Over 700 Chinese iPhone users have inexplicably had money deducted from their Apple ID-bound payment channels, with the highest being RMB 10,000 ($1,440), according to local media.
Alibaba-owned Alipay, whose users were also affected, said that some Apple IDs were stolen, resulting in financial losses. The company reached out to Apple to find out the reasons for the theft, with Apple responding saying that it is addressing the situation.
Some users received Alipay notifications informing them that purchases had been made in the App Store and Apple Music. The stolen funds were used to purchase lesser-known games and in-app purchases, as well as subscription services. The total amount of money taken varies from a few hundred to RMB 10,000.
Other payment channels that can be bound to an Apple ID include WeChat Pay, debit card, and credit card.
Records show that some users’ Apple IDs were used to log into devices other than their own to make purchases. Nonetheless, some users who have attempted to apply for refunds through Apple have been told that reversing the purchases is not possible, even after one user requested assistance from the Shanghai Consumer Protection Committee.
While incomplete numbers show that over 700 people were affected, it is possible that this total is higher.
Data security has become an increasingly significant issue in China in the past few years. The country has surpassed the US as the biggest creator of digital data in the world. This can be attributed to the rise of the digital economy and more specifically, online-to-offline (O2O) service platforms that collect data from the internet and offline world.
Most recently, police from Wuxi, Jiangsu Province uncovered a sophisticated network of data brokers that show how complex operating structures are being used to evade law enforcement. The group reportedly trades over RMB 1 million in personal data each data, with members moving to Southeast Asia to avoid capture and punishment.