Report Warns of ‘FREE iPhone’ Scams – But They’re Not All Bad

While Apple’s shiny new iPhone 8 flagships continue trickling into consumers’ hands, and while the rest of us wait in eager anticipation for the company’s all-new iPhone X, an alarming new report published this morning by social media security firm, ZeroFox, revealed that so-called ‘FREE iPhone’ scams — those promising a gratis iPhone handset in exchange for one or multiple ‘favors’ — are more prevalent now than ever before.

Methodically, ZeroFox conducted a survey of the internet’s largest social media platforms including Google+, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, which revealed there are no fewer than 530 of such pages offering deceptively simple, ‘hassle-free’ promises of an iPhone in exchange for likes, follows, or personal information as part of a more illicit scheme researchers have dubbed “fame farming.”

What Is Fame Farming?

For example, one of such ‘fame farming’ scams discovered by ZeroFox offered to send an iPhone 8 to “one lucky user” (chosen in a drawing among many entrants) who both subscribe and refer 50 friends to a viral, Indian-based news channel. Another, such as this completely bogus “Free iphone 8” group on Facebook, merely refers users to the equally bogus, third-party referral site, Xpango.

According to ZeroFox’ findings, approximately 74 of the total pages discovered contained direct links to known malware, while the majority of pages also required users to enter their personal information such as their name, email, address, and phone number. Unfortunately, while offering this information may seem instrumental in ensuring bogus giveaway moderators  get back to you if you’ve won, you will, even more unfortunately, never actually win — and sadly, your collected information could ultimately be used in the illicit acts of social engineering or identity theft.

How to Spot a ‘FREE iPhone’ Scam

Though most of these pages were fairly easy to point out, ZeroFox researcher Phil Tully noted that those hoping to score a free iPhone should always proceed with caution and never simply “give away” their personal info. “Any time someone is offering an iPhone for free, it’s going to raise a red flag,” Tully said, adding that “The chance that is going to be a legitimate deal is pretty low.”

When reached for comment on the report, Facebook noted that it uses a series of complex, automated systems to help target and shut down fraudulent pages — however the social media-giant is also doubling-down on its efforts to warn users that they should be vigilant of suspicious people, groups, or pages they come across. To that end, the company posted a bulletin earlier this week in which its users are warned to be particularly cautious of anyone asking for money, promising free goods, and/or attempting to move a conversation off of Facebook.

Tully, however, believes more can be done.

“I think [platforms] are pushing a lot of resources into the problem, but you’re limited by the creativity of the scammers” he said, while adding that “Just taking down one of their posts won’t stop them. They’ll adopt really creative methods to find a way around that filter.”

He also added that social media sites like Facebook and Instagram aren’t the onlyplatforms scammers resort to, noting specifically that a simple Google search for the clause “free iphone” is currently averaging about 10 hits per day, according to Google Trends. Of course, while the results generated by such a broad search will likely be headlined by more well-known entities including wireless carriers and retailers who might actually be offering a free iPhone, if you simply scroll down the first page you’re bound to find sites (such as “ProductTestingUSA”) which are complete baloney.

Are There Legitimately Free iPhones?

Of course, these findings encourage us to address the broader question at-hand: Is the promise of a FREE iPhone simply too good to be true? And the answer to that is yes and no.

Bottom Line:

On one hand, though tempting as they may seem, even the majority of legitimate “FREE iPhone” offers (such as through your wireless carrier) come with extra costs or “value-added services” attached.

Free giveaway legitimacy boils down to reputation. Ask yourself these questions.

  • Does the website have a positive history or large fan base?
  • Does the website have more to offer than just the giveaway?
  • Does the website provide a record of previous winners?

If you can answer yes to all of these questions, the giveaway is likely legitimate. If you’ve answered no to any of these questions, we highly recommend that you enter the giveaway with caution, or turn away from it entirely.

There are still a number trustworthy websites out there offering legitimately free iPhones with no strings attached — including right here at iDrop News, your source for the latest in Apple news, how tos, and everything tech. So be sure to enter for your chance to win an iPhone, or any of our other great Apple product giveaways. See our previous winners below.