You're checking your email and notice that Apple has sent you a receipt for almost $1,000 worth of iTunes purchases and downloads. Except there's a problem: you haven't downloaded anything from Apple. In fact, you don't even have an Apple ID that would allow you to download from iTunes. Surely it's just a mistake so you call the number on the receipt, and the Apple support person tells you the only way he'll be able to issue you a credit is if you go out and buy ten $100 iTunes cards at your local grocery store and call them later with the card's code numbers...
But wait, your brain is telling you. That doesn't sound right. And you'd be right, sort of. It's a phishing scam, and as fishy as it sounds, Americans are losing millions of dollars each year through scam emails like this. In fact, the reason why I'm writing this blog is a Hanscom FCU volunteer recently told me about his close call with an Apple phishing scam, so we felt that it was worth pointing out to our members all the signs you should look for when one pops up in your inbox.
But I don't have An Apple ID!
This should be your first tip-off that the email you've received is a phishing scam. If you don't have an account with Apple or download iTunes, apps, or books, there's no reason you should be getting receipts for purchases. If you look closely at the receipt, you'll probably notice it doesn't include your address, another clue that the email is a hoax. (Legitimate Apple receipts include the current billing address of the account holder.) The scammers are hoping you'll call the number on the receipt to "fix" the problem. A scam artist, of course, will be on the other end of the line, not an Apple employee, ready to exploit your finances.
Maybe it's legit because I do have an Apple ID.
Do not click any links in the emailed receipt you've received. Instead, log into Apple's App Store or iTunes with your Apple ID, where you'll be able to see any purchases charged to your account. If the receipt doesn't match, you can be fairly sure you've got a scam email. Also, the sham receipt will not include your current billing address with Apple. The receipt may request that you contact Apple to provide your social security number, mother's maiden name, a credit card number, or your credit card CCV code, all things a genuine Apple receipt or email would never include.
Are there other clues this is a scam email from Apple?
To be clear, scam emails aren't actually from Apple...they're from bad apples. Here are some things to check out when you receive an email purporting to be from Apple:
- The sender's email address or phone number doesn't match Apple's email address or photo number.
- It includes an email address or phone number you don't use for your Apple account.
- There's a generic "Dear Customer" greeting, instead of the more personal greeting Apple typically uses. Also, the punctuation, spelling, and/or capitalization in the email may be a little funky, a big clue that you've got a hoaxed receipt.
- If you've clicked on a link within the email (which we strongly recommend you do not do!) and it brings to you a website with a different URL than Apple's.
- The receipt looks different from other receipts you've received from Apple.
- The receipt includes an attachment.
Also, listen to the voice in your head that tells you something is off. When our volunteer was told the only way "Apple" could fix the error was through the purchase of iTunes cards, common sense kicked in and he hung up.
OK, I'm convinced this is a scam receipt. What do I do now?
Forward the phony receipt, along with its complete header information, to Apple at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Here's a link that tells you how to get your header information from the email client you use.) Apple may not respond to you, but information contained in the header will help them combat fraudulent activity.
Unfortunately, if you fall for the scam and give the crooks the code numbers on the back of the iTunes cards you purchased, you don't have any recourse. So be vigilant...if it sounds "phishy," it probably is phishing.
Life's twists and turns often bring financial changes and worries along with them. You may find yourself preparing your college-bound child for financial independence, rebudgeting after income changes, exploring the world of investing, needing to trim your monthly budget, reevaluating your finances after a new addition to your family, or needing other financial guidance after a life change. Let us help you with one of our upcoming free webinars — sign up today!
Others are reading: