scams Marketplace

Free iPhone and Other Scams You Should Know About


Only three things are certain in life; death, taxes, and scammers taking advantage of popular product releases. The Internet is full of scams, some more believable than others. As a business owner, you have your hands tied in terms of how much you can do to protect your customers from these scams.

The latest iPhone release always creates a spike in the number of ads removed by the Besedo content moderation. In most ads, scammers claim to have the latest iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, or similar for sale.

Photo by Victor Serban on Unsplash

Each year, e-commerce fraud spikes higher than the last. In 2021, e-commerce fraud surpassed $20 billion, an 18% jump over the year before. According to a survey by Gallup, 72% of Americans worry about having their personal information stolen, while 67% worry about being victims of identity theft. Compare that to 20% who worry about getting murdered.

There are a handful of ways scammers are slipping past online marketplaces and luring excited consumers anxiously waiting for any signs of an “early” Apple product release.

Protect your site’s and your consumers’ credibility from falling victim to online scams by training your eyes to moderate fraudulent content with these expert tips below. Let’s dive in!

The two most common scams

Fake iPhones on your marketplace

This scam is very simple. The scammer posts an ad for the latest iPhone, but instead of sending the actual iPhone, they will send a counterfeit. This can start a whole avalanche of customer support tickets and claim processes. No matter how you handle issues like this as a site, it is costly both in monetary terms and in a deteriorated user experience.

The promise of early access or free iPhone

Many of us are eager to be seen with the latest tech, and when a high-profile brand like Apple announces a release, the rush to lay hands on that new gadget is real. Scammers take advantage of this eagerness by offering the iPhone 14 for sale. In some cases, scam ads offer a pre-order. In most cases, it doesn’t, giving people the impression that they will receive a new iPhone immediately. 

The scammers are banking on early adopters willing to do anything to get the phone before their friends or on potential buyers oblivious that the new iPhone hasn’t been released yet.

As an online marketplace host, always be on the lookout for ads with the following warning signs:

  • Products have been “pre-ordered” from Apple.
  • In an attempt to avoid content moderation filters, alternate titles for the product will include, but not be limited to, variations of iPhone One Four, iPh0ne 1 4, and iPhone ____14.
  • Free shipping is offered across the entire world.
  • All accessories are included as well as the warranty.
  • Sealed and never opened before.
  • A special inside offer
  • Multiple stock-image pictures.

When you spot them, remove the vendor from your marketplace to avoid any unsafe interactions between the fake seller and your consumers. This crucial step now avoids costly support tickets consumers submit for poor interaction with fake advertisements.

To prevent this from happening altogether, implement a content moderation method that allows you to accept, edit, and deny all new incoming ads to your marketplace, otherwise known as pre-moderation.

Pre-moderation allows online marketplaces to evaluate each vendor they accept or deny requesting ad rights. This also trains you and your teams to spot scammer trends. As scammers adapt and evolve their manipulative tactics, new moderation challenges always pop up.

Scammers move in mysterious ways

The silent type

The seller will send an iPhone to the buyer after it has been officially released at a markup price compared to store prices. All inquiries about the purchased phone before the real release will be met with silence or excuses about lost or delayed packages.

Asks for deposits

The seller requests a deposit to reserve a phone for the buyer. The gutsy ones ask for the phone’s full price ahead of time. When the money is sent, the seller disappears.

Asks for personal details

Potential buyers are asked to submit their details to be guaranteed a phone on the release date – or even ahead of time. The number of personal details requested can range from just a name or an email address to very specific and sensitive data.

What never changes is that once the data has been submitted, the scammer will turn around and sell it. In the best cases, the data of the potential iPhone buyer ends up on lists used by spammers. In the worst case, their personal data is used for nefarious purposes like identity fraud or further targeted scam attempts.

The tester

There is also a variant of the above scam where the scammer advertises that they need people to test the new iPhone and that they will be allowed to keep it after the test period. Or they post about free iPhone 14 giveaways.

These are all schemes to harvest personal details.

Taking charge of your marketplace safety

Online Marketplaces are at extremely high-risk right now. Even with internally trained moderation teams, there are simply too many scammers crawling for opportunities to steal consumer data for banking information, identify theft, or sell to other spammers causing even deeper issues later on.

Now is a great time to consider automated moderation to handle all the heavy lifting in avoiding all fraudulent ads.

An extra precaution to consider is to give your consumers the power to voice their experiences with vendors in your marketplace with reactive moderation. You’ve probably seen this among popular marketplaces as a way for consumers to interact with their experience:

Reactive content moderation

The method relies on users flagging and reporting the content on your site. This is integrated with “report” buttons on your site in the form of consumer support tickets. This is a powerful and popular method but is advised by moderation experts to be used as a supplementary tool in addition to other methods.

Pros of reactive content moderation

  • Cost-effective
  • Gives consumers the ability to report a vendor they believe to be illegitimate or in question

Cons of reactive content moderation

  • Lack of moderation control by the site owners
  • Decreased user trust
  • Strictly user focused

Additional best practices

  1. Always keep an eye on trends, not just within your industry but in general. Remember when the Pokémon Go craze began? That also had scammers out in force. Keeping up to date with global events and popular culture will help you predict what scammers will target next. That will help you put processes and policies in place ahead of time. Are you, for instance, keeping an eye out for World of Warcraft accounts and gold sales on your site?
  2. Make sure your moderators and automated rules know what to look for. Ongoing training is invaluable if you want to empower your team to win the fight against scammers.
  3. Just being on the lookout for iPhone 14 scams is not enough. When you identify a popular item, trend, or event that scammers will likely try and capitalize on, you must consider all the elements surrounding that trend.

Jailbreaking services

When a new iPhone is released, there will likely also be an increase in ads for jailbreaking services and phone unlocks. Jailbreaking a phone allows the use of unofficial apps and software on the phone. This means that a user with a jailbroken phone can install cracked software. That is also called piracy, which is illegal in most cases. It is a dangerous practice for the user and makes it easier for the phone to get infected with malicious software.

Jailbreaking ads can be a scam or even a way to access the targeted phone through malicious software. But even if the provider delivers what they promise, it is not a service you want on your site or app due to the fuzzy legality and obvious immorality surrounding it.

Phone unlocking

Unlocking your phone allows sim cards from providers other than the one the phone was originally contracted to when purchased. In most countries, you can contact your phone carrier to unlock your phone once the contractual term is up. As such, offering unlocking services seems unnecessary unless someone tries to avoid a binding contract. Your moderators should look out for and disallow Turbosims or similar products to be used for this purpose.

Summary and key takeaways

Popular product releases are likely to drive traffic to your website or app; some of the traffic will be from first-time users. We don’t need to tell you how important it is to ensure a good first impression when converting new visitors to regular users.

Reported scams and fraudulent activity on your marketplace can affect your website’s credibility, user experience, and overall brand. Apple’s notorious annual roll-out with new products, specifically iPhones, is the time for online marketplaces to increase their moderation awareness to protect users and credibility.

Every day we come across and remove mobile phone scams from the websites we help protect. Mobile phones are a popular target for scammers, and you need to be one step ahead of them to ensure the safety of your users and the quality of your site and app.

This is Besedo

Global, full-service leader in content moderation

We provide automated and manual moderation for online marketplaces, online dating, sharing economy, gaming, communities and social media.

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