It’s really important to ensure that if you are buying a laptop that is second hand, that it is not stolen. If you buy one and hand over money for it in good faith, if it is traced and found with you, not only could you be in trouble for handling stolen goods, but that laptop does not belong to you and will be returned to its rightful owner, and you will be out of pocket. Even if they find the person that stole it, it is unlikely that you will get all your money back, so whilst it might seem tempting to buy a laptop at a really good price when you have doubts, in the long term you are risking a lot.
There are a number of ways to check if a laptop is stolen or not, and it’s worth taking the time to check where you can. If anyone is pushing you to buy right away and discouraging you to carry out any checks then walk away, it’s a dead giveaway that they have something to find. First of all have a look at the serial number. It can be found on every laptop and is a unique ID for that laptop. They can be used to find out if a laptop has been reported as stolen, and you can do that by either contacting your local police or by visiting the manufacturers’ website. A lot of major laptop companies such as Dell have a database of stolen items which you can check that number against.
A lot of laptops are password protected, and it is possible to get these passwords unlocked by a professional, but if you are buying a laptop where someone doesn’t know the password and is selling it at a good price ‘to compensate the money you would have to spend on getting it unlocked’, don’t do it. If they had bought it from someone they would have got the passwords, and if it was theirs they would know it. There’s no good reason why they wouldn’t so walk away.
Another way is to look and see if there are any files or photos on there, and if so ask them some questions on them. If there’s a load of photos they are vague on or are obviously not a part of, again, walk away.