Ontario man scammed into buying $1,600 fake iPhone notices one thing that told him it wasn't real
TORONTO -- An Ontario IT worker says he has been scammed out of $1,600 after buying a counterfeit iPhone that was practically impossible to tell is fake.
Hassan Awan, of Markham, Ont., said he wanted to upgrade his older model iPhone 6 for a new iPhone 12 Pro Max.
The 39-year-old, who has a degree in computer science and works in IT for Shopify, said he decided to buy the phone on Facebook Marketplace after being told by his cellphone company the wait for the model would be a few weeks.
Hassan said he came across an ad for the phone he wanted and negotiated to buy it for $1,600. He agreed to meet the person at a location in Richmond Hill on Dec. 3.
"I saw the phone. I opened the box and took off the packing myself. It was very nicely packed, it looked like I was the first one opening the phone," Hassan told CTV News Toronto on Thursday. "It was brand new."
He said he tried to turn the phone on but the battery was dead, so instead he looked up the serial number to verify it was real.
"I entered the code online on Apple's coverage site and it came up as an iPhone Pro Max, which has support for the whole year. That was the main thing I was looking for."
Hassan said at that point he was satisfied the phone was real, e-transferred $1,600 and went home.
"I was very excited," he said. "It turned on and the start up process was very similar from start to end from when you get a new iPhone. Everything was fine."
But after playing with the phone for a few hours, he said he noticed one small thing that made him know it was fake.
"I saw an icon for the Google Play Store," Hassan said. "Google Play Store is only available for Android phones. iPhone does not support Google Play Store."
That's when he said he realized he didn’t get what he paid for.
"This is an Android phone, it's not made by Apple," he said, adding that upon closer inspection he noticed that the camera quality wasn't good and the phone's speed was far slower than it should be.
He said the phone he purchased is an exact replica of an iPhone that is being run on Android software. While it works, he said he's too worried to use it in case his data is being tracked.
Hassan said he has since filed a report with York Regional Police, which has been viewed by CTV News Toronto.
York Regional Police did not respond to CTV News Toronto’s request for information about the case.
"I could not sleep," he said. "I was so disappointed. I consider myself very tech-savvy about technology, my degree is in computer science, so I was surprised at how I've been scammed.'
"It's nearly impossible to tell that it is not an Apple phone."
Tech expert Marc Saltzman told CTV News Toronto on Thursday that while not common, he has seen scams like this before.
"These counterfeit smartphones can look eerily identical to the legitimate devices," Saltzman said. "It's more when it comes to performance when you’ll know it’s not quite right."
"It is a working device but it's not real."
While Saltzman said he's never heard of a serial number on a fake iPhone actually verifying with Apple, he warned that scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
Saltzman said he recommends people buy phones from verified sellers, but does acknowledge that Hassan did everything to check for red flags.
"Sometimes it pays to stick with reputable places like Apple," he said. "It's very hard to tell, even as a tech reviewer like me that something is a bit off until you spend some time with it."