iPhone scams aren’t particularly new. Given the attraction quotient and the aspirational factor attached to owning a new generation Apple iPhone, many scammers have often attempted to dupe users by using iPhones as bait, in various ways. The latest in this queue has been alleged to involve self-titled businessman Hitesh Patel, aka Neel Patel, who has been revealed to have offered users unbelievable discounts on new generation iPhones such as the Apple iPhone 12 Pro – all in the name of “an amazing service to the people”.
iPhone scam: The key allegations
The allegations have been drawn on Patel by two whistleblowers on Twitter, Nishant Singh and Ashutosh Rana, who in a YouTube video and a Twitter thread, have seemingly exposed numerous cases of fraud and scams that are linked to Patel and his various businesses. Of these, two of the latest include platforms called Squeaks Media and NaaradPay. While Squeaks Media was alleged to be a social media platform designed as a voice for right-wing individuals and conservatives, NaaradPay was underlined as an ‘aatmanirbhar’, nationalist alternative to the myriad digital payments apps already available to users. Both the platforms are reportedly owned by Patel.
iPhone scam. We know value of this, more than 40 Crore ₹. Not just money, also stole people’s personal photos, SMSes and more. Delivered less than xxx phones. Himself said over 8000 orders placed. pic.twitter.com/ppMKPYJBnv— Nishant (@nishant_india) February 15, 2021
According to the expose, Patel started promoting the sale of unbelievably priced deals on Apple iPhones. These deals included the iPhone 11 Pro Max at Rs 57,449 (market price Rs 96,900), the iPhone 12 Pro at Rs 67,449 (market price Rs 1,19,900) and the iPhone 11 at an incredible Rs 26,949 (market price Rs 54,900). While the exact details of how many fell for this scam could not be verified by News18, screenshots of a Twitter Direct Messages conversation thread hints at around 8,000 orders received by Patel basis his deals. The approximate value of orders that Patel seemingly received amounts to around Rs 40 crore, the allegations said.
Notes of suspicion
While Patel has naturally denied all allegations, the deal and his defence all seem a bit questionable. To begin with, Apple is highly particular about any discounted pricing on its iPhones, and even festive season discount deals on iPhones (or any product, for that matter) have a certain limit to the prices being slashed. In this case, each deal being offered comes at a discount of almost 50 percent, which certainly raises suspicion.
“India has a set of anti-competitive regulations that cap market practices where a company cannot choose to sell commodities traded in the open retail market at under a certain price”
The key suspicion comes from NaaradPay’s defence of their deals. In a statement of sorts, NaaradPay says, “Instead of spending alot on marketing, it was decided to spend it on the people hence the low pricing. As this company just started, we believe it’s important to forget about profits for the first 1,000 days and genuinely provide an amazing service to the people. (sic)”
This hardly makes any sense, if at all. For one, no company meaning to do business compliant with laws would simply decide to “forget about profits”, even in their starting days. More importantly, India has a set of anti-competitive regulations that cap market practices where a company cannot choose to sell commodities traded in the open retail market at under a certain price, thereby maintaining a fair playing ground for retailers of all scales and preventing a biased market position. Even the biggest e-commerce companies of India, Amazon and Flipkart, have faced the postulates of these regulations, and have had to limit the extent of discounted deals offered during their biggest sales.
More misleading claims
On top of this, screenshots of Patel’s conversation with disgruntled customers appear to reveal more misleading claims. In one message, Patel says, “Check with any Apple store in India directly ask just 100 phones they will tell you they will need 3 to 4 weeks even Apple says this. (sic)” This, like other claims made by Patel through his businesses, sounds wildly misleading, too.
For one, Apple has never explicitly mentioned in any forum about such wait periods. It is also important to note that for a company of Apple’s scale, which ships and sells hundreds of millions of iPhones around the year globally, a matter of 100 iPhones is akin to a droplet of water in the ocean, and such amounts of inventory is always available with an Apple retailer, even in India. This, then, is certainly not factual, and therefore shows untrustworthy behaviour from Patel.
Given Patel’s estimate of 100 iPhone deliveries requiring about four weeks to be processed, his claim of having received 8,000 such orders seem to suggest that he may take over 300 weeks, or almost six years, to deliver on his claim. Here again, an inventory of 8,000 stock units for any retailer is a fairly small matter, and is available at any point of time. This further reinstates that Patel’s claim is akin to him telling customers who have already paid money that they may never see the face of their products, ever.
How you can stay safe
As a consumer, always know that any deal that seems unbelievable, is most likely just that – not believable at all. No businesses in their right minds would sell a commodity that is not profitable in some way or another. Furthermore, iPhones aren’t particularly items that make for charitable donations, especially when they are being sold – even if for half the price. Furthermore, getting one for half the price would at least mean that the devices in question are either refurbished with flaws, or counterfeit. Never fall for such promises made on the internet, without a concrete deadline to when may the products be delivered.
Finally, it is generally a good practice to purchase such high value products only from established retail chains – such as Apple’s own Apple India online store, or e-commerce majors such as Amazon or Flipkart. There is also a sizeable chain of offline outlets where you can often get good credit card deals or promotional offers, which make for the best available legitimate discounts on devices such as the iPhone. Explore your options within these verified choices, but be sure to not venture into spending your money on such “deals” – even if they sound tantalisingly true.