Leaks: Need ID And Social To Buy iPhone 3G?

An Apple store insider has leaked to us what they say will be some limitations and barriers on buying the iPhone Apple and AT&T stores will apply to the new iPhone 3g that goes on sale this Friday:

  • Buyers will be ‘pre-qualified’ via a series of questions.
  • Customers with corporate/business plans will have to go to AT&T to purchase their phones, only phone for personal use can be purchased at the store.
  • You will be required to present valid US government ID to purchase the phone
  • You will be required to provide your social security number to a store employee in order to do a credit check.
  • You will be required to pick a plan and pay the activation fee at time of purchase.
  • Phones will be activated in the store.

The last two have already been disclosed to the press but I think the rest is new information. If true, it looks like they’re really trying to cut down on iPhones being unlocked and getting resold overseas. Be sure to bring your driver’s license and memorize your social security number before camping out on Thursday night.

(Photo: hanapbuhay)


Edit Your Comment

  1. The social secutiry number is nothing new if you’re signing up for a new plan. Cell phone companies do run credit checks.

    However, if you’re upgrading and have to give your social (other than the last 4 for verification or something) or if AT&T is running another credit check, then that’s a little weird for me. I don’t need my credit dinged because I want to upgrade my phone. (Even though I’m not getting an iPhone 3G.)

  2. AstroPig7 says:

    Am I the only one here who refuses to provide their SSN to a cell phone store employee?

  3. hypnotik_jello says:

    @AstroPig7: are you a prepaid customer?

  4. Amy Alkon000 says:

    As somebody who’s just had her identity stolen, I’d advise against giving your social security number out to just any old store employee, same as providing your driver’s license. Somebody can take that information and get a fake driver’s license in your name (you can order them off the Internet) and start applying for credit in your name, easy as pie.

  5. Dobernala says:

    Buying an iphone sounds like taking out a mortgage. No thanks.

  6. hubris says:

    All right, I jumped on the initial iPhone bandwagon, and while I’m happy with it, if I had to buy one now, I wouldn’t. This draconian “do it in person, we have to watch you do everything” is just total BS. Guess it’s true: power corrupts. Now that Apple is no longer the outsider rebel, they’re starting to tack to the stormtrooper side of things.

  7. opsomath says:

    @AstroPig7: No, sir. This is why I use net10 prepaid. I am deeply disturbed by the trend of requiring ID verification for every-freaking-thing. Basic ID theft deterrent; the less you give out ID information, the less it can get stolen.

  8. This is getting out of hand. Someone needs to remind these clowns at Apple that they’re selling a toy; not a firearm, or potent medical supplies. They’re selling a $300 phone that can watch Youtube videos.

    This bullshit elitist garbage has to stop.

  9. apotheosis says:

    Well there goes the last vestige of interest I had in jumping on the iPhone bandwagon.

  10. themaskedmarauder says:

    My goodness! Are you applying for a job with the Secret Service? Or just purchasing an over-hyped phone? I am blown away. I’ll stick with my Motorola with service from Sprint. I have been a Sprint customer for years, and it looks like I won’t be going anywhere soon.

  11. Residentdrunkgirl says:

    So what if you are just upgrading? How does that work? I’m on my mom’s plan. I am going to have to know her social?

  12. krispykrink says:

    Providing a Valid ID and SSN is nothing new when signing a new cell phone contract, Ben.

    Aside from that, I never have and never will provide my SSN when acquiring a utility service. Been using my iPhone with GoPhone and have no plans to get the 3G iPhone. But, the main reason why I’m skipping it is because some retail monkey is going to open it and bust it up or break it before you even get to touch it.

  13. AceKicker says:

    @AstroPig7: Absolutely not. I can’t even justify giving them my SSN even if it was secure, but just handing out all your personal info to some register jockey just so you can get a cell phone is one hell of a dangerous road. What’s next? Needing an ID to buy groceries?

  14. Fortain says:

    As silencedotcom stated, the ID/SSN is nothing new if you’re getting a contract, since they have to do a credit check. Sometimes, you can get a contract without providing your SSN, but you’ll definitely be paying a deposit then. If you’re just buying the phone out-right, with no contract (and no discount), you won’t need to give that info.

