Bought phone, missing IMEI number…was I scammed?

I bought 2 smartphones from a “company” in China. Neither of them could make phone calls, but everything else worked just fine. So I contacted the company to get some help with this issue.  Then I saw that the IMEI number was absent from both phones so there was no way that I could get them opened for usage. I told the company about this and they said they would look into it. After many emails and chats on MSN they sent me a “software program” that would allow me to put in a IMEI number myself……(lots of red flags popped up)….just a random number that I could insert into the phone and hope that it worked. I haven’t even tried to use the IMEI insert software program since I’m not “that” good at using  a computer. I am afraid that this is something illegal.


A phone without an IMEI ( is like a car with out a VIN #.  It does sound very fishy that your phones are missing the IMEI.  It appears to me that you have purchased products which are defective and do not meet the basic criteria of being “fit for purpose.” As such, I think you are well within your rights to ask the supplier to remedy this problem at their expense. Having said that, it sounds like you are dealing with a small trading company or broker and I doubt they will be willing to cover such expenses. For future reference, know that 3rd party inspection agents like can be hired for just a few 100 USD. They could have turned your phones on to make sure things work before the phones shipped out of China and before you made your final payment to the supplier.

Here are some reference articles that may be of interest to you:

Resolving a dispute: Demand letters and legal options

How can I get in touch with the factory who is building the products that I’m looking for? (mobile phones)

Too small to go factory direct? (mobile phones)

Wishing you successful China sourcing!

Question answered by Mike Bellamy, host of “Ask the Experts” at the China Sourcing Information Center.

Mike Bellamy is an Advisory Board Member & Featured Blogger at the not-for-profit China Sourcing Information Center ( He is also the author of, “The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing” ( and founder of PassageMaker Sourcing Solutions ( )

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