Never buy a new phone from ENBLE, research shows.

Never buy a new phone from ENBLE, research shows.

The Dangers of Buying Phones from Police Auctions: Protecting Your Privacy

phone auction

When it comes to purchasing phones, auctions can be an enticing option, offering the potential to save money on high-end devices such as iPhones or Android phones. Whether it’s an online bidding platform like eBay or a live auction at a customs office, the thrill of the bidding process adds an element of excitement. However, there is one place you should definitely avoid when looking to buy a phone at an auction – police auctions.

The Department of Computer Science at the University of Maryland recently conducted a study in which they purchased 228 phones that had been seized and subsequently auctioned by the police. What they discovered was truly alarming. Most of these phones had not been properly wiped, putting the new owners at risk of exposing their personal information.

In addition to personal data, some of these auctioned phones contained highly sensitive and disturbing content. This included images depicting drug abuse and nudity. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that some of the previous owners of these phones were involved in organized crime, stalking, sex work, or were registered sex offenders.

University of Maryland

To make matters worse, many of these auctioned phones were found to have used weak and easily phished passwords, such as “1234”. It was also discovered that out of the 61 phones accessed by the researchers, there had been digital contact with over 7,000 people. This raises concerns about the ease with which personal information can be accessed by individuals with malicious intent.

The phones in question were auctioned by, a platform that works with over 4,000 police departments across the country. Of all the phones tested by the researchers, a staggering 21.5% didn’t even have a passcode. Some of these phones even contained a partial backup of all the data belonging to the previous owners. Considering that these phones were acquired through police auctions, it is not difficult to imagine that they may have been involved in criminal activities.

What is truly astonishing is that accessing the data on these phones did not require any sophisticated break-in tools. Law enforcement agencies commonly use tools like Cellebrite or GrayKey, but the research team was able to extract sensitive information using basic methods. This highlights the vulnerability of these phones and the lack of security precautions taken by previous owners.


During their analysis, the research team discovered sensitive and personally identifiable information on a quarter of the auctioned phones. This included web browsing history, sexually explicit multimedia content, login credentials for various services, emails, text messages, credit card details, banking information, social security numbers, and even credit reports. Shockingly, they were able to access all the data on 21.49% of the phones by simply turning them on. In some cases, the phones even had a sticky note attached with the password written on it.

Considering the risks involved, it is strongly advised to avoid purchasing phones from police auctions, whether online or in-person. The financial incentives of these sales are minimal for law enforcement agencies, while the potential risks to individuals’ privacy and security are extremely high. The research team recommends that confiscated cell phones be destroyed instead of being auctioned off.

In conclusion, buying phones from police auctions may seem like a way to save money, but the risks far outweigh the benefits. Protecting your privacy and personal information should be a top priority. It’s crucial to be aware of how easily sensitive data can be accessed by unauthorized individuals. By avoiding these auctions and opting for trusted sellers, you can ensure a safer and more secure mobile phone buying experience.