iScheme exposed: Scammers are tricking desperate people into buying iPhones

apple store about to roll out design changes iphone
NBC 9News’ 9Wants to Know has caught wind of a terrible iPhone trafficking scheme that specifically targets the homeless and those desperate for cash. Let’s go through what this scam, dubbed iScheme, is and how you can stay as far away from it as you possibly can.

What is the iScheme?

9News has discovered that some scammers are cruising around homeless shelters and plasma donation clinics. They drive anyone desperate for money to Apple Stores and instruct them to sign several iPhone contracts. Scammers convince these people that the contracts can be cancelled within a few days and that they won’t have to worry about monthly fees.

As soon as the transactions are complete, scammers then pay them a couple hundred dollars for the handsets. The con men, in turn, walk away and sell the devices for full price. Because these contracts can’t, in fact, be cancelled within a few days for free, the victims are responsible for the monthly fees that come with contracts.

19-year-old Denver woman Phoenix is one of the victims of this scam. “I thought it was amazing money. I had rent due the next day and I was looking to pay it,” said Phoenix. She added that, thanks to the scam, she’s now “in the hole about $6,000. They’re targeting anybody that looks like they would be vulnerable.”

Another victim, Jamal, told 9news he’s now over $2,000 in debt due to signing multiple contracts for the handsets. “I just needed cash at the moment,” said Jamal. “I didn’t really understand what was happening.” According to Jamal, scammers picked him up at a plasma donation clinic in Aurora, Colorado.

What is being done about it?

9News uncovered the identity of one of the people behind the scheme, Beverly Hills resident Benji Kermani. Kermani, who owns a company that sells unlocked iPhones in foreign countries, was caught on camera operating the scheme at an Apple Store in Cherry Creek. Jamal filed a police report on the matter, though Denver police will not investigate because the scheme is considered an “unfounded civil” issue.

Apple, AT&T, and Verizon refused to comment on the matter, with Apple saying it doesn’t comment on “matters of security.” Sprint attorney Dan Solomon, however, did respond to the inquiry. According to Solomon, once Sprint started selling the iPhone, it noticed “rampant credit ‘muling’ all over the country.” Credit muling is the act of using someone else’s identity in order to acquire something of value.

Solomon said Sprint is very active in curbing schemes like this. “There are many laws being broken by this activity,” said Solomon. “Sprint has filed about 40 lawsuits all over the country to crack down on this behavior.”

What can you do to protect yourself against this scam?

“Don’t talk to strangers” is one piece of advice that is told to us when we are kids, yet it couldn’t be more applicable. With a combination of common sense and longer thinking time, you should be able to easily sniff out a scam like this. It’s easy to suspend your disbelief when you get an opportunity to receive money for what seems like a meaningless task, but make sure to sniff it out first.

For this particular scam, it’s simple enough to avoid due to one glaring red flag: contracts. Carrier contracts are always associated with monthly fees, and it’s incorrect to assume that you can simply cancel the contract and pay nothing. For example, while you can cancel a Verizon contract in the first 14 days without paying a dime, you have to return the handset. This scam requires victims to turn over the purchased handsets, thus making the return period a moot point.

In addition, with contracts come early termination fees. While you are more than welcome to cancel the contract at any point during its two-year life expectancy, you have to fork over quite a bit of money to do so. Using Verizon as an example, those who wish to cancel their contracts before the two years are up must pay $350 to do so. That’s a lot of money for someone who is struggling as it is to make ends meet.

It’s difficult to think about tomorrow when you’re struggling with making it past today, but it’s not worth giving up your gut reaction and slight suspension of disbelief. Even if you’re living relatively comfortably, be just as aware about scams like this one. If your gut tells you something is off, it’s probably right.

Plus, if you see anyone driving around places like homeless shelters and plasma donation clinics, they’re probably not the most honest of characters to begin with.

[Image courtesy of IVY PHOTOS /]


Adobe Premiere Rush CC is the cloud-based video editing app you've been waiting for

On stage at Adobe MAX 2018, Adobe announced its cloud-centric, social video-editing application, Adobe Premiere Rush CC. We took some time to put it through its paces to see what it offers, how it works, and what's missing.

Is the Pixelbook 2 still happening? Here's everything we know so far

What will the Pixelbook 2 be like? Has the Pixel Slate taken its place? Google hasn't announced it, but thanks to rumors and leaks, we think we have a pretty good idea of what the potential new flagship Chromebook will be like.

Which Verizon plan is best for you? We check out family, individual, and prepaid

Verizon offers lots of plans for individuals, your family, and folks who want prepaid service. Here is everything you need to know about Verizon's plans, from data packages and smartphones to Big Red's prepaid plans.

Can't see in front of you? Here's how to change your windshield wipers

If you can't see out of the front of your car, it's time for a new set of wiper blades. Thankfully, changing your car's windshield wipers is quick and painless if you know what you're doing. Here's what you need to know.

The Kindle Paperwhite is waterproof, so now you can read it in the tub

Amazon released a new version of the Kindle Paperwhite ebook reader, boasting improved software, more storage, and a feature that customers have been asking for: Waterproofing.

Verizon’s buy one, get one offer is the best deal on the new Google Pixel 3

If you need a new smartphone and want the best (without shelling out a grand or more), the new Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are fantastic options. Verizon's BOGO offer is the best way to score a deal, letting you snag a free phone and save…
Social Media

YouTube is back after crashing for users around the world

It's rare to see YouTube suffer serious issues, but the site went down around the world for a period of time on October 16. It's back now, and we can confirm it's loading normally on desktop and mobile.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Flagship fight

When it comes to stunning flagships, Samsung and Huawei are often the first names the come to mind. And the new Huawei Mate 20 Pro is no exception. So how does it compare to the Samsung Galaxy Note 9? We put the two to the test to find out.

Here’s how Google’s Call Screening A.I. works, and how to use it

Google's Pixel 3 and 3 XL smartphones can take excellent photos, but there are a few artificial intelligence features that steal the show. Call Screening uses Google Assistant to answer the phone for spam calls.

Key settings you need to change on your Sony Xperia XZ3

The first thing you need to do when you buy a new phone is dig into the settings and customize it to your liking. We’ve got step-by-step instructions for tweaking key settings on your Sony Xperia XZ3 right here.

Adobe MAX 2018: What it is, why it matters, and what to expect

Each year, Adobe uses its Adobe MAX conference to show off its latest apps, technologies, and tools to help simplify and improve the workflow of creatives the world over. Here's what you should expect from this year's conference.

Huawei thinks its Mate 20 X is better than the Nintendo Switch

Huawei positioned its Mate 20 X, a gaming-centric smartphone, as a Nintendo Switch killer, calling it "the best portable gaming machine." The Mate 20 X has better design specs than the Switch, but it also comes with a steep price.

These are the best LG V40 ThinQ cases to stop unsightly damage

The LG V40 ThinQ is the latest entry in LG's long line of great V series phones, but it's not invincible. The best way to protect it from potential damage is with one of the best LG V40 ThinQ cases.

With Spotify for WearOS, you no longer need your phone to stream music

A Spotify app will soon be available for download on Wear OS smartwatches. Whether you're working out or lounging at home, you'll soon be able to access and control your music straight from your wrist.