How Criminals Exploit Your iPhone Passcode and Drain Your Bank Account

Your iPhone passcode may seem like just a minor security measure to unlock your phone, but in the wrong hands it can provide full access to your digital life. A complex scheme has emerged where thieves trick unsuspecting victims into handing over their passcodes and iPhones.

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They then exploit vulnerabilities in Apple’s security to steal money, lock people out of their accounts, and resell wiped phones. Here is an overview of how this iPhone passcode theft ring operates and ways you can protect yourself:

The Setup

Criminals scout for potential victims, often younger intoxicated men leaving bars at night. They approach with a ruse, claiming to have drugs for sale or asking to connect on social media. Once they get the unlocked phone, they contrive a way to obtain the passcode by having the owner enter it again or openly asking for it.

Taking Over the Account

With phone and passcode in hand, thieves move quickly. In seconds they can reset the owner’s Apple ID password, locking them out. They add their own face to Face ID. They turn off Find My iPhone so the phone can’t be tracked or erased.

Draining Funds

The passcode provides access to stored passwords and financial apps. Thieves drain connected bank accounts and tap credit lines. They can shop online using Apple Pay, since their face now authorizes purchases. Cryptocurrency, Venmo, PayPal and savings accounts are also vulnerable. Much of this happens in minutes while victims sleep, unaware funds are being stolen.

Covering Their Tracks

Thieves erase and resell phones once accounts are drained, profiting again from the theft. Victims awaken to drained accounts, big credit card bills, and a lost phone they can’t track. Contacting Apple provides little recourse with the attacker now controlling the account.

Full Lockout

Even if funds are recovered, the bigger issue is being locked out of the Apple account. Photos, notes, contacts and more may be lost forever. Breaking back into the account can be nearly impossible without proof of purchase docs, and even then Apple support may not be able to help quickly.

Consumer Safeguards

There are steps you can take to avoid being a victim:

  • Use a longer and more complex passcode with numbers, letters and symbols.
  • Never verbally reveal your passcode to anyone.
  • Be extra cautious with your phone around bars or when impaired.
  • Update to the latest iOS version when available to enable added passcode protection.
  • Turn off viewing of lock screen notifications for texts and alerts.
  • Don’t store other account passwords in your Notes app.
  • Enable strong unique passwords in banking apps.
  • Avoid Face ID for payments if concerned.

The iPhone passcode has become more than just a quick unlock mechanism; treating it carefully as you would an ATM PIN can prevent disaster. While Apple works to patch vulnerabilities, following these best practices ensures that even if your phone is temporarily lost or stolen, your digital life remains protected.

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