Check Your Statements For This Long-Running Scam

You see lines on your credit or debit card statement that read “APL*ITUNES.CON/BILL 866-712-7753 CA” or something similar. Where did all those charges from iTunes come from?

Maybe it’s your spouse downloading audiobooks. Maybe it’s your kids downloading their favorite songs or inadvertently making in-app purchases while playing online games. Maybe it’s subscription renewals that you forgot about.

Or, maybe it’s an identity thief who’s making small charges on your account to see if you’re paying attention. Scams involving iTunes have been around almost as long as iTunes has existed. Identity thieves like to use iTunes to test the waters with a stolen identity.

To rectify the problem, you need to know where the charges are really coming from. Start by checking the purchase history under all Apple IDs that are attached to that credit or debit card account. Note that if you have a Family Sharing plan, you can only see purchase details on what you bought with your personal Apple ID – other family members will have to check their own accounts to find those details.

Do the charge amounts and items match up between your Apple IDs and payment account records?

If not, your credit or debit card is probably compromised. Either a fraudster has opened up their own iTunes account using your payment information, or charges from another vendor have been spoofed to appear to be iTunes charges. You’ll have to dispute the fraudulent charges, cancel your payment account, and create a new account moving forward. If you do, make sure to use a credit card if you have one rather than a debit card.

“We should monitor our credit card use and look for evidence of identity theft,” cautions cybersecurity expert Steve Weisman, author of Identity Theft Alert. “Legislation limits the amount of liability for fraudulent charges to no more than $50. And I’ve got to say I have never seen a bank or credit card company that even charged the $50. They’re usually pretty good about that.

“The kicker is there are a lot of people that are using debit cards and the debit card looks like a credit card. It isn’t. It comes out of a bank account that is connected with your debit card. But the laws regarding fraudulent use of your debit card are not as protective as that which we have with a credit card. So, my advice to people is you use your debit card only as an ATM card. The risk of identity theft is too great with that,” says Weisman, an attorney, and Professor at Bentley University.

If the charges match up but you didn’t make the purchases, review them with all Apple ID holders on the accounts. There should be enough clues in the purchase history to spot inadvertent charges. Note that purchases from one Apple ID can be hidden from other devices on that ID and from family plan members – so you may have some detective work to do.

Somebody may be using your Apple ID or the ID of someone else on the payment account. Did anyone share the information? At best, you must change all Apple ID passwords and delete/change the payment account associated with that ID. At worst, you may need new Apple IDs for all parties.

Avoid damage from iTunes scams by keeping track of all of your accounts (Apple accounts and associated payment accounts) on a regular basis. Investigate any unknown charge as soon as possible.

Change your Apple ID password periodically and don’t use the same password as on other accounts. Make sure other users in your family do the same. Avoid sharing passwords, even within the family.

Watch out for phishing e-mail scams that appear to be from Apple but ask for information like your Social Security number, credit card information, or confirmation details like your mother’s maiden name. Legitimate Apple e-mails will never ask for this information.

Beware of e-mails that include a link to update your Apple account information. Avoid clicking these links. Check their destination URL by letting the mouse hover over the link without clicking on it.

If you’re worried about exposing your information at all, you can delete your credit card information from iTunes and make all purchases with iTunes gift cards that you can purchase at third-party retailers. Hackers could still drain the gift card funds, but they can’t get to external bank or credit card accounts.

Scammers have many ways to abuse your iTunes account, both directly and indirectly. They can be relentless in their efforts. You must be equally relentless to fend them off.

Protect your credit – protect your identity – protect yourself with a free MoneyTips trial.

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/RossHelen

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