your phone plans, types, models, and stores.

Prepaid phones, contract phones will vary when they need to be scanned first. With contract phones, you lease the phone, and different carriers have different regulations about this. It’s the same with the phone’s source. Store-bought phones or second-hand phones. You only need to remember:

  • A Point of Sale (POS) issues the proof of purchase and remove the items from stock by scanning
  • The phone still need to register for the activation set up the account with a particular carrier

You can still use the phone.

Physically the phone should be ok. It’s only cannot use the mobile service. You can use its wifi, calendar, and all of the internal apps like the multimedia player. Think of it as a personal digital assistant.

It could be considered a stolen phone.

Be careful about where did you get the phone from. Even if it’s an honest mistake, someone could report the IMEI number (used to recognize the hardware when the phone requires to talk to a mobile carrier network), and you can not activate it.

Many mobile carriers worldwide check received IMEIs against their EIR to combat theft, although not all of them. Depending on the carrier, this could happen:

  • Verizon blocks your phone for three months
  • AT$T blocks your phone permanently
  • Apple bricks your phone (it will be as valuable as a brick)
how to activate a phone that was not scanned
Bricked iPhone (source: Quora)

If you buy from the manufacturers, it could come in pre-scanned

Some providers like Tracfone have already scanned the phones for you. If you purchase directly from their stores, you can instantly activate the phone on their websites or ask their sales rep to help.

Not all stores will scan the serial numbers.

Some stores do scan the serial numbers on the receipt. Notably, Walmart, BB, Walgreens, while others do not. If you still have your phone’s original protective plastic wrap, check the code on the bottom.

Provider like Tracfone’s service contains your phone at the store to see if you have the funds to purchase a new one. If they didn’t scan it, it’s considered stolen from the store, and you cannot activate it.

What do I Need to Prepare to Make it Work?

You need to prepare the proof of phone ownership. Because if they did not scan it at the register, it would not be activated without the carrier’s intervention. Return policy might apply and might be different for every store.


The proof of payment is for you to confirm with the store. Tell them your problem, and they will help you with the scan/register with their system.

Credit/debit card billing history

If you lost your receipt, you could show them the credit/debit card billing history as proof of payment.

Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID) and IMEI

Some carriers (like Tracfone) can unlock your phone by providing them via email your receipt, MEID (or ESN), and IMEI number. 

What do I require to do to Activate the Phone?

Return the phone and buy a new, scanned one

If you haven’t done anything with the phone, like adding a screen protector or cover, the easiest way is to return the suspected phone and repurchase new ones. This will save you a lot of hassle with their internal system.

Going to the carrier’s website directly

Typically, an unscanned phone won’t be able to activate. You might try on the company’s website for activation (like the one here). You only need to provide the MEID number.


How can I verify if my phone is scanned correctly?

Suppose you’re still unsure if they scan it properly. In that case, you can enter a phone’s serial number on the provider’s website (like Net10), then select “Technical Support” from the drop-down menu to see if They activated it at a register.

how to activate a phone that was not scanned

How to obtain my MEID or IMEI?

You can find them below:

  • Android devices: Settings > About phone.
  • iOS devices: Settings > General > About.
  • Basic Phones: Tools & Settings > About Phone > Status

You can also try dialing *#06# to obtain MEID, and you can locate the IMEI at the bottom of the removable battery.

If my phone were stolen, can it be used worldwide?

The UK, US, and other countries have had cross-network phone blocking enabled since 1997. A network that contains the device will not permit activation on their network, but here are some possibilities the thief can still use your phone.

I bought a second-hand phone, what should I do?

You probably should check first with the seller if they can activate it with your number. Some manufacturer like iPhone has Activation Lock to turn off. Ask the seller to do this or give you a refund.

How can I activate my phone without all the steps above?

You can still activate your phone in a different country, or people out there can change the IMEI to a non-blacklist one for you to start. This is illegal, and you probably should resort to where the phone is originated and work from there. 

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