More than 1,000 fake iPhones went through a Swiss AppleCare+ scam

iPhones (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • A mother and son were caught pushing more than 1,000 fake iPhones through Swiss Apple Stores.
  • The scam ran from 2015 through 2019.
  • They were said to be water-damaged, with AppleCare+ replacement them with real handsets.

A mother and son pair of fraudsters are in trouble in Switzerland after it was discovered that they were returning fake iPhones to Apple Stores, claiming that they were non-functional because they were water damaged. More than 1,000 fake iPhones were involved in the scam, with Apple replacing the handsets with real, working ones without knowing what was happening.

All the pair had to do was cough up the CHF99 ($107) AppleCare+ free.

According to a report by SRF, the fake iPhones were shipped to Switzerland from Hong Kong with the real iPhones sent back once they had been obtained. The pair were paid just CHF10 ($11) for their work which, they claim, they didn't realize was a scam.

The mother and son said in court that they had not known that the iPhones were fakes. They only had the devices repaired in good faith on behalf of a friend from Hong Kong. Chinese people have problems with Apple's service time and again. You would therefore have trusted the contact person. It is the presumption of innocence.

The scam only came to light when local authorities intercepted two shipments of 50 fake iPhones and the whole thing unraveled.

But how did it go on, undetected, for so long? According to the report, the fake iPhones had been given IMEI numbers of iPhones that did have AppleCare+ coverage and Apple doesn't test water-damaged iPhones for safety reasons. The scammers just walked in, handed the faux iPhones over, and walked out with a real one.

The devices had the same IMEI numbers for which an Apple "Care Protection Plan" exists. This provides an additional guarantee, a free repair or an exchange for unintended damage such as water damage. The deductible is CHF 99. In the event of water damage, the iPhone will not open due to the battery in the specialty shop. The devices in the Apple stores were accepted unopened and exchanged for expensive original Apple iPhones. The son sent these to Hong Kong.


Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.