Sale of passwords opens door to iTunes vault

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 January, 2011, 12:00am

The passwords for tens of thousands of Apple iTunes accounts, giving access to gift vouchers, are being sold for a fraction of their face value on the mainland's most popular online auction site.

However, what at first appears an irresistible bargain could well be the result of sophisticated hacking, phishing scams or credit card fraud, mainland media warned yesterday.

A search of yesterday afternoon found more than 52,000 individual advertisements containing 'iTunes' and the Chinese word for 'account'.

Most offered access to iTunes accounts with virtual gift vouchers containing credits worth between US$1 and US$200 for the equivalent figure in yuan - effectively meaning they were being sold at just 15 per cent of their face value.

A number of online stores offer access to accounts to use the vouchers at an even greater discount, including one seller offering US$100 gift vouchers for just 20 yuan - a 95 per cent markdown. With the passwords, the buyers can download digital gifts from Apple iTunes stores.

That account had been trading since early last month and had sold 496 US$100 vouchers by last night. Online customers had given the seller an approval rating of 4.9 out of a possible five points, suggesting that most sales had been successful.

Mainland media reports suggested the sales were the result of hacked iTunes accounts containing customers' credit card details or that the virtual vouchers had been bought using stolen credit card details.

Beijing-based security expert Jin Fei told the Global Times the sales were 'organised crime', with the account details probably having been gathered by using computer viruses.

The e-stores on Taobao advise buyers to use the accounts' credit within 12 hours or in some cases 24 hours.

A Taobao statement said it was 'dedicated to providing an open and trusted marketplace for all our users' and the company was 'looking into' whether it had received any complaints from Apple or related parties about the sales.

'We take all reasonable and necessary measures to protect the rights of consumers who use Taobao, of our sellers and of third-parties, such as intellectual-property rights owners, and our listing rules include a takedown procedure targeted at allegedly infringing products that is substantially similar to those of other e-commerce leaders around the world,' the statement said.

A spokeswoman for Apple in Hong Kong said she had no immediate comment on the situation, but the company would look into it.