Apple iTunes account hacks reported; protect yours

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Early Sunday, suspicious activity in the Apple App Store prompted customer complaints and technology sleuths to discover an inexplicable rise in sales of Vietnamese-language books, seemingly pirated, in both the App and Apple iTunes stores. The hackers, burned customers reported, were hijacking their accounts and purchasing a large number of these apps, resulting in charges between $40 and $600 to their accounts. Those whose accounts were linked to prepaid Apple gift cards got off the easiest; many with accounts linked to debit or credit cards were left without immediate recourse.

As the Apple customer support phone lines were closed for the holiday weekend, customers who reported fraudulent activity were left sending emails to the company in frustration. Technology sites reporting the hack reports began recommending customers take protective action, including checking iTunes previous purchases for unauthorized activity; changing iTunes account passwords; and finally, disabling bank account information from your account. For iTunes accounts, until Apple follows up with some public comment to address this issue, the safest approach seems to be using only prepaid iTunes gift cards, which will limit exposure.

Some customers who reported hacks before the holiday weekend said they were told by Apple customer support that they must take fraudulent purchases up with their bank; in many cases, when purchases are approved via debit card, customers will first suffer the repercussions of the money clearing the account, and possibly overdraft fees or bounced checks, before the charges are reversed. In addition, because the app developers all appear to be in Asian countries, it is unlikely U.S. or British law enforcement will have the ability to prosecute the suspected fraudsters. For now, the very safest route seems to be to choose "none" as payment method under your iTunes account.
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