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Security & privacy

This text from Apple promising a free iPhone is a scam – don’t fall for it

Winning a contest can feel incredible — especially if there’s a fabulous prize attached. And what could be better than winning something as nice as a new Apple gadget like an iPhone or Mac?

Unfortunately, most of the contests you see offering free iPhones, iPads and Macs are scams. The prizes are bait used to hook unsuspecting victims into sharing financial information and personal data. Tap or click here to see the best ways to actually win contests and sweepstakes safely.

If you get a text message saying you’ve won a chance to try out the latest iPhone, don’t respond! It’s actually a complex phishing scheme designed to trick you into handing over your credit card info. Here are the signs to watch out for so you can ignore these scam messages and get on with your life.

An iPhone surprise? Just flimsy lies

Some people close to the tech industry are lucky enough to be early adopters of the latest gadgets and gizmos. These beta testers are usually sworn to secrecy and use their unreleased devices under strict supervision.

But that hasn’t stopped scammers from preying on people’s curiosity. According to Sophos Labs, a new scam text message that claims to be an invite to a device-testing program is nothing more than an unusual phishing scheme targeting iPhone users.

Here’s what you can expect if you get the text: The message will usually be addressed to a name other than yours, and will congratulate you for being chosen as part of Apple’s latest testing program for the unreleased iPhone 12. The message appears to come from Apple and will include a link at the bottom that goes to a genuine Apple URL.

Follow the link and you’ll end up on a survey page that asks you a few questions, followed by a place to input your credit card information for a deposit. Curiously, the layout looks nothing like Apple’s real website.

But once you enter your payment information, the fun ends. You don’t get a phone, you don’t join a beta-testing program and your credit card information is sent back to a scammer.

If you think this scam looks obvious, you might be surprised at how many people it’s managed to fool. By using a different name in the first message, some people assumed the text was real and sent to the wrong number on accident. Plus, who could pass up on the chance to try out an iPhone that hasn’t even been officially revealed yet?

Wait, what?

The iPhone is fake and so is this text

The biggest red flag of all is the text’s mention of the iPhone 12. Apple has not officially acknowledged the new phone’s existence yet, and any groups claiming to know about it don’t have confirmed details. Tap or click here to see what we know about the iPhone 12.

If this message somehow reaches your inbox, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep a close eye out for spelling and grammar errors. The scammers made several mistakes on both the initial texts and their website.
  • If something is free, it shouldn’t ask for a deposit. Any website that does is just trying to get your card information.
  • Despite looking genuine, the link is actually fake. The text of the link simply spells out something realistic. If you want to confirm for yourself, just try typing it in. All it does is redirect you to Apple’s homepage.

If you read this article too late and already signed up for the iPhone 12, you’re not out of luck just yet. Here are a few steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Call your bank or financial institution and let them know your credit card number was stolen. Request a new card and ask that your current one be frozen. Make sure to request your account to be monitored for fraud as well.
  • If money was already taken, tell your card provider that you were scammed and ask them what your options are. If it was stolen recently enough, you may be able to recover the money.
  • Change any passwords you use for your online banking and set up two-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized access. Tap or click here to see how to set up 2FA for your bank apps.

These scams may seem silly at first glance, but scammers behind them are netting hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you aren’t careful, you might end up becoming another victim without knowing it.

Tap or click here to see how much hackers can sell stolen credit card numbers for on the Dark Web.

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