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Scam Alert: iPhone’s getting locked and being held for ransom

Update: Already been attacked? Click here to find out how to resolve the issue.

iPhone owners are being targeted by would be scammers who have managed to find a security flaw in the “Find My iPhone” service, offered by Apple. The service is designed to allow owners of lost or stolen devices the opportunity to remotely lock their device, ensuring that sensitive data and the phone itself cannot be used should the device fall into the wrong hands.

However, the scammers have been using the service to lock iPhone owners out of their own devices, leaving message on the locked screen demanding a ransom of $100 (just under £60) to be paid into their PayPal account for the device to be unlocked. The scam has been doing the rounds in Australia for some time now, with many users heading to the Apple support forums to voice their concerns. At the time of writing, no official response has been offered by the iPhone creators.

This has already begun to gather momentum within the national press, with publications such as The Guardian, The Independant, Time Magazine and The Telegraph all covering the story. As a leading figure in the mobile phone, gadgets and recycling industry, we feel it is our duty to bring this to the attention of our customers and the general public.


Don’t become a victim

Due to the lack of an announcement from Apple, at this moment in time, we don’t know how the scammers have managed to gain access to the Find My iPhone service. However, there are a few things that you can do to ensure that you don’t become another victim of these scammers, who are clearly preying on the general public and anyone with limited technology knowledge. The following steps should be completed by all iPhone owners as soon as possible to ensure the safety of their device and the information on them;

Note: If you’re not sure how to complete these steps, click them for a more detailed explanation.

  1. Change your iCloud account password.
  2. If you use the same password on any other websites, change them too.
  3. Turn off the Find My iPhone service as a temporary measure.
  4. Continue to change your password every couple of months.


Change your iCloud account password

Apple have provided a support page for this exact issue, which should answer all your questions.


Turn off Find My iPhone

To turn off the Find My iPhone service simply head into your settings app, tap “iCloud” and then tap “Find My iPhone” to disable the service. If you wish to turn it back on in the future, follow these steps again.


Continue to change your password every couple of months

This is basic password maintenance, however it is one of the main reasons that peoples information isn’t secure. Change your password at least once every 90 days and do not use alphabetical or numerical sequences, such as abcdef12345. If you’re not sure what a secure password looks like then head to Google and search for a password generator.


Already a victim?

If you have already been attacked then don’t worry, you don’t have to hand over £60 to resolve this issue. There are two different options available to you, neither of which will cost you anything but time and we’ll talk you through them all step by step. All of these are extremely simple but nonetheless, if you have never done them before, you can click the issue (or scroll down) for a more detailed explanation.

  1. Reset your phone.
  2. Take your phone to your local Apple store.

Whatever you do, do not pay the scammer. There is absolutely no reason to believe that they would unlock your phone once they have received payment and the majority of your data should be backed up, so you shouldn’t lose too much. Paying them simply encourages them to continue running scams like this, which is bad for consumers everywhere.


Reset your phone

Thankfully, resetting an iPhone is a ridiculously simple task. It’s not advised that you follow the usual protocol of resetting via iTunes in this situation, as the scammers are able to intercept and halt any such attempts. Instead you should use the hard reset feature. If anything, this is simpler. The process is as follows;

  1. Change your iCloud password.
  2. Turn off your iPhone, in the normal way.
  3. Press and hold the power button and the home button at the same time. You can release when the Apple logo appears on screen.
  4. You can now get into the settings app. From there go to General and then Reset.
  5. Select the option to erase all content and settings.
  6. Restart the phone, again.
  7. Login with your new iCloud password.

You should now be safe from any further intrusions; at least until Apple find a way to patch up their security flaw.


Take your phone to your local Apple store

If there is some reason why you can’t perform a hard reset on your device then you can either attempt to do it via iTunes or take it to your local Apple store, who can sort the problem for you. You will need to make an appointment for the Genius Bar at your local store to ensure that you can be seen, unless you want to end up like this. If you’re not sure where your local Apple store is, you can find out here.


Help us spread the word

Obviously this is a big deal. We would hate to think that our customers have just upgraded to a shiny new iPhone and then a scammer has locked them out of it. Likewise, we’re sure you would hate for this to happen to your family and friends. So, why not help us spread the word by sharing this on Facebook and Twitter? Every share really does help.

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