Apple trade-in raises identity theft concerns

After buying a new iPhone, I started the process of trading in my old iPhone via the Apple’s trade-in process, but I changed my mind due to the requirement to hand over personal information not to Apple, but to the company Apple has engaged to handle trade-ins.

Apple has engaged a third party company Brightstar to do the trade-in business. The trade-in is between Brightstar and you. Brightstar decides the value of your trade-in and does trade-in deal. Apple just seems to do the online application processing.

The reason I decided against trading in my old iPhone is that Brightstar wants my personal details before any deal. It wants two IDs with one being my driver’s licence. The reasons are to prove that I am over 18 years and that I am the owner of the phone. Sure, a driver’s licence can prove my age, but not that I am the owner of the iPhone.

This ID requirement raises two red flags. Firstly, identity theft is made easy with a driver’s licence. Secondly, Brightstar’s privacy policy is basically open-ended and it can use your personal information for quite a few things. I am not sure nor could I find out how much of my personal information Apple hands over to Brightstar.

I have had difficulty in discovering whether Brightstar has a registered office in Australia because if it is then the Australian consumer and privacy laws would apply and I would have some protection against the misuse of my personal information.

I made an informal approach to the Australian Office of eSafety. Reading between the lines the informal advice was don’t hand over a driver’s licence. Apparently I was not the first person to raise this matter.

Apple carries on about protecting the privacy of its customers, but seemly not with this arrangement.

The trade-in deal is $A75 subject to appraisal of Brightstar. It didn’t take too long to discover complaints in other parts of the world about Brightstar’s appraisals and Brightstar’s failure to return iPhones if appraisals are not accepted by owners. I was only selling the iPhone to give someone else the opportunity to purchase a cheap, but then I am not sure what Brightstar does with old iPhones.

To me $A75 is not worth exposure to identity theft. What does the TidBits community think of this? Am I being a little too paranoid? Does anyone have a contrary view?


My guess would be it’s a tradeoff with concern about phone theft. Basically, Brightstar needs to know enough about you that if the phone is actually stolen, they can track you down (or share your information with the authorities). I guess it would be comparable to the kind of information requested by a pawn shop.



Apple and can verify your identity and likely verify ownership when accepting the phone for trade in, with no need to pass sensitive data on to Brightstar (a foreign company with nebulous “partners.”). Agree this is too much of a risk for the small convenience offered.


Thanks endorsing my conclusion. I did check with an Apple store manager (who rang someone) and the manager said that Brightstar was an Apple trusted partner, but the manager (and whoever he spoke to) could not grasp my ‘so what’ reply. It was difficult to extract what Apple gives to Brightstar, but in any case I still needed to provide the IDs to Brightstar and I should have a look at Brightstar’s use of personal information policy.

I only hand my driver’s licence to Australian government agencies. I would have been happy to provide Brightstar with the bill of sale from Apple to confirm my ownership. Brightstar’s policy on its use of private personal information went way beyond a one-off use to prove ownership.

I’m in the process of trading in an iPhone to Apple and Brightstar isn’t asking for any of this info from me (I’m in the US). I did an iPad trade in last spring and it was the same, but I waited to reply until I received the kit for this phone. I just need to erase the phone, pull the sim, and return it in the box they sent.

But, yes, if I were you, I’d chose another method to resell the phone.

Thanks Doug. Maybe there are different rules in the US. I am just going not going to bother with the trade-in and just hand it to Apple.

FWIW, Verizon didn’t ask anything special when I traded in my old phone. They already had the phone’s information on file (since I was using it prior to the trade-in), and they had my personal information on file (since it’s my service contract). I just requested a trade in, they sent me a mailer with the new phone, and I mailed the old one back to them (after wiping it, removing the SIM card, etc.)

I, too, am in the US, and have traded in an old(er) device to Apple multiple times. Never once did I have to divulge any personal info to Bright Star or anyone else. First I receive the new device, then I receive the trade-in packet for the old device. I wipe the old device, take out its SIM card (if there’s one), put the device in the packet and return it to Bright Star. (In fact I’ve done it so many times that I don’t even look at the addressee any more!) Yet a few days later I receive the credit for the new device and voilà !