Some cons are inevitably more sophisticated than others, and we’ve come a long way from the “you’ve won a free iPhone” scam. In fact, the lengths that some scammers will go to steal your iPhone 15 are really quite remarkable, if a new account reported on Mashable proves to be widespread.
The scam in question was actually attempted on the site’s own tech reporter, Cecily Mauran, who was targeted by a number of calls from an unknown number shortly after ordering an iPhone 15 via Verizon.
The calls, she says, involved a scammer claiming to be a Verizon representative. The scammer claimed that the company had “received communication from Apple” that her new phone was a defective device plagued by overheating issues.
"They said they needed to come and pick up my phone right away, because it was 'dangerous'," she explains.
This is devious for a few reasons. Most obviously because it relates to a product that Mauran had actually just ordered, giving it some legitimacy, but also because the iPhone 15 Pro did initially suffer from overheating problems. But these were never dangerous, and the issue was fixed via a software update, app fixes and a little time.
Nonetheless, the caller was persistent and arranged for FedEx to pick up the "defective" iPhone. Fortunately, Mauran was quick thinking enough to call Verizon herself to verify the call — at which point the whole scam fell to pieces.
“There is no issue with your iPhone 15 that would justify any outreach from Verizon,” a spokesperson told Mashable. “Our guidance is if someone calls you saying they’re Verizon and you’re skeptical or just not sure, hang up and call [Verizon].”
The scam was still in motion, however, and a FedEx truck did indeed arrive to pick up the phone. After Mauran explained the situation, the driver revealed that the handset would have been taken to a physical address in Miami, mysteriously with a Kentucky phone number. The recipient was “RETUNS PROCESING CENTER” [sic.].
It’s not clear how widespread this scam is, but the lesson is to always be careful, even when the caller seems to know a lot about you.
If you’re called out of the blue, phone the company that the call is purporting to be from to double-check. The worst outcome: they confirm it’s legitimate, and you feel a bit silly for your paranoia — but that’s a lot better than being out of pocket.
What remains unclear is how the scammer managed to target Mauran just as she’d ordered an iPhone 15. This clearly wasn’t a scattergun approach as the scammer knew she was a Verizon customer and had an out-of-date email address she had on file, and Mashable speculates that the vishing attempt could have been made possible thanks to an old data breach.
In this scenario, the iPhone 15 part could well just be pure guesswork. It’s a popular smartphone, after all, and scammers are bound to find some Verizon customers ordering the new handset in the weeks after its release.
A useful adage for spotting scams is that “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. This failed attempt at a scam is a helpful reminder that potentially bad news should also be met with an equally critical eye.