Apple products are famously in sync with each other, and Apple Pay extends this integration to users’ credit and debit cards. A digital wallet may be convenient for those who don’t like to carry physical cards, but it also cracks a new door for scammers — a door that leads directly to victims’ money.
With phone fraud always on the rise, it’s more important than ever to know how to protect yourself. Keep reading to learn about what Apple Pay is, how it works, and how to protect yourself from Apple Pay scams.
Before you can understand Apple Pay scams, you need to know how the system works and the differences between Apple Pay and Apple Cash. Both are digital payment methods exclusive to Apple users, but they refer to slightly different things.
In short, Apple Pay is the overarching payment system that uses your Apple Wallet to make purchases at verified retailers or exchange money with friends and family through Apple Cash.
Since Apple Pay is only accepted by legitimate businesses that have been vetted by Apple, retailers that accept this form of payment are generally trustworthy. On the other hand, any two Apple Pay users can send and receive money using Apple Cash.
Unfortunately, scammers who get hold of your Apple Pay or Apple Cash credentials can gain access to your Apple Wallet and any cards you have linked to it. Many scams also encourage victims to pay the scammer directly through these methods. This type of immediate access to funds makes the system an appealing target for scammers, who are typically after people’s financial accounts.
There are many different types of Apple Pay scams, and scammers may reach out using a variety of channels. Familiarizing yourself with how they work can help you spot them in action. Here are seven types of Apple Pay scams and the ways you might encounter them.
Channels: Phone call
You get a phone call from a scammer posing as Apple Support, claiming there’s a problem with your iPhone, Apple Watch, or other device. The scammer attempts to “test the device” by requesting a payment through Apple Cash or asking for your login credentials. They may also ask you to give them access to your screen, which is an immediate red flag. Apple will never reach out in this fashion, nor will they request payment or private information over the phone.
Channels: Text message, phone call, email
When used correctly, 2FA can help secure your accounts against scammers. Unfortunately, some scammers target those codes and trick people into revealing them. They have bots automatically call, text, or email users as they log in and attempt to intercept them. Never enter Apple Pay verification codes anywhere but in the Apple Pay app.
Channels: Text message, phone call
Scammers often request gift cards as payment because they’re difficult to trace, offer little or no buyer protection, and can be resold. One common gift card scam involves calling or texting targets requesting Apple gift cards to remedy some phony high-pressure situation, like a medical emergency or legal issue. In reality, Apple gift cards can only be used to pay for Apple products and services, and the emergency isn’t real.
Channels: Text message, phone call
In some cases, scammers send victims money rather than request it. Then they contact the recipient and explain that it was a mistake, asking for the money back. Unfortunately, the payment was likely made with a stolen credit card, so it will be removed from your Apple Pay account when the owner files a claim. Meanwhile, the scammer keeps the money you “refunded” them.
Channels: Text message, phone call, email, pop-ups
A common phishing attack across all mediums, this scam claims your account has been suspended because of potential fraud. The scammer may send you a text or email with a link to verify your identity and recover your account. Alternatively, they may call you and ask for personal information over the phone. You may even see fake security alert pop-ups online.
These scams differ from legitimate Apple emails and notifications about your account being used from an unfamiliar location or device. Apple will never call or attempt to reach you via pop-up. If there’s an issue with your Apple ID, the company will email you from email@example.com.
Sometimes, scammers don’t even need to contact you to steal your information. Be careful when using Apple Pay on public Wi-Fi, whether you’re making a purchase, checking your Wallet, or even adjusting your settings. If the network isn’t secure, a hacker might pick up everything they need when you access the app. When in doubt, turn off your Wi-Fi and use cell data while in public.
Channels: Business transaction
Apple Pay can be a safe and effective payment method when you know and trust the seller. However, there are many scammers who list products online and insist on payment through Apple Cash, only to disappear after the money has been sent. Only use Apple Cash to exchange money with people you know and trust.
Just as delivery scams (FedEx, UPS) and bank scams (Citibank) have their tells, Apple Pay scams include many of the same warning signs. Get to know the red flags so you can recognize them quickly and avoid their traps.
Always treat calls and texts from unknown phone numbers with a healthy degree of suspicion, especially if they include links or ask for financial information. Apple will never text you, and they won’t call unless you initiate contact.
Scammers want you to fall for their ploys before you have a chance to realize you’re being tricked, so they try to pressure you to act quickly. They may claim you have a limited time to redeem a deal or that you’ll be charged penalties for not paying an outstanding fee in time. Apple will never pressure you to make decisions before you’ve had time to consider them.
Only use your Apple Pay 2FA code through Apple Pay itself, and never share it through text message or over the phone. If you get a call or text asking for your 2FA code, it’s a scammer who may already have your Apple ID and password.
Strange links are a classic sign of a smishing attack. The link sends you to a spoofed website that looks just like a legitimate Apple website, but the information you type in is picked up by the scammer. It might also download malware onto your device. If you get a text message claiming your account has been suspended and prompting you to follow a link to reactivate it, it’s a scam.
Smishing scams often come from overseas scammers who may not be native English-speakers. Ignore emails and text messages that claim to be from Apple but feature spelling errors or poor grammar. Again, Apple doesn’t text customers in the first place.
Scammers often pitch deals that would be too good to ignore — if they were real. If you get a text or call offering device upgrades, gift cards, or other suspiciously good deals, you can safely assume it’s a scam.
Apple Pay scams go right for your most sensitive information, and a successful scheme can have devastating consequences. Fortunately, there are ways you can defend yourself.
In the event that you do fall victim to an Apple Pay scam, it’s important to act quickly. The longer you wait, the more damage scammers can do with your private information.
Apple Pay and Apple Cash don’t offer buyer protection and are not responsible for fraudulent transactions, so it’s unlikely that you’ll get a refund in the event of a scam. However, if you notice an unauthorized charge on your account, you can report it to Apple and contact your bank or credit card company. Your financial institution might compensate you for fraudulent charges.
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