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Cell phone bricked by Tracfone...

This is a discussion on Cell phone bricked by Tracfone... within the Android OS forums, part of the Tech Support Forum category. I bought an unlocked K-phone in mid-2018 and got a SIM kit from Tracfone, who I had my account with.


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Old 01-11-2020, 02:47 PM   #1
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I bought an unlocked K-phone in mid-2018 and got a SIM kit from Tracfone, who I had my account with. The kit mentioned usable with any AT&T compatible OR unlocked GSM phone.

Visited a no cell tower area recently and the phone was deactivated for being out of area. After reactivation, the chat tech changed my # without telling me. Eventually, Tracfone decided my attempts to get it working again were somehow fraudulent and shut everything down; the phone, my account, everything.

So now I have, I think, a bricked phone. When I enter the IMEI number into any other carriers request sheet, they say I can't use that phone. That it's not open. It use to be, but now it's not. Tracfone says since it's an AT&T phone (it isn't, it's an unlocked GSM phone that has ONLY worked on the Tracfone system) they can't unlock it. AT&T says they have no records of the IEMI so they can't do anything.

Is there a way to un-brick the phone? I searched google and don't find those online ways of doing it like just a few years ago.

Any ideas or links to help?
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Old 01-11-2020, 10:45 PM   #2
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Never heard of a phone getting bricked by a wireless provider. The phone should be functional even without a sim kit or service activation, so what makes you think it's bricked? Does it not power up? Does it get stuck in a boot loop? Support for that brand is virtually non-existent. The support site is useless, except for two contacts, a phone number and email address, and I'm not hopeful they will be of much use either. Just so we're clear, have you been using the phone with Tracfone since you bought it?
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Old 01-12-2020, 08:13 AM   #3
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Never heard of a phone getting bricked by a wireless provider. The phone should be functional even without a sim kit or service activation, so what makes you think it's bricked? Does it not power up? Does it get stuck in a boot loop? Support for that brand is virtually non-existent. The support site is useless, except for two contacts, a phone number and email address, and I'm not hopeful they will be of much use either. Just so we're clear, have you been using the phone with Tracfone since you bought it?
I'm obviously not a phone expert and I think phone was bricked (if that's right word). It does power up and function fine, all the apps work, the wifi works, but I can't call out.

When I go to other carriers web sites to enter the IMEI into their BYOP check sheet, 3 carriers have said I can't use the phone. So, I ASSUMED that the phone's IMEI had been changed by Tracfone somehow. I bought the phone simply because it was a GSM unlocked phone, now it seems it's not.

Back when I bought it, I specically bought a GSM phone because I was aware it would work on the Tracfone system. I had an account with them, I bought a Tracfone BYOP SIM card for $1, went online and used 'chat' to have a tech turn it on and then tie it to my account. So, this phone has ONLY been used on the Tracfone system.

If I open 'Status', under My Phone Number it calls out AT&T then shows my old phone number.

That's what Tracfone uses to say they can't help me and I need to contact AT&T. AT&T has no record of the phone number or the IMEI.

If I go to those websites that tell you if your phone is unlocked or not, and enter my IMEI, they say that it's not. So how can I tell without signing up for an account with a carrier? And if the carriers BYOP system says I can't use this phone?
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Old 01-13-2020, 01:39 AM   #4
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The carrier cannot change the IMEI on the fly, it's not a simple process.

When you say 'bricked', my guess is that you actually mean Bad ESN/Blacklisted, the IMEI would be reported lost/stolen due to which all cell providers will bar usage of that phone.

If the phone was 'factory unlocked', it usually is not locked again, however if a phone has been unlocked to be used with a different carrier, if the carrier sends an OTA update to the phone, it can (possible but rarely does happen) update the simlock of the phone.
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Old 01-14-2020, 07:54 PM   #5
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This sounds like something similar I went through a few months ago with my online accounts for Microsoft that I used to access tech forums. I have a couple of accounts I use for MS forums one of which I segregate and use expressly for professional and educational purposes so I make certain to not mess around with starting arguments or making inflammatory posts anywhere; I remain 100% professional. Well, long story short this specific account got the online version of "being bricked" in that it became a "banned account" across ALL of the MS forums, Azure, TechNet etc....it was "banned" so badly after I would sign into a given forum I dead ended and could not even READ an article, nevermind posting a question.

