Ask Sourcely: How do I quickly find IMEI/ESN numbers?


With all the technical speak concerning smartphones, it’s easy to tune out some of the finer points.

For example: Do you really need to know about IMEI or ESN numbers? Aren’t those just weird abbreviations that only developers need to know?

Actually, no. IMEI and ESN numbers are absolutely crucial for anyone engaging in recommerce. And here’s why.

What Are IMEI and ESN Numbers?

IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity, while ESN is an acronym for Electronic Serial Number. Both are important ways that uniquely mark every single smartphone on which they’re found. Devices generally have either an IMEI or an ESN number, but not both. Phones by service providers on the CDMA system (Verizon, Sprint, Cricket, MetroPCS and U.S. Cellular) have an ESN number, while those on the GSM system (AT&T, T-Mobile and most overseas providers) have an IMEI number.

Why Are They Important?

Regardless of whether a phone has an IMEI or ESN number, the key is that this number is absolutely unique to that phone. No other phone in the world will have the same number, making it the equivalent of your social security or passport number.

The unique identifier is crucial because it allows both merchants and consumers to track the phone if it’s ever reported stolen, with no chance of finding a phone that wasn’t actually yours. Mobile service providers can also block your service using simply the IMEI or ESN number if that phone’s bill hasn’t been paid or it’s been reported stolen.

Quickly check any IMEI/ESN number by typing *#06# into the device. It will instantly display the information you’re looking for.

For merchants engaging in recommerce, the IMEI and ESN numbers thus provide a simple way to make sure that old phones you purchase as part of buyback programs are legitimate. The last thing you want is to become inadvertently involved in the sale or export of stolen goods, and these identifiers help you make sure that this will never be the case.

In short, IMEI and ESN numbers should be constantly on your mind as a recommerce merchant.

Got more questions for us? Contact us today!



Justin Finkelstein

Co-Founder & CTO at Sourcely; server swiss army knife; flavor architect; the wildcard.