Thieves using Apple Stores to replace stolen iPhones

Acoording to a report by Reuters, Apple’s generous customer service may be causing huge problems for victims of iPhone theft. The warranty plan is tied to the iPhone and not the person who owns the phone; this means anyone can take an iPhone to an Apple Store for service or replacement.

The ease of trading in stolen iPhones and selling their replacements makes them nearly as tempting as grabbing cash. In cities from coast-to-coast, reports of iPhone thefts are common. While some thieves sell the phones through the traditional channels of fencing stolen goods, examples abound of stolen iPhones being brought back to Apple, as if broken, for either replacement or a discount on a new unit. "Apple seems to have not considered stolen devices and instead is relying on the honor system," says Robert Siciliano, a consultant for Intel Corp's technology security unit McAfee and an identity theft expert. "The honor system is devised with the mindset that we are all sheep and there are no wolves." Siciliano says he has known of this problem for a while, but doesn't see any immediate solution. "Until consumers scream loud enough about this issue, Apple probably won't do anything about it."

While this approach is fantastic for the honest iPhone owners, thieves are using Apple’s good nature to carry out a type of laundering for stolen iPhones. When a phone is reported as stolen, a carrier can blacklist it as stolen and disable it by using its device specific IMEI number. If the device has been swapped or replaced at an Apple Store, that security measure has now been bypassed. This enables a thief to sell on or use a brand new iPhone without fear of recrimination.

Apple has yet to comment on the findings within the report but let’s hope a simple solution can be found that will not cause pain for the honest amongst us. The last thing we need is for Apple to change its policies and make life more difficult when it comes to iPhone service and replacement.

Source: Reuters, Image Wikipedia


UK editor at iMore, mobile technology lover and air conditioning design engineer.