Is Apple Unwittingly Exchanging Stolen iPhones?

If you’ve ever taken a broken iPhone back to an Apple Store for repair or replacement, then you’ll be well aware at just how easy the company makes it. You take your iPhone in, Apple checks its warranty by referencing its serial number and you walk out with a replacement.

But that “customer comes first” approach may also be making it easier for thieves to chop in stolen iPhones and then receive a replacement free of charge. While that may seem pointless initially, when you remember that stolen handsets can be blocked from carriers based on their IMEI number, then the whole thing makes a lot of sense.

The revelation that Apple may be unwittingly exchanging stolen goods comes via security firm McAfee, which blames Apple’s “honor system” for giving thieves an easy way to get rid of hot goods…

The ease of trading in stolen iPhones and selling their replacements makes them nearly as tempting as grabbing cash. In cities from coast-to-coast, reports of iPhone thefts are common. While some thieves sell the phones through the traditional channels of fencing stolen goods, examples abound of stolen iPhones being brought back to Apple, as if broken, for either replacement or a discount on a new unit. ”Apple seems to have not considered stolen devices and instead is relying on the honor system,” says Robert Siciliano, a consultant for Intel Corp’s technology security unit McAfee and an identity theft expert. “The honor system is devised with the mindset that we are all sheep and there are no wolves.” Siciliano says he has known of this problem for a while, but doesn’t see any immediate solution.”

The aim of the game is a simple one: take in an iPhone before it gets blocked from working on a carrier, and then receive a new one which never will be. Simple.

While McAffee’s Robert Siciliano is crying out for Apple to fix this potential issue, we can’t help but think that the only outcome here is that we, honest customers, get affected. How long before Apple starts requiring receipts for such warranty replacements? While not exactly a great hardship, such a requirement would take some of the shine off Apple’s biggest selling point – its excellent customer service.