Avast Academy Security Phishing How to Identify and Prevent Apple ID Phishing Scams

How to Identify and Prevent Apple ID Phishing Scams

Has an Apple phishing email ever slipped into your inbox? If the message asked for payment information or pressured you to click on a link, chances are you've been the target of an Apple phishing scam. Learn how to identify Apple ID phishing scams and how Avast One can protect your Apple account and help catch the scam before you fall victim.

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Written by Carly Burdova
Published on January 27, 2021

Fake Apple emails pose as legitimate Apple communications in order to trick you into sharing your Apple ID password and Apple account details. Learn how to spot an authentic email from Apple and how to report a phishing email scam to Apple support.

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    Why is Apple ID a popular target for phishing?

    Apple ID has become a popular target for phishing scams because so many people around the world have Apple products and Apple IDs. In other words, Apple ID is an obvious phishing target because it's a metaphorical BIG FISH. Just one hook and all your Apple accounts and devices are vulnerable to cybercrime.

    Think of all the things connected to your Apple ID — iCloud, the App Store, Apple Music (formerly iTunes), iMessage, Facetime, and more. Your Apple ID is a unified account with one login that opens up access to all things Apple.

    If you dig a bit deeper you’ll see that your Apple account also holds all your personal contact data, your payment details, and the security information you use to access Apple services.

    Your Apple account contains a huge amount of your personal data, including contacts, payment info, and more.Your Apple ID is your gateway to using Apple’s products and services.

    Fall for one slick Apple ID email scam and all your photos, devices, contacts, streaming accounts, and payment details could wind up in the hands of hackers. Not to mention you could become a prime target for identity theft.

    Types of Apple ID Scams

    The main thing most Apple spam emails have in common is an attempt to trick you into sharing your Apple ID password or Apple account information. These types of online scams come in many forms, and often attempt to mimic Apple's minimalist design style. Here are the most common types of Apple ID scams.

    Apple ID receipt email

    Apple ID receipt emails are a type of scam email that resembles a purchase receipt from Apple and tricks you into thinking that someone has already hacked your account. By planting the suspicion that someone made an unauthorized purchase on your Apple account, hackers hope you'll take the bait and click on a link in the email, either a link to “cancel” the supposed purchase or any number of other unsafe links stuffed into the email.

    It’s important to remember that a genuine Apple receipt email will contain your accurate billing information. That's because Apple has this information on file, while — hopefully — hackers do not. Another way to check if the Apple receipt email is genuine is to log in to your Apple account and check your purchase history.

    Disabled account notification

    Disabled account notifications are a type of email scam that falsely alerts you of a suspended account, suspicious activity, or failed payment. The most important thing to remember here is that Apple does not send disabled account emails.

    Instead, if your Apple ID is locked because you or someone else incorrectly entered your password too many times, you might see one of the following alerts when you try to log in with your Apple ID — but you won’t get an email.

    • “This Apple ID has been disabled for security reasons.”

    • “You can't sign in because your account was disabled for security reasons.”

    • “This Apple ID has been locked for security reasons.”

    Spoofed phone numbers

    Spoofed phone numbers are another way hackers try to perpetrate Apple ID scams. Spoofing phone numbers refers to someone falsifying a phone number and calling or texting you with a fake number that appears to be from Apple. This could mean that the caller ID shows “Apple Support Center” or something similar.

    If you answer the call, the caller will most likely impersonate an Apple employee and try to get you to reveal your login information or other sensitive data like your date of birth or physical address. A spoofed text message will try to get you to reply or click on an embedded link.

    A spoofed text message for an Apple ID phishing scamApple ID phishing texts use a spoofed number and try to get you to click on a link.

    Messages with links (text, email)

    Any unsolicited email or text message that urges you to click on a link is suspicious. The link could be a malware trap. Malware infections occur when a user accidently or unknowingly takes an action that allows harmful code to be downloaded on their device. Clicking on a phishing link is a common way for your computer to get infected with malware.

    How to spot an Apple ID phishing scam

    There are some easy ways to spot an Apple ID phishing scam. Once you get to know the tricks, some of the attempts to steal your info can be pretty comical. But even someone on the lookout for spam emails or trained to spot a fake app can fall victim to fraud if they’re in a hurry or their attention is elsewhere. Here’s what to look out for:

    1. Urgency to click: No, Apple did not randomly select you to win a car that you can pick up if you just click on a link to claim your prize. If the message feels unnaturally urgent, proceed with caution.

    2. Unusual email senders: Whenever you receive an email from Apple, always check the sender’s email address. If an address other than appleid@id.apple.com ever sends you anything about your Apple ID, there’s a good chance it’s a scam.

