No, you’re not getting an iPhone 12, not now, and certainly not for free. As of this writing, there is no iPhone 12—it only exists in the realm of rumor and fantasy until Apple actually announces the thing—but that hasn’t stopped scammers from using it as a lure to draw in unsuspecting victims.
Some people are being suckered by text messages that suggest they’ve been “selected” for a special opportunity to receive a free iPhone 12 (a phone that, again, isn’t available for purchase). You probably know better than to buy into such a scam, but you’re a seasoned Lifehacker reader. Unfortunately, not everyone is so astute.
Certainly you might one day be able to get a “free” iPhone 12. The process will involve a mobile carrier asking you to jump through an additional hoops that earn them money, like adding extra lines of service to your existing plan, trading in an old phone or switching providers outright. You’ll then get a “free” phone, sure, but you’ll be paying for it with whatever arrangement you made. You always pay for it, somehow.
The scam text messages are written as if they were meant for someone else but were accidentally sent to you. They require you to click on a link to enter into a special “Apple 2020 Testing Program.” Because, you know, Apple needs everyday people to test prerelease hardware. That totally happens all the time.
As Sophos describes:
“…if you do click through the questions then you end up on a scam site (there were several variations, all similar – we tried the smish repeatedly) where you find there’s a courier delivery charge for the ‘free’ phone, typically between £1 and £2.
Then you end up on a credit card payment form that’s hosted on what looks like a ‘special offers’ website with a a believable enough name, and with an HTTPS security padlock if you take the time to look.
Of course, if you try to pay your modest delivery charge, you are simply handing over your personal data to the crooks, including your full card number and security code.”
Basic, right? But, again, you’re smart. People who aren’t quite so good about technology or phishing, or are simply bewitched by the idea of shiny new Apple hardware, are more likely to tap on that link out of curiosity. The astute among them will recognize the scam for what it is, but clearly there are enough people out there willing to blindly give up their credit cards that the phishing attempt is worthwhile.
Let’s review the basics of how to spot a scam (again)
There are plenty of useful tips to unpack from this “free iPhone 12″ offer and share with your less cautious friends and relatives. First, it’s rare that anyone legitimate is going to offer you something for free that will probably cost $700 or more. Second, no big player in tech is going to just give out hardware that hasn’t been released yet. That kind of defeats the whole point of, you know, a product announcement.
Then there’s the obvious issue of a message like this coming to you as a text, of all things, with no information indicating the sender knows who you are, nor any suggestion of what you’ve done to receive such an incredible windfall. New iPhones don’t just drop out of the sky, after all.
Third, the “offer” doesn’t do more than the bare minimum to appear genuine. The hyperlink in the scammy text—which you can see in Sophos’ post—doesn’t even point to a real Apple website. It’s a link to “http://apple.co.uk/2020promo,” which goes nowhere if you simply copy and paste that into a browser’s address bar (instead of tapping on the link). Tapping on said link pulls up a phony site, a fact that should be obvious to almost anyone.
Finally, there are the raw mechanics of the offer. Apple is “rich AF,” as the kids say. It wastes more money in a day than most people will ever see in a lifetime. It doesn’t need you to pay shipping for anything if it’s giving you that item for free. Say what you will about the cost of everything else Apple does, but the company can certainly afford FedEx if it’s going to ship you an iPhone 12—which it isn’t, because come on already.