The 10 Top Apple Scams of 2020

How to spot and avoid common scams that target Apple customers

Apple scams grow more sophisticated every year, and they cover everything from basic phishing and nefarious phone locks, to clever scammers disguising themselves as legitimate Apple support staff. So it's important to be aware of the most pervasive Apple scams before you become a target. If you know the scam is out there, you can take precautions to avoid falling victim.

01
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The Apple Support Scam

Apple Support scam on an iPhone.

 Pixabay

The Apple Support scam involves the scammer calling you and posing as Apple Support. If you have an iPhone, the call will look legitimate and even get slotted in with other calls you've placed to Apple Support. Fall for this scam, and the scammers will try to obtain sensitive information like your passwords, credit card details, or even social security number.

If you ever receive a call that looks like it came from Apple Support, don't answer it. Call the real number for Apple Support, which is available on Apple's official contact page, and tell them about the suspicious call. If there are any actual issues, they'll be able to help you out.

02
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The Apple Phishing Scam

An example of the Apple phishing scam.

The Apple phishing scam typically comes in the form of an email that looks like it really came from Apple, although you may receive a phone call or text message instead. The scammer will attempt to obtain your Apple ID password, bank account details, or other financial information.

Never provide sensitive information via email, text, or over the phone. If you receive an email that looks like it came from Apple that asks you to select the link or call a number, don't blindly do so.

To avoid falling victim to the Apple Phishing scam, contact Apple Support directly through Apple's website. If the email you received was legitimate, they'll be able to tell you.

You can forward suspicious emails to reportphishing@apple.com.

03
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The iPhone Lock Scam

An iPhone displaying the iPhone lock scam.

Th iPhone lock scam is very serious, because it usually happens after a scammer has already obtained some of your sensitive information. Armed with your personal information, they may be able to lock your device, then display a message demanding some form of payment to unlock it.

If you get hit by this scam, all you can do is contact Apple Support. The problem is that the scammer probably has access to your account, so you may have to go through an extensive process to prove your identity.

To avoid being a victim of this scam, never give your personal information or Apple account login details to anyone, and always use strong passwords.

04
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Apple Hardware Scams

An example of the free Apple hardware scam.

Pexels 

Apple hardware isn't cheap, so a lot of scammers work by promising free or cheap iPhones or iPads. There are a lot of variations of this scam, but the general rule of thumb is that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Common examples of these iPhone and iPad scams include so-called free iPad giveaways, which are almost always scams, fake product testing offers, and penny auction sites. There are legitimate good deals out there on used iOS devices, but you have to be very careful to spot them among the scams.

This scam has a lot in common with some Craigslist scams, and the scammer may even use Craigslist to offer a fake iPhone or iPad for sale, attempt an escrow scam, or other types of related scams.

05
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The Fake Apple Receipt or Invoice Scam

An example of a suspicious Apple invoice.

The fake Apple receipt or invoice scam usually comes in the form of an email. The email will show a list of purchases you've supposedly made, and will typically include a link to cancel the purchases. These emails tend to look fairly legitimate, and will usually appear to come from a real Apple email address.

If you receive an email like this, don't click any links in the body of the email. And if you do click a link, never provide personal information. Apple doesn't require personal information to cancel orders, so that's a major red flag.

Instead of clicking the scam links, contact Apple customer service. They'll be able to let you know if any erroneous purchases were actually made on your account, or if you're really dealing with the fake Apple receipt scam.

06
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The iMessage Scam

The iMessage scam displayed on an iPhone.

This is a variation on other Apple phishing scams, with the twist that it comes through iMessage. When targeted by this scam, you'll typically receive an alert through iMessage that your Apple ID is about to expire, or that your account has been locked due to excessive login attempts. The scammer will provide you with a link via iMessage, prompting you to enter sensitive information if you follow the link.

To avoid being a victim of this scam, don't tap any suspicious links you receive through iMessage. Contact Apple Support directly, and they'll be able to help you if there are any legitimate issues with your account.

07
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The iOS Browser Pop-Up Scam

An example of the iOS pop up scam.

This scam relies on browser pop-ups designed to look like system error messages. When browsing the internet using your iPhone, you may suddenly see a pop-up message that warns your iPhone has crashed, or that your device is locked. The pop-up will also include a phone number. If you call the number, the scammer will try to obtain your Apple ID login information, your banking details, or other sensitive data.

Never call a phone number that appears in a browser pop-up on your iPhone. Even if it looks legitimate, you should never call a number that appears in this manner. All of Apple's legitimate support phone numbers are available on their official contact information page.

08
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The iTunes Gift Card Scam

A victim of the iTunes gift card scam purchases an iTunes gift card using a phone and MacBook.

skaman306 / Moment / Getty Images

The iTunes gift card scam comes in a variety of guises, but it almost always starts with a phone call. You'll receive a call from someone who claims to be from the IRS, the police, a debt collector, or even a bail bondsman. They may claim you owe back taxes, or that there is a warrant out for your arrest. The common denominator is that they will demand you pay immediately via iTunes gift cards.

This scam is really easy to spot, because none of the aforementioned organizations accept payment through gift cards. The caller may sound panicked, or they may be abusive, but the goal is always to trick you into paying a large sum via iTunes gift cards.

If the scammer claims to be from the IRS, you can report the call to phishing@irs.gov. Include as much information as possible, like the phone number of the caller, any callback number they gave you, and any name or fake badge number they provided.

09
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The iCloud Phishing Scam

The iCloud scam displayed on an iPhone.

This is a variation of the general Apple phishing scam where the scammer tries to gain access to your iCloud by posing as an Apple employee. They will typically contact you via text message, although they may use email or a phone call. If you engage with the scammer, they will try to obtain your Apple ID and password, which will give them access to your iCloud, bank details, location, and more.

Apple won't ever contact you to ask for your Apple ID and password, so the iCloud phishing scam is easy to spot. If you think you've been a targeted by this scam, contact Apple and let them know.

You should also make sure you have a strong password, as the scammer may try to brute force your password when social engineering fails.

A variation of this scam involves a pop-up that asks you to enter your Apple ID and password. If you get a suspicious popup like this, press the home button. If the popup goes away, it was a scam.

10
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The Malware App Scam

The app store.

Pixabay 

Apple is really good about keeping malware out of the app store, but malicious apps do slip through the cracks. If you download and install software you find outside the app store, that's another way you may fall victim to this scam. That's why it's important to stick to trusted sources.

The most common example of this scam is an app that looks legitimate, but demands an unexpected in-app purchase in exchange for some feature or service. Before you agree to make any such purchase, check the app reviews, and do a little background research on the publisher. If it's a scam, you'll usually see evidence in the app reviews or by searching the internet.

Other malware apps are more low key, in that they perform the basic function that you expect, but they gather your data or even try to gain control of your device in the background. Be proactive, and careful about the apps you install, and you can avoid this scam.