Why Did Apple Put Through a Fraudulent Charge on my Credit Card? Is it Related to My Apple Support Profile?

I had a bit of an annoyance a few weeks ago. I checked my bank accounts online, and found a charge from the Apple Online Store for an amount over £250. But I hadn’t bought anything. The charge was made several days ago, and for an odd amount; not the price of any Apple product.

I called Apple, and I spent about an hour on the phone, with several helpful people. Some of the information I had about the charge suggested that it was for a repair or replacement through AppleCare (because of where it was billed from), and, in the end, I was told that a charge was made to my credit card, but the name and address did not match mine.

This raises many questions. First, it’s my experience that if I purchase something online, and the name or address don’t match – even if just a space or comma is different – the charge can be refused. This happened to me recently, when ordering something online from a US retailer. When I called to place my order, the person said to make sure the address matched exactly; it didn’t, and when I replaced a missing comma, the payment was processed.

The other question it raises is related to the many Apple products I’ve bought. If I look at my Apple Support Profile, it lists 48 products, going back to 2001, when I bought an iMac DV Special Edition. (I actually kind of like going back and seeing the many Apple products I’ve owned…) I’ve sold or given away many of these products, and I wonder if the fact that they are still registered to my Apple ID, and therefore my account, made it possible for a payment to be made on the card attached to my account, even though it was to someone with a different name and address.

I also note that this charge was made one day after I set up Apple Pay on my iPhone 6s; I’ve removed my debit and credit cards from Apple Pay. There’s no way to know if there’s a connection, but I’d rather err on the side of caution.

My bank was very helpful; they’ve refunded the charge, and will be investigating. Apple was somewhat helpful; if they had told me exactly what the charge was for, then I might have been able to elucidate this situation. But I’ve spent several of hours dealing with this, cancelling the card, setting up a new one, and changing it on websites where I use it regularly.

What bothers me most is that I cannot trust Apple with my credit card. I think it’s unlikely that anyone got a hold of my card number and the related information, but, even if they did, Apple did not correctly authorize this charge. I have a feeling that it’s somehow related to Apple hardware that I’ve sold; perhaps someone who bought something of mine had it repaired, and since that device was still linked to my account, managed to put through the charge to my card. If it was a fraudster, they would most likely not have paid Apple for a repair, but would probably have made several online purchases, or have bought something more expensive, such as an iPhone, and kept going until they hit my credit limit. This was the only fraudulent charge made to the credit card.

Until I know more, I think it’s a good idea to https://supportprofile.apple.com and remove any Apple products that you have sold or given away. I’m not sure that this is what caused the fraudulent charge, but this seems the most likely explanation (since Apple won’t tell me any more about the charge).

I’ve been in touch with Apple since the first contact, and met with a very stern brick wall. They were unable to tell me anything; and they would no longer confirm that the charge was made to a different name and address. They suggested I contact the police (which my bank said was unnecessary), and refused to say anything more. I have a feeling they know something they don’t want to tell, such as how they made a mistake and somehow applied someone else’s charge to my card.

Update: Last week, I discovered two more fraudulent charges from the Apple Online Store on my credit card. At first, my bank said these charges were made on the new card, the one that replaced the card I cancelled after the first charge. But they got back to me a couple of days later, saying that those charges had been approved on the old card, so they went through. The dates on the two new charges were about three weeks later, which would correspond to, say, an iPhone that was due to ship in 2-3 weeks. (One of the two charges was for £539, the price of a 16 GB iPhone 6s.)

My bank also said they think this was an inside job. There were no fraudulent charges from any other merchant; only the Apple Online Store. And only someone working there would know that I purchase items regularly from Apple, and that these charges wouldn’t set off any fraud alert.

Of course, the other possibility is that there’s a glitch in Apple’s payment processing system that allowed charges to be put through to a card owned by a different person than the one placing the order. And that is actually much more worrisome.

I’m very curious as to what happened here, and I’m waiting for Apple to provide me with an explanation.

8 thoughts on “Why Did Apple Put Through a Fraudulent Charge on my Credit Card? Is it Related to My Apple Support Profile?

  1. This is mighty scary. If it can happen to you — a prolific and respected Apple/Mac/iOS international journalist — what hope do the rest of us have? More proof that Apple has lost sight of its prime directive: “It just works.”

    • Indeed. When I order from Apple now, I no longer check the box that lets them hold on to my credit card number. I’m especially disappointed by the fact that after getting some initial information admitting to a mistake, they then refused to say anything at all. This said, I wouldn’t compare this to anything related to how Apple software or hardware works; this is a back-end problem.

  2. More often than not, this has actually has nothing to do with Apple losing your credit card info.

    Your credit card can be stolen via any order of other ways and/or websites and used to make a purchase elsewhere.

    Apple is a popular target due to the high ticket and resale value of their products.

    This happened to me several years ago in fact. I was (rudely) awoken in the early morning by a phone call from Apple’s fraud department. Turns out my number got stolen and someone from Tennessee used it to purchase two iPhones. They cancelled purchase before it was charged.

    • As I say in the article, it would surprise me that someone who did get my card info with the intent to defraud would only use it to pay for a repair from Apple. Not only does that mean they have that person’s name and address, but the person also didn’t try to buy an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, or in any way attempt to milk my account up to its credit limit.

  3. Sad that this happened, and disappointing that Apple is so unhelpful. Still, It seems to me that Kirk is jumping to several conclusions. When there is little data, concluding that the problem related to, for example, previously purchased products is a weak guess. I don’t think there is much to be gained from believing or following unsupported speculation. If we don’t know, we don’t know. Guessing can take us farther from understanding the problem.

  4. Thx for sharing.
    It points to a side of apple most long term users are aware of, me included, that is often overlooked; the stepfords-disciple-like behavior instilled in employees.
    Great if the path is one the issue demands, not if the issue may shed a teency bit of shadow on “the brand”.

    Under any other circumstances you wouldn’t go back, but 48 apple things is hard to switch from…

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