Get info about device unlock eligibility
Personal device requirementsYour device:
- Is an AT&T phone or device and isn’t active on another AT&T account.
- Was paid in full when you bought it (not on an installment plan). You won’t have to wait 60 days to unlock it.
- Has a paid-off installment plan.
- Paid through your monthly bill: Submit your unlock request at the start of your next bill period.
- Paid off early: The wireless number assigned to the device must be active for at least 60 days. Wait 48 hours after you make your final payment to submit your unlock request. Learn how pay off your installment plan.
- Doesn’t have a past-due account balance. Make a payment to bring your account current. It will take 24 hours for your payment to post.
- Hasn’t been reported as lost, stolen, or involved with fraud.
- Is an AT&T PREPAIDSM phone that has had paid service for at least six months.
Active duty military personnelBeing deployed for active duty? You don’t have to complete your installment plan or contract to unlock your device. Make sure you select Yeswhen we ask if you’re deployed military.
Business device requirementsThe device:
- Has permission from the company to be unlocked
- Has a completed contract or term agreement, if applicable
- Requires a 30-day waiting period to unlock if it was on a 2-year contract that was upgraded early
Muhammad Fahd, a citizen of Pakistan and Grenada, was sentenced today to 12 years in prison for his leadership role in a seven-year scheme to unlawfully unlock nearly 2 million phones to defraud AT&T Inc. (AT&T), inflicting more than $200 million in losses. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik for the Western District of Washington noted that Fahd had committed a “terrible cybercrime over an extended period,” even after he was aware that law enforcement was investigating.
Beginning in 2012, Fahd, 35, conspired with others to recruit AT&T employees at a call center located in Bothell, Washington, to unlock large numbers of cellular phones for profit. Fahd recruited and bribed AT&T employees to use their AT&T credentials to unlock phones for ineligible customers. Later in the conspiracy, Fahd had the bribed employees install custom malware and hacking tools that allowed him to unlock phones remotely from Pakistan. In September 2020, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Cellular phones such as iPhones cost hundreds of dollars. To make the phones more affordable, during the relevant time, AT&T subsidized the purchase cost of phones or sold phones to customers under installment plans. Unlocking a phone effectively removes it from AT&T’s network, thereby allowing the account holder to avoid having to pay AT&T for service or to make any payments for purchase of the phone.
According to records filed in the case, in approximately June or July of 2012, using the alias “Frank Zhang,” Fahd contacted an AT&T employee through Facebook. Fahd offered the employee significant sums of money if the employee would help Fahd secretly unlock phones at AT&T. Fahd also asked the employee to recruit other AT&T employees to help with the unauthorized unlocks.
Fahd instructed the recruited employees to set up fake businesses and bank accounts for those businesses, to receive payments and to create fictitious invoices for every deposit made into the fake businesses’ bank accounts to create the appearance that the money was payment for genuine services.
In the spring of 2013, AT&T implemented a new unlocking system that made it more difficult for the bribed employees to unlock IMEIs for Fahd. In response, Fahd hired a software developer to design malware that could be installed without authorization on AT&T’s computer system to unlock phones more efficiently and in larger numbers. At Fahd’s request, the employees provided confidential information to Fahd about AT&T’s computer system and unlocking procedures to assist in this process. Fahd also had the employees install malware on AT&T’s computers that captured information about AT&T’s computer system and the network access credentials of other AT&T employees. Fahd provided the information to his malware developer, so the developer could tailor the malware to work on AT&T’s computers.
AT&T’s forensic analysis shows the total number of cellular telephones fraudulently unlocked by members of the scheme was 1,900,033 phones. AT&T has further determined that the loss it suffered because customers, whose cellular phones were illegally unlocked, failed to complete payments for their cellular telephones was $201,497,430.94.
Judge Lasnik ordered restitution of $200,620,698. (The difference between this amount and the total loss reflects restitution ordered against bribed AT&T employees in related prosecutions.)
Fahd was indicted in 2017 and arrested in Hong Kong in 2018. He was extradited and appeared in U.S. District Court in Seattle in August 2019. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in September 2020.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Seattle field office of the U.S. Secret Service, IRS-CI and the U.S. Department of Justice. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Friedman and Francis Franze-Nakamura of the Western District of Washington and Senior Counsel Anthony Teelucksingh of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.