I chased trying to get a MS tech person to talk to that had the high up enough security access to look at my account security "footprints" on all their diff forums to see why/when/how I got "banned" across the board. I kept getting promised call backs from higher ups but the calls never came. I would call back and call back and call back and still no results at all. I did this for 3 full months (during which time I also got sick and wound up in the hospital which prolonged this problem) and still got no further toward solving the issue and getting any answers at all.

Finally the last 2nd level escalation tech I spoke with told me the truth. (which would have saved me tons of aggravation if someone told me this at the beginning) There is no one at MS that has access at the root level to MS accounts to look at security violations nor follow the "digital footprints" for an individual customer to see what their activity was as pertains to which forums the customer has visited over time. The tech also told me that I could save myself more torture if I just deleted the account permanently and completely and started with a fresh account. Why the first techs and their supervisors could not tell me this at the beginning is just a mystery to me.

My suggestion is when it comes to something like an IMEI on a phone there will be no answer for you as they companies keep ping ponging you between them. Your last effort if you want to go to this extreme would be to put the techs at both/all companies involved on a conf call with you and tell them there will be NO MORE PING PONG and order them to TALK TO EACH OTHER. This worked for me when I had a printer problem in the past, it solved my issue 100%. The other suggestion and the easier one would be to throw the phone in the garbage, take out your frustrations by running it over with your car. It is just a phone and not worth your stress.


Sincerely,

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Old 01-17-2020, 06:42 PM   #6
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Thank you Wonder Woman. I feel I have lots of experience with your type issue. You should take a break and head for Mexico after all that...Mazatlan is where I'm heading next Wednesday. I'll meet you there for a nice Pina Colada.

Back in '06 I could actually reach a Tracfone USA based tech after just 3 bounces in India. That's no longer the case. Now it NEVER HAPPENS.

The latest news is that I went to two phone companies today (Jan. 17th) and spend 30 minutes at one and an hour at T-Mobile. T-Mobile helped the most by checking everything they could. The phone was LOCKED by Tracfone because they suspected it...as I mentioned earlier that was because I was checking other companies at the time so they flagged it as suspicious activity.

T-Mobile says the phone can't be activated by anyone until Tracfone unlocks it. As I mentioned before, they (Tracfone) refuse to acknowledge it used to be a Tracfone phone. And as I mentioned before, the system no longer allows you to talk to a real US based tech. Basically, my phone has wrongly been bricked as labeled as a 'suspect' phone when that's just not true.

So, my only recourse is to buy a new phone when I get back from Mexico. As it happens, I have an old iPhone as a backup when I'm down there. And when I get back, I'll buy a new phone and then send Tracfone that nice registered letter that I intend to sue for up to $12,000. Small claims court allows that much in my registered state of South Dakota. The Tracfone TOS has both small claims or arbitration and I'll choose small claims. I've got all my hours documented, my expenses, etc. This should be fun.
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Old 01-17-2020, 07:26 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
The phone was LOCKED by Tracfone because they suspected it...as I mentioned earlier that was because I was checking other companies at the time so they flagged it as suspicious activity.

. . . Basically, my phone has wrongly been bricked as labeled as a 'suspect' phone when that's just not true.
No disagreement, based on what you've posted, that Trackfone has "done ya wrong," none whatsoever.

But you need to be careful about using the terms bricked and locked/blacklisted interchangeably. They're not.

A bricked phone won't so much as boot up, hence the term. A blacklisted phone, locked for "suspicious activity" or suspected theft, will boot up just fine it just cannot connect to anyone's network due to industry cooperation meant to protect people (which it does, when it's done legitimately and correctly).

If your phone was purchased by you unlocked, unless someone were to have reported it as stolen as a malicious trick, there is absolutely no reason for any carrier to blacklist it. But it's not bricked.
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Old 01-17-2020, 07:44 PM   #8
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Hello,

Yes, I like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain! I am not into health food I am into Champagne! ROFL

Mazatlan sounds wonderful! I applaud your engenuity with the small claims court thing. I am pretty sure you'll win easy because I doubt that a company like TracPhone would even bother to reply to the suit let alone send a rep to small claims court so hopefully you'll get your vacation paid for!