  15. sondhead says:

    I love how everyone is commenting like all this is a deal breaker. Nothing here is new or crazy and the 3G iPhone is still going to sell tons

  16. @sondhead: I don’t know what comments you’re reading- but I haven’t seen every comment state that.

  17. mikesfree says:

    Unconfirmed? Gizmodo posted the video stating these requirements and they are listed on the AT&T website. http://www.wireless.att.com/cell-phone-service/specials/en/iReady_checklist.pdf

  18. henrygates says:

    The incredible hoops and complexity of buying a cellphone, especially the iphone, keeps me from ever wanting one. The purchase of a cellphone should be pretty simple. Choose plan, buy phone, leave.

  19. scoobydoo says:

    Since AT&T are giving you a credit account (you can easily make phone calls for 1000′ of Dollars) as well as an instant “loan” of $300 to cover the price of the phone, it makes sense that they’ll treat you like any other credit applicant.

    It sucks, but it is also a way to stop people who don’t actually have the means (or credit) to pay their phone bill.

  20. scoobydoo says:

    @scoobydoo: Hoops and complexity? Show ID, give SSN, pay, leave. The credit check only takes 20 seconds. I’d hardly call it complex.

  21. nweaver says:

    Also, its not a $200 phone, its a $500 phone, with AT&T eating some $200/phone of cost in return for hooking you as a 2-year customer.

    The 3G iPhone costs MORE to make than the EDGE Iphone: it adds a gps, better antennas, better telecom chips, longer battery life, etc, for a device which has been out only <1 year.

  22. Anks329 says:

    Yeah, I hope AT&T doesn’t pull your credit if you are upgrading your current contract.

  23. barty says:

    You can run a credit check without someone’s SSN. A little more inconvienent, but it is entirely possible. It just irritates the employees because they can’t use their little instant system to run your credit. Usually they have to fill out a manual form that has to be faxed to someone and…gasp…maybe wait 10 minutes for a decision if it was during regular business hours. If they had any questions, one of the credit reps would give us a call and ask to put the customer on the phone to verify their identity. We actually were NOT allowed to collect SSNs at stores that didn’t have the computers in store that allowed you to run an instant credit check. Since we kept a carbon copy of the application form in-store, they (RadioShack, 10 years ago) didn’t want to be liable for someone stealing a bunch of SSNs.

    Simple fact is, a SSN is not REQUIRED to apply for credit. It just speeds the process.

  24. booticon says:

    @barty: I don’t think anybody has any doubts that it can be run sans SSN, but with how full AT&T/Apples stores will be come Friday, and with estimates of time per customer currently at about a half-hour, I’ll be more than happy to provide them with my SSN to save as much time as possible. Hell, I already went to an AT&T store for a pre-qualifying credit check to see if I have to pay a deposit (which I won’t have to, luckily).

  25. Jmatthew says:

    Maybe someone can provide more details on this, but on Zi’s blog (the guy that makes the ziphone crack) he states something about the iphone reporting up to Apple pretty much everything you do?

    Here’s the comment:
    I’m worried.
    What can seem a nice feature is something
    really dangerous.
    Not allowing background processes
    and forcing everything to pass thru the
    Apple Push Notification Server
    is something Orwell already imagined.
    Think about all your data
    flowing through Apple and you will start
    to get the big picture.
    Add to that mobileme, another big brother
    keeping everything about you.
    Now, this would be nice if it were an optional
    feature. But it’s not.
    It’s the only way.
    With the iPhone, Apple is showing they
    want to keep control of everything.

    So not sure exactly what is getting sent up to Apple, but if you’re a privacy freak then you may not be happy with how much data apple is collecting on you and your phone useage habits.

  26. dragonfire1481 says:

    Here’s a better idea, just stay the hell away from iPhone.

  27. Roxie says:

    I’m glad other folks here spoke up about showing ID and giving your SSN in response to the people here who’ve been so quick to get themselves up in arms over all this. This really is nothing new if you want a cell phone contract, regardless of the phone or carrier that you choose. But, um…it’s nothing “complex” and doesn’t involve “incredible hoops” to jump through? Usually, you just fill out a form that asks for your SSN, among other things, and then you show your ID, and that’s it.

