Chinese police have arrested more than 40 individuals across 21 provinces involved in fraudulent “Apple ID loan” schemes. These schemes exploited unsuspecting victims by coercing them to relinquish their personal Apple IDs in exchange for loans, leading to severe privacy breaches and threats of device blockages.
The modus operandi of these fraudulent schemes involved borrowers signing out of their Apple devices and logging back in using an Apple ID provided by the lender. If borrowers failed to make repayments, often at exorbitant interest rates, the lenders would resort to threatening actions such as blocking their devices, contacting their associates, and revealing personal information.
The recent crackdown, led by the police, targeted nine groups of individuals across various regions, encompassing 41 suspects. These suspects had orchestrated schemes that affected over 20,000 people, resulting in transactions amounting to 130 million yuan (approximately US$18.3 million). The state-run China News Service reported these figures, citing the public security bureau of Wuxi County in southwestern Chongqing city.
A particularly deceptive aspect of these schemes was the use of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s surname in some of the advertisements by the lenders. In a case reported in June in Jiujiang City, Jiangxi province, 10 suspects from Chuzhou City in neighbouring Anhui province were arrested, highlighting the nationwide scope of these fraudulent activities.
This crackdown sheds light on a recurring issue that was previously warned about by the state-run Xinhua News Agency in 2019. The agency had cautioned the public about the rise of fraudulent “Apple ID loan” cases, some of which demanded repayments within a week at annualized interest rates as high as 2,800 per cent. Lured by promises of no need for loan collateral or credit reports, victims fell prey to these deceptive schemes.
Comparatively, the interest rates in these fraudulent schemes are astronomical when contrasted with more affordable loans offered by banks. Banks, responding to economic challenges, have lowered interest rates to stimulate spending. According to Rong360 Digital Technology Institute, a Beijing-based market researcher, the average interest rate on bank consumer loans dropped to 3.41 per cent in November from 4.2 per cent a year earlier.
Among Chinese smartphone users, approximately one in five use an iPhone, totalling around 250 million people. This sizable user base makes iPhone owners a lucrative target for fraudulent schemes, prompting the need for robust cybersecurity measures and consumer protection.
The actions taken by the Chinese police in this recent crackdown signal a commitment to addressing the evolving landscape of financial fraud, especially in the realm of digital devices and personal data. As technology continues to advance, law enforcement efforts will likely need to adapt to new and sophisticated methods employed by criminals.