Beware of fake iPhones sold on the Internet
Want to get the latest iPhone at a discount? Classified ad sites offer “new” phones, still “sealed” in their original packaging, for several hundred dollars off. As appealing as they may seem, you are probably dealing with a scam.
Scammers are selling fake iPhones that look just like the real thing.
Claire Lavoie, from Gatineau, loves Apple products: the tablet, the watch and, of course, the phone. “I have an iPhone X, which I bought when they came out in stores. I wanted to change it because I was having trouble with the sound,” says this retired nurse.
Ms. Lavoie uses her new phone, which turns out to be a counterfeit iPhone.
Rather than going to the store, Ms. Lavoie browses Marketplace, Facebook's classifieds site. There she finds an Apple 13 Pro Max, the best model at the time.
The seller, a Jordy, is asking $1,100. In stores, the same phone costs $1549, plus tax. Ms. Lavoie could save $700.
“I ask him why he's selling it. He replies that his cousin gave it to him and that he doesn't need it. The story looks more plausible.
Mrs. Lavoie jumps on the offer and makes an appointment with the seller. He gets in my car, shows me an Apple bag, then he asks me if I have the money. The iPhone box is sealed. Everything looks fine, she tells us, recalling the scene.
Eventually, they agree to close the deal for $1,000. Satisfied, Mrs. Lavoie goes to Videotron to activate her phone.
After three or four minutes, the young man tells me that it is identical to an iPhone, but that this is not an Apple. It'sa fraudulent phone.
Ms. Lavoie fell into the trap. His new iPhone looks like the real thing, but it's not an iPhone and it's definitely not worth $1000.
To find out what Ms. Lavoie actually bought, we caught up with Tarek Safah, owner of the FixiPro store in Laval. He specializes in the repair of electronic goods of all kinds.
Tarek Safah, owner of the FixiPro store, opens the case of a fake iPhone.
He immediately spots differences that could easily pass under the radar of less experienced people. For example:
- the front camera is much less discreet on the fake;
- the border around the screen is too thick;
- the flash is the wrong color;
- the rear panel is not perfectly adjusted.
On the left, the camera of the fake iPhone is clearly visible. On the right, the real one is much more discreet.
It's hard to notice these differences without comparing the phones side by side. In use, however, the signs are more obvious.
In terms of fluidity and the way the screen responds, it's definitely not a real one, notes Tarek Safah.
Messaging icons and keyboard are those used by Android phones. Apple app store not working. There are also frequent translation problems.
Then, options simply do not exist, such as the True Tone mode, which allows the colors of the screen to be calibrated automatically.
We asked Tarek Safah to open the case of the fake phone. He explains to us that an iPhone opens from the front. We remove the screen and we access the components. In this case, we had to remove the rear.
Two of the three rear cameras fake iPhone are fake.
Unsurprisingly, no Apple parts can be found. In addition, the motherboard and accessories, such as the vibration motor or the speakers, have nothing to do with those of Apple.
By unscrewing the cameras, the trickery reaches a new height. Of three rear cameras, only one is functional. The other two are false. To the question is it well manufactured? Tarek Sarah answers without hesitation no, really not.
“They put a lot of effort into the look and the software. But inside, you can see very quickly that it's not a real iPhone. »
— Tarek Safah, Owner, FixiPro
At the time of the transaction, Ms. Lavoie saw nothing suspicious. Everything is thought out so that the first glance is convincing, down to the apple of Apple which appears when turning on the device.
Small consolation , Ms. Lavoie is not the only one to have been had. In Montreal alone, the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) has 175 complaints per year related to fake iPhones.
The phenomenon worries Commander Steve Belzil, of the Economic Crimes Section of the SPVM. He explains that the first reported cases of fake iPhones date back to 2017.
“The products are imported from China. When they arrive in Canada, they are in Apple packaging. They can also be concealed in boxes of computer monitors. »
— Steve Belzil, Commander, SPVM
Importers buy the phones for $100, $50, or even less, depending on the quantity ordered. They are then resold for more than $1000 on sites like Kijiji or Marketplace. The profits are considerable and easily reproducible.
Commander Steve Belzil leads the Economic Crimes Section of the SPVM.
In our investigations, we have noticed that fraudsters are mostly young people. It can be from 14 to early twenties. They choose the easy way. There are always people who will take their place to sell these products, notes Commander Belzil.
We want to know how fake iPhone sellers go about convincing buyers. Browsing on Marketplace, we quickly find the same model of iPhone as that of Mrs. Lavoie. A brand new iPhone 13 Pro Max listed at $1350. We suspect it is fake.
The announcement of the fake iPhone indicates that the box has never been opened, an argument to convince future buyers of its authenticity.
Commander Steve Belzil recommends some checks before buying buy.
[Seller] will use a fake profile to hide their true identity. Check how long the Facebook account exists. Often these are relatively recent accounts, not much activity, not many friends.
In our case, the saleswoman created her account in 2022. That doesn't bode well.
While chatting with her on Facebook Messenger, she explains to us that her father gave her the gift; iPhone as a gift and she doesn't need it. This argument is regularly used by fraudsters, according to Commander Belzil.
We also know that the phone box is fake. Black or black color does not exist for iPhone 13 Pro Max. It should rather read graphite.
The color indicated on the box, “black”, does not exist for the iPhone 13 Pro Max. It should read “graphite” instead.
We make an appointment with the saleswoman and capture the scene using a hidden camera. On site, she sends us an invoice to prove the authenticity of the purchase at the Apple store. The invoice contains several errors and is obviously false.
Journalist : This is not an Apple invoice. It's a fake invoice. Do you know you have a fake phone in your hands?
Saleswoman : I don't think it's a fake, sir. My dad bought it for me. I don't understand why my father would buy me a fake.< p class="styled__StyledLegend-sc-v64krj-0 cfqhYM">The invoice submitted by the seller contains several errors, including the way of entering the taxes, not to mention typos.
Commander Steve Belzil warns us. The transaction should be done in a public place, without cash, while being accompanied.
It happened that a buyer realized that it was a fake iPhone and he backs out, and then the scammers go after him to take his money. When a buyer confronts a fraudster, it can turn into robbery.
Afterwards, Ms. Lavoie is still relieved that the events took place without violence. I'm always a bit cautious, but here I was reckless. Does he pull out a knife, a weapon? He was sitting in my car. It could have gone wrong.
- Do not rely on the serial number or the IMEI (identification number) of the device, even if they are valid. Fraudsters can use those of other devices of the same model;
- Ask the seller for photos and proof of purchase and scan them for errors or inconsistencies;
- Offer to meet the seller at your phone provider. Fraudsters may give up;
- Do not bring cash.
In addition to fake iPhones, other counterfeit Apple products are also on the market, such as AirPods or Apple Watch.
Tarek Safah, of FixiPro, Commander Steve Belzil and the other police services contacted are unanimous: if the offer is too good to be true, beware.
Ms. Lavoie will have learned this the hard way. That's $1000 wasted. I would have preferred to give them to a charity organization than to a guy like that.
Jean-Luc Bouchard's report is broadcast on the show La invoice on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 12:30 p.m. on ICI Télé.