Unlock your AT&T phone or device
Learn how to unlock your AT&T phone, Android tablet, or mobile hotspot. iPads and wearables are already unlocked.
Submit a request to unlock a device
- Go to att.com/deviceunlock.
- Select Unlock your device and follow the prompts.
Not an AT&T customer? No worries. We can help you unlock your device even if you haven't signed up with yet. As long as you have an eligible device that works on our network, you're covered.1
Trying to unlock your device screen? Find out how
Check your request status
- Check your email (including spam or junk folders) or text messages for updates and instructions. If you don't have a wireless phone account, you have to select Confirm request on the email we sent youl.
- Go to att.com/deviceunlock/status and follow the prompts.
- It usually takes a few minutes to approve your request, but may take up to 48 hours. Don't have a wireless phone account? Make sure you select Confirm request on the email we sent you.
- If you can’t find the email or text message we sent you, submit another request and we’ll resend it.
- If we don’t approve your request, it’s probably because your device isn’t eligible to be unlocked. Review the list of eligibility requirements
- If your device isn't eligible to be unlocked, and you're traveling internationally, choose an AT&T International Plan.
- iPads® and wearables are already unlocked, so you don't have to submit an unlock request for them.
Learn how to submit an unlock request to allow your AT&T phone, tablet, mobile hotspot, or other device to operate on another compatible wireless network.
How to request a device unlock
Submit unlock request form
To unlock your device to work on another wireless carrier’s network:
- Visit att.com/deviceunlock/.
- Select Unlock your device.
- Read and agree to the eligibility requirements1 to unlock your device.
- Complete and submit the form.
- You'll receive a confirmation email with the unlock request number.
- Select the link in the email within 24 hours of receipt to confirm the unlock request or the request will be cancelled.
- AT&T will respond within two business days to let you know the status of the unlock request.
How to unlock an AT&T phone to use with other carriers
- If you're an AT&T customer, you can unlock your phone using a portal on the AT&T website.
- To unlock an AT&T phone, make sure you've paid for the device in full, and don't have any unpaid bills.
- Active military personnel can unlock their AT&T phones without paying for the device in full.
- Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.
AT&T is one of the biggest cell phone carriers in the world. But being tied to one network isn't always fun or practical.
Luckily, AT&T makes unlocking your phone easy. When you unlock a phone, you become its full owner, no strings attached. This means you can then switch cell phone providers without losing your phone.
Here's how to unlock your phone if you're an AT&T customer.
What to do before unlocking your phone
AT&T doesn't allow just anyone to unlock their phone. You'll need to fulfill a few requirements beforehand.
- If you've been paying for your phone (the actual device itself) on a monthly plan, you need to finish those payments.
- Make sure you don't owe any money to AT&T. This means your account can't have a past-due balance.
- The device you want to unlock can't have been reported as lost, stolen, or "involved in fraud."
The only customers who can avoid these rules are military personnel. If you're currently deployed and can provide temporary or permanent change of station (TCS or PCS) documents, you can unlock your phone without finishing your phone's payment plan. To do this, you'll need to call AT&T directly at (800) 331-0500, or chat with them online.
How to unlock your AT&T phone
1. Head to AT&T's online unlocking portal and select Unlock your device.
2. When asked if you're an AT&T customer, select Yes and enter your phone number.
Quick tip: If you're not currently an AT&T customer, but want to sign up for AT&T with an unlocked phone, select No here instead and enter your phone's IMEI number.
3. Complete the rest of the form by entering your name and email address.
4. AT&T will send you an email. Click the link in that email within 24 hours, and your unlock request will be processed. If you don't click it within a day, you'll need to go through this process again.
AT&T should respond within two business days to let you know if your request has been accepted or rejected. If you were rejected, it probably means that you still owe money to AT&T.
If your request is accepted, AT&T will send you more instructions on how to unlock your specific phone model. The steps will differ based on which phone you have.
Editor & Staff Writer for Tech Reference
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