As for the "India call center" comment, I am 100% with you on that. I have been a level 1 computer support analyst for various well known corps for 25 years and I understand fully about the outsourcing garbage that has decimated the available support jobs for US citizens. I am actually working on trying to do something about that right now. I suffer from Adult ADD. (officially diagnosed as "hyperactive" back in the 1970s when there was no Attention Deficit Disorder diagnosis let alone any treatment for it besides play therapy where I learned that I am allergic to Mr. Bubbles! ROFL!) I squeaked by graduating HS but 100% hands down college was never going to be an option for me because I only passed algebra 1 because of the teacher taking pity on me because she knew I worked with a tutor but still could not grasp the material and stopped right at that point with math classes refusing to take the usual routine for the college path of Algebra 2, geometry, and trigonometry and I always had to cheat by reading cliff notes for English classes because I never had the patience (yes I can read) the full blown books (given King Lear to read senior year of HS - forget that I told the teacher when I explained my situation to her with not being able to get through the books and she said "too bad". I literally told my mom I'm not going to college, give me balance your checkbook 101 and send me to forest ranger school and I'll live in the forest with Smokey the Bear and Bambi! (when you say something that off the wall crazy you don't forget it).

I told you the above in relation to outsourcing support for a reason. I never kept up with my education to get tech certifications. I kept learning only on the job and being self taught which has 100% screwed me in my career now to where I have been unemployed since 03/2018 because I am up against both outsourcing to god forsaken worthless third world nations with no indoor toilets and also H1-B visas and younger people with certifications that are willing to work for less for the same job as I apply for. I am 53 and screwed. I am finally going to a special certification school because I am not able to get through textbooks and I am test phobic.

I am working on writing up a proposal that I intend to present to my politicians and try to get support for online. I am targeting the H1-B visa programs and outsourcing. My proposal would be to force companies to not just say they cannot get a US citizen to fill the job for an unreasonably unintelligent salary that the worthless outsourced people in third world countries w/o toilets get paid (I call it $3/day w/o benefits) but to prove they cannot get ANY US CITIZENS AT ALL to fill the job. I am also targeting outsourcing to those same garbage countries by suggesting the wealthy companies be forced to advertise and make available FIRST all jobs that they have that would be farmed out through outsourcing instead of HIDING them and NEVER advertising them to US Citizens. If a job can be done outsourced around the globe to a country w/o toilets then they can be done by people in the US from home. If the jobs get filled by work at home people then it will benefit families financially by giving them the opportunity to save the child daycare money and being a better parent by being around their children. My suggestion would be to force companies that would hire these worthless people in worthless countries to choose between having a massive tax penalty put on every single outsourced person they employ so it raises the cost (without it being paid to the overseas worker) to the same level of hiring a US Citizen and paying them a normal salary with benefits or the other choice being just hiring a normal US Citizen at a normal, proper salary with benefits and then reward the company by giving them a "small/nominal" reward of a tax benefit.

President Trump has been doing an excellent job with employment but he has been forgetting the tech sector and focusing on both the manufacturing and agriculture industries. This would be a boon to the tech companies, to US families and to US tech workers.

Ok, I am off my soapbox now.

Good luck with the small claims case and your Mazatlan vacation.

Wonder Woman
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Old 01-17-2020, 08:17 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by britechguy View Post
No disagreement, based on what you've posted, that Trackfone has "done ya wrong," none whatsoever.

But you need to be careful about using the terms bricked and locked/blacklisted interchangeably. They're not.

A bricked phone won't so much as boot up, hence the term. A blacklisted phone, locked for "suspicious activity" or suspected theft, will boot up just fine it just cannot connect to anyone's network due to industry cooperation meant to protect people (which it does, when it's done legitimately and correctly).

If your phone was purchased by you unlocked, unless someone were to have reported it as stolen as a malicious trick, there is absolutely no reason for any carrier to blacklist it. But it's not bricked.
I disagree somewhat.

A phone that cannot be used by the purchaser because a company decided it was being used because of 'suspicious activity' which really wasn't, and then has refused repeatedly to fix the problem they caused is, in my mind, bricked because it can't be used for it's intended purpose...a phone...at all. Even though it turns on.

If you have a magical way around their stupidity, I'd like to hear it. Thanks!
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Old 01-17-2020, 08:21 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
I disagree somewhat.

A phone that cannot be used by the purchaser because a company decided it was being used because of 'suspicious activity' which really wasn't, and then has refused repeatedly to fix the problem they caused is, in my mind, bricked because it can't be used for it's intended purpose...a phone...at all. Even though it turns on.

If you have a magical way around their stupidity, I'd like to hear it. Thanks!
Tom"A"to/Tom"ah"to.....either way this phone is less useful than a "brick" which could be used to keep a door open.
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Old 01-17-2020, 09:14 PM   #11
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I'm not here to start a war, but in the tech world (and everywhere, for that matter), communication depends on words having shared meaning.

