Asurion Refurbished Phones May Cause Inability to Unlock AT&T Phones – On the trail of the unrequited​ IMEI!

Did you get a replacement phone from AT&T  or another carrier using phone insurance partner Asurion? You may be sitting on a potential device unlocking headache. I just wasted hours trying to figure out why I couldn’t unlock my “refurbished” S6 Active replacement phone. Since I met all the requirements the phone should have unlocked, but the AT&T system kept refusing.

After sleuthing about for two hours with AT&T customer service and going through the device unlock portal I have  a possible scenario while I await official confirmation. 1) broken phone is returned for replacement to Asurion 2) the previous owner of that phone has unresolved outstanding payments or contract requirements 3) the unique IMEI  passed along to the new owner may also pass along unfilled contract requirements. I suspect this could be the result of a data entry problem by someone at Asurion.

Device requirements for ALL requests

Devices must:

  • Be designed for use on, and locked to, the AT&T network. (Questions? See Device Unlock Support )
  • Not be reported lost or stolen
  • Not be involved with fraudulent activity
  • Have all service commitments and installment plans completed and all early termination fees paid in full
  • Not currently be active on a different AT&T customer’s account


I’m waiting for the resolution of this problem which hopefully will be in a  few days. If you own a refurbished device from AT&T (or another carrier) and meet the requirements for eligibility to have your phone unlocked, but are getting the same error, I’d like to hear about it. Let me know by posting a comment. And perhaps you should ask your carrier too!

I would assume that unpaid balance information (connected to an IMEI) from the former owners would be considered privacy protected information. On the other hand, Predictive Analytics are all the rage and knowing the aggregated profile of a smartphone holder default behavior (nonprivate anonymous information) could be interesting to other companies seeking to profile bad risks.

Update 7/22

Spoke to AT&T Customer Support person yesterday who had the presence of mind to escalate to his manager. Whenever I spot an up and coming outstanding customer support person I always ask to speak to his/her manager and tell them they have a good hire. Which I did.  Initial review of prior owner IMEI not showing outstanding balance.  It is still a mystery to AT&T and I am still inconvenienced.


12 thoughts on “Asurion Refurbished Phones May Cause Inability to Unlock AT&T Phones – On the trail of the unrequited​ IMEI!

  1. I bought a Asurion replacement phone from someone at Craigslist. It was an S7 Edge. I put a tmobile SIM ans it is asking for a code which he does not.

    long story short, it’s been 3 weeks ans I have not been able to use the phone.

  2. Find out which wireless carrier it came from Verizon, AT&T. AT&T and Verizon use compatible chip technology called (GSM) but Verizon uses CDMA. I believe this will change with new LTE Standards but you might need to match compatible sim carriers and unlock the phone. If the previous owner had an outstanding bill and an outstanding balance with the phone carrier the phone itself may not qualify to be unlocked by the carrier who may still have that IMEI linked to the original owner. There are however many companies that will send you an unlock code and you can find them by searching on “unlock phone”. This article should be helpful. It explains some of the differences between carrier SIM technology too.

  3. Same problem here Several ATT Phones, all were replaced by Assurion. All phones are owned outright. None of these phones will unlock. I now have an escalated case now with ATT

  4. Tom, if you can’t get anywhere call the AT&T Office of the President. The tech folks there are the only folks authorized (when they helped me when this was going on) to have the authority to help you unlock your device. They were top notch. 210-821-4105. Also be sure to check the IMEI on your box against the one that is on your phone. The new ones with internal battery have it engraved in very tiny letters and numbers somewhere on the device. On My S7 Active it is the back near the bottom. If the numbers don’t match there’s a huge chance that is why you can’t unlock.

  5. Hi,
    I am experiencing a similar issue. I purchased a refurbished AT&T Galaxy s7 edge from a third party on amazon and found out that I could not unlock it because whomever the phone originally belongs to still owes installments on the device and has additionally not reported it stolen. It also means they still own the phone.
    My question is there a specific way I should go about handling this? I could just return the phone and get my money back, but do I need to report the seller? Could I just hold on to the phone and root it and use it that way?

    Any help or thoughts are appreciated!

  6. If I were in your shoes I’d get my money back from the Amazon seller pronto and buy from a more trustworthy entity. Since you’re not the legitimate owner according to the carrier you’re stuck with an unusable phone on a cellular network. I doubt that rooting a phone has anything to do with the activation process that is bound to the IMEI. Buying from a company like Gazelle with a guarantee is where I’d buy. I assume the major used phone resellers should certify that the IMEI is capable of being transferred/resold. Gazelle’s policy to purchase a certified phone says that part of their guaranteed 30 point inspection tests for accesses to Wi-Fi, connects to a cellular network and that the serial number is clear for activation with a carrier. They are all important. I guess that’s why you would pay a premium for a used phone from them or from several other companies like them. Here’s a link to a good article on NerdWallet.

  7. Yes. And for a second time the problem was that my replacement phone from Asurion had a previous owner who owed
    money and was linked to my account. This time, customer service had to escalate and was finally able to provide an unlock code. It seems that Asurion and AT&T need to fix this problem.

  8. I am having this same problem. I’m going through a divorce and need to transfer my line onto my own plan. My phone is an iPhone 6 that was replaced by the insurance provider Asurian about 4 months ago. ATT didn’t even have the new refurbished I phone’s IMEI number listed as my phone on my line. This is rediculous! I’m now 3 days into trying to unlock my iPhone! And AT&T customer service reps aren’t grasping what I’m trying to tell them about it being a problem with the new referbished IMEI number having installment payments from the original owner and not me!

  9. At least they are are taking to you. If the other account is not in your name they may need authorization like your pin number. If you or your husband have outstanding payments on an account you are linked too that might cause a problem. Keep trying until you get an agent who wants to help you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s