Some 50,000 iTunes accounts – each associated with an active credit card and some guaranteed to work for at least 12 hours before getting deactivated – are currently being auctioned off on TaoBao, the Chinese equivalent of eBay, for as little as 1 yuan (¢15) per account.
It is yet unknown whether the accounts are stolen or set up with illegally acquired information, but it is probably both. According to the China Global Times, a customer service representative of one of the online stores admitted as much: “Of course these accounts are hacked, otherwise how could they be so cheap?” he said.
He also made sure to mention that the accounts were safe to use because their owners are located abroad, and that they recommend using the account as soon as possible – preferably within 24 hours of buying it. To verify their claims, the reporter bought one account for $5 and accessed it without problem. The billing address contained within locates the legitimate owner in the US.
The BBC reports that Apple has declined to comment on the situation, and that TaoBao has not removed any of the listings. “Until we receive a valid takedown request, we cannot take action,” said its spokeswoman.
Following a few incidents including hundreds of hacked and phished iTunes accounts, Apple has advised users to check their purchases, change their account password, remove their credit card details from the account, and be more vigilant. It has also improved security measures by instituting a repeated request for credit card information if the account is accessed from a new, unknown device.