    3. Generic salutations: Apple does not use generic salutations such as “Dear valued customer” or “Hello friend.” If anything, they’ll address you by your real name that they have on record.

    4. Spelling mistakes: Alarm bells should start sounding if you notice spelling mistakes or awkward phrasing in an Apple email or text message. A genuine message from Apple will not have typos, and it will be written in standard American English.

    5. Shortened URLs: Apple does not use a shortening service (such as Bitly) for their links. They will send you directly to apple.com or related web pages or product pages. Hover over any links in the email to preview the destination URL before you click — even then, be careful before clicking on any unverified links.

    6. Requests to verify personal information: Apple will never ask you for personal details like your social security number, mother's maiden name, or credit card number. Never. So don't ever respond to an email asking about this information.

    7. Attachments: attachments are vehicles for harmful malware. Apple does not send you unsolicited attachments in emails.

    Example of a phishing scam email that impersonates Apple.This fake Apple ID email shows the classic signs of phishing.

    How to protect against Apple ID Phishing scams

    The best way to protect yourself from falling for an Apple ID phishing scam is to stay educated so you know what to do (and not do) when you encounter one. Plus, sometimes it’s important to fight fire with fire by using a few cybersecurity tricks of your own, like arming yourself with the best antivirus software.

    Educate yourself

    Digital literacy is an important part of preventing an Apple ID phishing scam from catching you. Being able to identify suspicious activities, safely manage your online accounts, and understand how to stop spam email will go a long way in protecting yourself online. Stay updated on Apple's recommendations for recognizing and avoiding phishing scams, and explore the latest cybersecurity trends.

    Run the latest antivirus software

    Antivirus software alerts you to phishing attempts before you can even think of falling for the trap. And by using the latest antivirus software like Avast One, you can be confident that intelligent threat detection will spot and warn you about any malicious links or infected attachments. These warning signs will help ensure that you stay far away from any phishing scam’s malicious lure.

    Don't click links or open attachments

    Clicking on a spammy link or downloading a malicious attachment is an easy way to get a computer virus. The phony link may send you to a fraudulent website where your data can get stolen, or it may automatically download spyware or other malware onto your Mac.

    Only click on links or open attachments from known and trustworthy contacts. Check the sender name or business and view the link preview before taking any action.

    Use strong passwords

    Using strong passwords, varying them, and frequently updating them can help you avoid phishing scams altogether, or mitigate the damage.

    You should also use two-factor authentication for all your sensitive accounts. In the unfortunate event that a hacker does get a hold of one of your passwords, if you’re using two-factor authentication they won't be able to access your other accounts. And if you regularly update your passwords, they may not even get into the targeted account.

    Never use a password that’s easy to guess like a familiar word or phrase, or one that’s too similar to other passwords, past or present. Once you create strong passwords it’s easy to keep track of them all with a good password manager.

    How to report phishing to Apple

    Once you've identified a fake Apple email or suspect that you've been targeted for an Apple phishing scam, report the phishing scam directly to Apple. You can do so by forwarding the suspicious email to reportphishing@apple.com. There are many ways to report an internet scam, so consider other reporting methods beyond just notifying Apple.

    If you fell victim to a phishing email only to realize later on that it was a scam, change your Apple ID password immediately. And if the email was received within your iCloud.com, me.com, or mac.com inbox, forward these emails directly to abuse@icloud.com.

    Be proactive and take protective steps to stop any phishing attempts from fooling you next time. If sent by email, mark the email as junk. This step tells your inbox that any additional emails from that sender should not be sent through, and it damages the hacker’s sender score, which reduces their ability to reach other unsolicited inboxes.

    If you were called as part of a phishing scam, block the number by updating the settings on your phone.

    Prevent phishing with Avast One

    You can avoid phishing scams altogether if you don’t let them reach you in the first place. Avast Security for Mac protects you on multiple fronts, ensuring that your computer stays protected against malicious downloads, spyware, viruses, and any other nasty malware that may flow your way.

    And for all-encompassing security and privacy protection, get Avast One. Avast One not only brings the same unmatched threat-detection capabilities as Avast Security; it also packs a full suite of privacy protections, including a built-in VPN and anti-tracking technology.

    Even the savviest tech-users are vulnerable to phishing schemes, but with strong protection, you’ll easily stay way ahead of any hackers. With Avast, you’ll know immediately if you land on an unsafe website, so that even if you are exposed to a phishing scam, you’ll be able to stop the scam right in its tracks.

    Get Avast One to help protect against phishing and malicious sites

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    Get Avast One to help protect against phishing and malicious sites

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    Carly Burdova