Beware of Elaborate iPhone iCloud Unlocking Scam
Hi, I own a cell phone repair store in Ontario, Canada. We were looking to outsource some of our unlocking services and icloud removal services when we came across the site iphoneimei.net (found on Google). Their prices were incredible as they were charging $40 USD (retail price) when comparatively wholesalers for the same service where charging over $200. Obviously this was a red flag for me however after finding some favorable reviews I thought that it is well worth the risk.
After getting duped by them, I was really frustrated. How can they even get away with this considering they must have literally hundreds of thousand of victims [estimated from their Google traffic from Semrush & AHREFS and the sheer amount of reviews they have]?
This motivated me to start doing some more digging. After some careful investigating on my part I was able to find at least 8 websites all running an identical scam. Looking a little closer it became obvious that these sites where all owned by the same guys [or girls] that own iphoneimei.net.
They have a very similar footprint. They were either redirecting [301 redirects] some pages to their latest scam sites or they just shared a suspiciously similar backlink profile, not to mention their html code had a lot of suspicious similarities.
To make things worse, iphoneimei.net doesn’t exist anymore they have now rebranded (yet again) to doctorunlock.net. And what do you know, all there high profile backlinks from their link farms have also changed to reflect the change. Here’s their new site:
Looks awfully familiar to iphoneimei doesn’t it (almost identical actually, except for the domain name and logo change)?
I am not saying this because they are my competitors, I respect many of my competitors like canadaunlocking.com or cellunlocker.net because they are actually running genuine unlocking businesses and provide the service as advertised. Obviously those guys charge a lot more to bypass icloud accounts and do iphone unlocking but you get what you pay for.
Unfortunately I learnt the hard way that iphoneimei.net does not actually run a genuine business or even offer any real service at all. Their business model is clearly based on misleading consumers.
They pretend to sell a service and later blame the customer for trying to unlock or remove the icloud account on a stolen phone (even if the phone is not actually reported stolen they will claim that it is). If you try to object they will site some legalities and their own terms of service. They always will refuse to offer a refund. They do however offer an in-store credit which is basically useless since they don’t have any genuine services except for a $3 carrier check service.
You can see that it is not only me that came to this easy conclusion. From the following links you can see that many of their customers have not only expressed really negative reviews about their service but have flat out called them scammers:
Bad REVIEWS found among the rubble of positive ones:
Even Some Youtubers have began exposing them:
They have been keeping this scam alive for years now. They have a lot of websites, sometimes they rebrand some of those sites and are often changing payment processors and even manipulating reviews.
From my digging it is clear to me that the review site https://trustreview.net/ is actually owned by them. They do a good job of cleaning up the bad reviews, however you can see that they missed these bad reviews on their own site: (not sure if the bad reviews will still be there by the time you click the link)
iCloud reviews – Customer reviews about icloud
How Google is indirectly Enabling iCloud scammers!
They are in fact experts at manipulating search engines [specifically Google] to make their site appear first on Google organic searches for several high volume keywords such as the terms: iphone unlock and icloud unlock. This is a great skill to have, I can only fear how many other niche’s they are running different scams in. This is really bad news for Google’s ranking algorithms if you ask me.
In the last 30 days their brand new website (the rebrand from iphoneimei.net) just went from ZERO traffic from Google Organic searches to a whopping 61 600 visitors according to AHREFS.
Here is the high volume of free traffic that Google is sending them:
Meanwhile their old site (which is no longer online) is steadily dropping from Google organic search visibility.
I have seen that they switch to different payment processors often [ I assume it is because they have been banned for having a high rate of chargebacks]. They go from PayPal, to Dalpay, to nochex.com and also I have seen them using some offshore processors as well. As of today, I see they use paypal for their $3 legit service and Nochex.com for their scam iCloud removal and iPhone unlocking services. Although they often change this up on a regular basis. [ Nochex Ltd (and its trading name Nochex) is a Registered Electronic Money Issuer with the Financial Conduct Authority (Number 900045). Nochex Ltd is a registered company in England and Wales (Company Number 3940921). Registered Office Regent House, Bath Avenue, Wolverhampton, WV1 4EG. ]
They have fake accounts to leave positive reviews about themselves to hide the negative ones. Some time ago on trustpilot there was a warning on the top of their company review page that this business may be manipulating reviews. This warning is no longer there, i’d hate to assume that trustpilot got paid out, but that may have been the case.
