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Smartphone turns dumb after iTunes account hacked



Updated: December 13, 2012 10:25AM

Dear Fixer: I cannot download any apps on my iPhone. It says my account is disabled.

After I sent a request to the Apple support email address, I received a response from an iTunes adviser who said it appeared that my account had been disabled due to “chargeback orders” they had received from my credit card issuer.

That did not make sense, as I have not charged anything on iTunes for several years.

The rep said they were unable to activate accounts with this sort of issue, but she added that they were working on it and would send me an email. In a follow-up email, the rep said she understood my frustration and added, “I want you to know that you are not alone in this situation.”

They wouldn’t say how they would fix it or when.

Meanwhile, my smartphone is dumb.

James Conlan, Chicago

Dear James: No doubt something funky was going on with your iTunes account. You told us that when you looked at your account, there was an unfamiliar credit card listed and purchases made with that card in April seemed to be in Chinese.

Working on the assumption that you hadn’t been learning Chinese and buying iTunes products in your sleep, we assumed your account had been hacked.

Around the same time this was happening to you, and other tech news outlets reported that other customers’ accounts had been hacked or placed on lock-down because of security issues.

So the iTunes adviser wasn’t kidding when she said you were not alone.

We sent your info to Apple and you also let them know you had contacted the Chicago Sun-Times.

We never got a response, but soon after, they contacted you directly. You said they kept you on hold for about an hour and a half, then came back on and said your account was fixed — without giving any explanation.

You told us you’re just glad your smartphone isn’t dumb anymore.

A consumer’s tale of woe

Many brides and grooms are in such a whirl on their wedding day, their wedding photos are the only way they’ll remember what happened.

Well, in today’s Costly Lesson, we have a couple who wish they could forget their photographer and start over. Lisa hired a photographer who seemed great. He aced the interview and was willing to work with her budget. His sample photos were gorgeous.

It’s too bad he turned out to be a flake.

But we’re getting ahead. Lisa sent him a deposit check and he took some engagement photos. Her first red flag was when he wasn’t responsive when she called and emailed to order some prints.

“On the day of the wedding, he arrived on time, brought his girlfriend and a second photographer, and appeared to be doing an excellent job before the ceremony,” Lisa wrote to The Fixer.

He also forgot to bring the business cards he had promised so guests could link to the photos. That was the second red flag. “He told me that he was having financial issues and couldn’t get them in time,” Lisa wrote.

Oddly, though, he still hadn’t cashed her deposit check. Third red flag?

The photos were supposed to be ready in a week, but the flaky photo­grapher became harder to reach. After four months, he posted what he said were all the wedding pictures. Lisa says a significant portion was missing.

When Lisa inquired, the photographer had a bunch of excuses ranging from an ex-wife to a broken computer to a glitchy cellphone to the stress of moving to a new location. And then he disappeared. No returned phone calls, no answered emails.

Sadly, Lisa isn’t the only bride who found out that not every talented photographer is also a good businessperson.

Couples can try to protect themselves by checking reference and reviews. They also should insist on a written contract that spells out who will do the shooting; how many photos will be included; the deadline for proofs and prints, the payment schedule, and the policy on cancellations and refunds.

Getting the runaround on a consumer problem? Tell it to The Fixer at, where you’ll find a simple form to fill out. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

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