What has been described here is not, by any definition shared in the tech world of mobile devices, bricking.
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Old 01-17-2020, 10:12 PM   #12
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Then should I send it to you to have it fixed? If you know the secret of un-bricking it, what is it?

Tracfone refuses to take it off that list, with no recourse, claiming it's not their problem. The other companies I've contacted say they can't do anything until Tracfone does something in their system. The Tracfone tech's have told me there's no evidence they ever had anything to do with the phone's IMEI.

Well, whatever, no argument from me on this. I'll just buy a new one after I get back from Mexico. Meanwhile I have my ol' iPhone 4 as a standby.
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Old 01-17-2020, 10:20 PM   #13
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We all know for a logical conclusion fact that all companies, regardless of industry and attorneys like to play semantical word games to get what ever it is that is wanted in a given situation mostly due to greed.
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Old 01-18-2020, 12:45 AM   #14
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Quote:
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Then should I send it to you to have it fixed? If you know the secret of un-bricking it, what is it?
That phone isn't bricked. Tracfone flagged it as suspicious and blacklisted it, period. The phone works as intended, by the manufacturer, just not as EXPECTED by you, and not because of something done to the phone itself, but because of actions taken by Tracfone. I agree with britechguy, proper use of terminology is key to proper communication, especially in the tech world. Getting corrected on the use of a particular technical term, on a tech forum, by tech savvy folks whose voluntary technical assistance you seek should not be a contentious subject. If the phone was actually bricked as purported by you, then sending it to him to have it fixed/unbricked would have made more sense, but since the phone is not bricked, there is no un-bricking to be done. What you need is for Tracfone to reverse the blacklisting, but if this makes little sense unless the term bricked is used, then what you need is for Tracfone to un-brick it, and since none of us represents Tracfone in any way, then none of us can "un-brick" it.
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Old 01-18-2020, 08:28 AM   #15
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Duly noted. My apologies for using the wrong word.

And how is a phone to be un-blacklisted when the company that put it on the blacklist refuses to acknowledge it was their doing? Insisting it's an AT&T phone when it never was used on that system. I've already tried chatting with them a couple times, but they say it's not in their system.

Anyone have a US # for Tracfone support that might be able to help?
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Old 01-18-2020, 08:44 AM   #16
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The blacklists are centralized. Since unlocked phones have the potential to be used on any service provider's network they all share the blacklist data.

I would suggest you ask one of the other service providers who have told you that the phone is blacklisted, and by Tracfone, if they could send you the data from the blacklist record so that you can quote it, chapter and verse, to Tracfone.

You also might have much better luck trying to pursue this via e-mail to Tracfone support, as you then have the cyber equivalent of a paper trail where their responses to you are available for ongoing reference (and quotation) when you get the runaround, which you almost certainly will.

They should also be able to tell you why a given phone was blacklisted, too. Accidents will happen, and it might be useful to try to determine what triggered this mess in the first place.

And please do keep reporting back on your progress (or the lack thereof). If someone else finds themselves in this situation knowing how someone else pursued it can be really helpful.
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Old 01-18-2020, 01:41 PM   #17
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TF doesn't really do emails. I use their Live Chat which gives me the option to print or have a copy emailed.

OP, do you have a login for the TF website? If so, they may display any previous/deactivated devices. You might find what you need there, but maybe not. You say they don't seem to have a record of the IMEI you're asking them about, but if it was somehow changed (which doesn't seem possible as noted by others), you MIGHT be able to see the old one there.
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Old 01-18-2020, 01:53 PM   #18
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They shut down my account page. I had all my current and older phones listed, along with ~17,000 minutes and ~14,000 texts. They erased my 1 GB of data because (I found out later while reading the TOS) the phone went inactive. It only went inactive because I was in a poor to no cell phone area. So I was unaware. Phone still received a text or two during that period...when I happened to walk into an area that got cell phone coverage. So I had no idea it was going to be deactivated.

So, no, I cannot open my original account page. I have Chatted with numerous tech support techs (keep in mind that it was the tech's that screwed up my phone to begin with). And I've retained copies of each and every chat. What I don't have is recordings of the 11 techs in India I talked to when I finally called trying to reach a USA tech. (I have a google online phone so was able to call the Tracfone 888 number).

One of the chats I had the tech dug deep and said they did find my phone number in the archives so there is hope...but not much hope of restoring my lost minutes, texts, or data.

Even so, what I'd need to do is contact someone at Tracfone that knows what they are doing, and who can un-blacklist my phone first. That's the first step. Then activate it with one of their SIMs. Than restore my account.

Not looking forward to all that work.
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