For reasons unknown, Apple has taken down the iCloud Activation Lock status page on its website, which used to offer a convenient method of determining whether a used iPhone, iPad, iPod, or Apple Watch was stolen.
An Apple support document that pointed people to the page was updated on Jan. 24 to remove any reference, and the direct link has stopped working in the past day. The status system let users enter an IMEI or serial number.
The updated support document suggests that people buying a device test Activation Lock hands-on, and have the seller help (in person or otherwise) if it's still in effect. In many cases this is impractical, such as when buying online from someone in another city.
The change could potentially help the black market or even increase thefts, given that sellers have a better chance at pulling off scams.
Activation Lock has been on available on Apple devices since iOS 7, and more recently watchOS 2, meaning that many people buying a used Watch or iOS device run the risk of getting non-functional hardware.
Cities like New York City and San Francisco have regularly had to cope with robbers snatching devices off of unsuspecting victims.
In rarer cases Apple stores themselves have become targets, assaulted in smash-and-grab raids made possible by the company's preference for glass facades.