Friday, December 3, 2021
Ios/Mac

Apple ID held hostage when Apple Card payment failed


An M1 Mac user says he saw his Apple ID held hostage when a sequence of events meant that the Cupertino company was unable to collect the balance owing from his Apple Card.

He says access to his Apple accounts progressively ceased, beginning with the App Store…

Apple Music followed, then iCloud.

Designer and investor Dustin Curtis initially didn’t have any idea what was going on, as he had missed an email, but he subsequently worked out the sequence of events, as he explained in a lengthy blog post:

  • He bought an M1 MacBook Pro from apple.com.
  • At checkout, he took up the offer of trading in an old MacBook Pro.
  • He paid the balance on his Apple Card.
  • He was told he would receive packaging for the old machine and have two weeks to return it.
  • The packaging never arrived, and he forgot about it.
  • Apple emailed him to chase return of the machine, and he replied that he was still awaiting packaging.
  • Apple didn’t reply, and tried to charge his Apple Card for the balance.
  • This failed because he had forgotten to update his autopay info for his new bank account.
  • His Apple ID stopped working.*
  • Apple emailed him to confirm the account was blocked and told him to speak to the Apple Card helpline at Goldman Sachs “to resolve this issue.”

*The one unclear aspect of his post is whether access to his accounts was suspended everywhere, or just on the Mac he’d bought. Apple’s email wording is somewhat ambiguous:

Action Required: Apple Card

From: Apple payment@apple.com
Reply-to: preceivables@apple.com

We’ve been unable to collect full payment for your new iPhone [sic – Apple meant a Mac]. As a result, we will block the device on the order from further access to the Apple iTunes and Mac App stores, and disable all accounts associated with the device purchased on the order.

To resolve this issue, please call 1-877-255-5923 to speak with an Apple Card Specialist at Goldman Sachs. Once the issue has been resolved, reply to this email so we can charge your card for the difference in value.

To add to the fun, there was a typo in the reply-to address, which was “preceivables” instead of (presumably) “receiveables,” which meant Curtis’s reply bounced.

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He eventually sorted things by speaking with Goldman Sachs, but they could only email the Apple ID team, which takes three to five business days to respond.

He says the events are extremely concerning for several reasons.

  • Apple says it will hold my Apple accounts hostage in order to collect a payment.
  • It says it is related to an iPhone when it was actually regarding a MacBook Pro. And iTunes no longer exists. The lack of attention to detail is not great given the seriousness of the threat that follows.
  • It was sent when Apple Card was only a few days past due.
  • It suggests that charges by Apple on Apple Card are different from other purchases, and this can have serious consequences. (Also: the Apple Card agreement does not mention this technicality.)

Granted there was clearly user error here on the part of Curtis. The issue only occurred because he forgot about the Mac trade-in until it was past the 14-day period to send it to Apple, and because he also had no valid autopay method associated with his Apple Card. The combination of the two things meant he was effectively in possession of a Mac for which he hadn’t provided full payment.

If the Apple ID was only disabled on the Mac concerned, this seems fair enough – it could easily appear to Apple to be a case of attempted fraud, and Apple was rendering the machine less usable. But if his ID was disabled for all devices, that seems to raise bigger questions. An iCloud account could easily contain time-sensitive business information, and inability to access that could have considerable consequences.

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We have reached out to Apple for comment.

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