The Mystery of Dustin Curtis’s Locked Apple ID

Originally published at: The Mystery of Dustin Curtis’s Locked Apple ID - TidBITS

A perfect storm of errors led to Dustin Curtis being locked out of many Apple services, with no easy way to get help from Apple. We try to tease out how this happened.


In other discussions of this case, I thought that part of the issue was that Dustin had received the return box and instructions and had misplaced them. Your explanation does make a lot of sense.

My experience in dealing with returning items for credit (usually a trade in or part of an upgrade programs) is that Apple sends you an email when the package for returning the old item is shipped. When that happens (actually for any shipping notice), I track via the information given. With most Apple products, I end up tracking both via Apple and the shipping company. Tools such as the Parcel app or the Deliveries app make this easy.

I actually had the reverse happen to me this summer on an order from Costco.I stopped seeing tracking updates for about 2 weeks. I called their customer service and had the item reshipped. A day later, the original arrived followed by the replacement a week later.

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Very disturbing. Thanks for this writeup.

I would supplement Tsai’s challenge that it does, indeed, involve Apple Card by the simple fact that what ultimately fixed his Apple ID was the call to Goldman Sachs.

And I agree that getting locked isn’t the biggest issue; the painful and slow unlock is scary.

Makes me also think about whether that feature (that I don’t use) to unlock your Mac using Apple ID could have also landed him unable to even unlock his Mac. Or his iPhone?

Very scary.

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If this had been a debit card purchase the exact same thing would have happened, so not related to the Apple Card.

And there were calls to various Apple support departments AND to Goldman Sachs, so no one but Apple can say what ultimately fixed it.

Also, look at this from Apple’s perspective and this looks like the sort of fraud that they are certainly dealing with every single day, so from their point of view, locking the account is perfectly reasonable to try to lock down before more fraud is perpetrated.

The lesson here is “pay attention to your trade in window and contact Apple (or whomever) BEFORE that window expires and if your bank account number changes, you have to be hyper vigilant about all sorts of things. A friend of mine had to change all of his accounts about a year ago and is STILL dealing with fallout from that,

Having just gone through my own issue with bizarre behavior by Apple’s payment processing systems for an on-line order (a combination of paying by both credit card and gift cards, a corporate discount on some items, and a trade-in of old hardware), I found that their payment processing is opaque to the first line support we customers can talk to. When something goes wrong with a payment, they cannot see what’s really going on and need to refer it to the next level. For as good a technology company Apple is, their payment processing system is appallingly bad. There is no way I would even consider getting or using an Apple Card.

Th inability of front line support to see financial information, including transactions, is (of course) intentional and a way in which Apple protects their customers data. Yes, it is less convenient than others but also afar more secure.

Security is always a balance against convenience. Personally, I will trade inconvenience for security.

Even the second tier support cannot see financial info. They can, for example, int four digits from a customer and be told if they match the last four digits of the card. They cannot see the digits, and they can only try three or four different cards before they are locked out.

Not like when I call my credit card company and the person on the line can see every purchase I’ve made in the last year before they even start talking to me.

There’s security and then there’s paranoia. I’ll start a new topic to go into all the bizarre stuff that happened with my order (don’t want to clutter this one up) but when the Apple rep tells you their system says you were refunded $X and all you see is $Y (Y < X), there’s something wrong with the system.

Adding to my reply above, restricting what the first level reps can see may be a good idea but why restrict what the customer can directly see when securely logged into their own account? My confidence in Apple’s systems doing things correctly was destroyed by their inability to give me accurate information about what was happening behind the scenes and by the fact there was no rhyme or reason behind how certain parts of it were processed. So the biggest reason I would not consider Apple Card is I need the real-time visibility of what is happening in my financial life and I have no confidence I would have that if I let Apple into it.