Once there is too many negative reviews they create a new website with a clean slate to continue the scam.
Their new website quickly gets good visibility on google searches because they redirect links from their old scam sites to their new site and they have an established network of private blog networks with high authority domains that they use to link to their sites. One of the best ones they have are whytheluckystiff.net This was an expired domain of a somewhat famous ‘Ruby on Rails’ programmer who went dark years ago. They picked up this dropped domain and now use the domain authority that Google had awarded it from it’s previous owner to pump link juice to their new scam sites.
Somebody better let Google know that they have become enablers to this scam. Take a look at the top links going to their new site ( 13k new links in less than 30 days, seems natural to me [sarcasm]).
Rinse and repeat, this has been going on for years and I think it’s time Google does something about it.
About the iCloud Scam
Basically they promise to remove the iCloud account on your iPhone or iPad so that you activate the device . Once you have paid and some time has passed they send you an email stating that they can’t do it because the device is reported as lost or stolen (even when it is actually not). Then they refer to their terms of service that they are not allowed to refund you unless you can provide proof of the original receipt that you purchased the phone from [Apple receipt or official receipt from your carrier].
They apologize an offer an in-store credit, although the credit is almost useless because they don’t actually provide any service of actual value.
Their Scam Pitch:
Copy and pasted from an email:
We attempted to remove your iCloud locked device from the previous owner’s account but were unable to do so as the iCloud Account associated with the iDevice (xxxxxx) is unfortunately marked by Apple as Lost/Stolen. This does NOT necessarily mean that the iPhone has been reported lost to the carrier — this is something totally different. It means the device/iCloud account has been reported using FindMyiPhone.
As stated on the website before purchase it is not possible to remove the Activation Lock on iDevices which are in Apple’s iCloud lost/stolen database using our Clean service. There will be a premium service coming soon which can unlock this device, we don’t have an exact timescale just yet, so you will be informed as soon as it is available via email.
In the meantime, you may bypass the iCloud lock using these instructions — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UBJ13cRcgs
In the meantime, you have been given a voucher for the full value of your purchase, under the email address xxx which you can use on a different device or against a different unlock for a different unit, or you can save the voucher to use when the Premium Service is shortly launched.
As we have already prepared your unlock and incurred the unlocking charge, we cannot issue a card refund for handsets which are rejected for being on the blacklist (as per our terms and conditions — https://iphoneimei.net/refund-policy)
However, if you have proof the device is not lost/stolen e.g. the original invoice from Apple or your carrier, either electronic or physical, and do not wish to to wait for our Premium Service to unlock this IMEI and have no other IMEI to unlock, please reply to this email with the proof so we can obtain a refund from our supplier and issue a card refund as opposed to the voucher.
There are numerous services such as https://cleancheck.me (FREE) which can be used to identify Lost/Stolen handsets. As a goodwill gesture, you have been given a £34.99 Voucher for this unsuccessful iCloud Removal.
In order to use your voucher, simply add items to your cart as normal and click ‘Use Voucher’ and when checking out, enter your email address and click ‘Use Voucher’ and the voucher will automatically be applied to your purchase.
This voucher will not expire.
Kind regards, Stephanie Operations Manager
Rebrand / Rinse and Repeat
Updated List of Scam websites in 2020:
Here are other websites apparently owned and operated by the same icloud scammers as iphoneimei.net :
They have also purchased many old domains that they use as private blog networks to promote their scams.
Here are a few I found:
Unfortunately their scam is well designed and hard to detect.
What to do if you got scammed?
You can of course pay with a credit card and claim a chargeback or open a dispute with Paypal. It should be noted that previously Paypal’s terms of service stated that they don’t cover intangible items or digital goods but recently they have changed their stance, so there is a chance paypal will be able to recuperate your money.
More importantly we should try to warn others so this business can be taken down once and for all.
I think it’s about time to hold them and Google accountable, If we can find a lawyer to get involved I am sure we can put together a compelling case to track down the name of the individuals behind this scam.
If we do manage to put together a class-action law suit in the USA or the UK, we’d like your support.
Please get on our list and we will notify you when the time comes to put talk into action.
If you have been scammed by any of the websites mentioned in this post, then please sign up to this list and help us get justice:
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See also this article written by someone else: medium.com