    Still, it’s a shame that Apple/AT&T had to ditch the “buy the iPhone now and activate at home” deal. (And if I remember right, activation at home also involved having to supply an SSN. The difference is that you’re giving your SSN within the relative privacy of your own home.) I guess this “activation at-store only” set-up is what we get in exchange for all those SIM-unlocked iPhones on the planet right now? But I don’t see how getting these iPhones activated in person is much of a deterrent, either. The iPhone becomes like any other phone, then. Buy the phone with a new contract or upgrade discount, SIM unlock it later if you wish (to make it more valuable), then sell it and use a different phone for yourself in the meanwhile. AT&T’s really fighting a losing battle here if it really thinks it’ll put an end to the selling of unlocked iPhones with this “new” way of doing things. It might reduce the amount of iPhones being sold for now, but in time, they’ll be readily available at eBay or Craigslist or other sites.

  28. warf0x0r says:

    Giving an Apple store employee my SSN is a deal breaker for me. I’d be glad to input it myself into a computer or more importantly to take the phone home and activate it myself via a secure website.

    I think I’ll just stick with my phone. Thanks consumerist, you probably saved me a bit of money.

  29. @Jmatthew: I’m more tinfoil than most, but Apple does have an excellent privacy record. I’ve been a customer for a long time. MobileMe is like any web-based service from a major provider like Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft. If you don’t want your data in the cloud, then don’t use those kinds of services. I’ll of course be cognizant of my use of the Apple Push Notification Server, but I have no reason to mistrust Apple (any more than any other privacy-friendly major corporation) or to believe that they have anything but the most secure customer data practices.

    ID & SSN are requirements for the credit check for a new cellular contract, as always with US carriers. This is an AT&T policy, not Apple, and is nothing new.

  30. tande04 says:

    @nweaver: Really its anywhere from a $220 phone to a $100 dollar phone if you really are talking cost. The only thing they’re eating is a cut to the profit margin which, if it really is just the $100 that some anaylists say is still going to make apple money hand over fist.

    I’m in the “OK…” boat on this one. There is nothing there that seems draconian to me. Its not really a issue of Apple being power hungry or controling its just that their first buisness plan didn’t really work and so they’ve had to switch to the more estabilshed one. Since they still want to make the phones availible in apple stores they don’t have much choice but to offer it the same way that AT&T would. None of this is any different than anything I would need to provide to any cell company if I wanted something other then a pre-paid plan.

  31. Angryrider says:

    Pssh… Go ahead waste your money on the new iPhone. Gizmodo was right it is more expensive, both in time and money.
    I’ll just wait until our phones are as advanced as Japanese phones.

  32. Uriel says:

    Wow, from the way they act you would think they actually moved their target units…

  33. suzy-q says:

    It kind of surprises me that they’re aren’t more comments about giving the store your ssn. Any time there is a story about “Walmart made me show my driver’s license with my credit card!!!!1!!” story there are a zillion people practically accusing the store of terrorism. The social secrurity number would be the one I’m more concerned about giving to some random employee.

  34. Edge231 says:

    I am such shocked a for profit business would try to reduce fraud risk and weed out defaulters.

  35. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @Logical Extremes: “…Apple does have an excellent privacy record.”

    Yeah, until the first news story about how a few bad employees took the SSNs, unnoticed in the rush, and went party time on them.

    Lots of businesses have “excellent privacy records” because they simply manage to keep breaches and bobbles off the record. I used to work for a temp agency years ago that caught their employees (the HR people working at the agency, not the temps) stealing SSNs and credit information if the temps’ credit report came back really good.

  36. rbcat says:

    In the process of enabling all existing iPhone users to upgrade to the new iPhone, AT&T reset all of those lines to be “upgrade eligible,” regardless of how long it’s been since that line received a new phone. I’ll be taking my new upgrade eligible-self and getting a Palm Centro. :)

  37. jonathan. says:

    This is ridiculous and anyone who doesn’t see it as so is as well. I can’t believe this is going to happen, and I can’t beleive all the people that are going to gladly speak their social security numbers at a retail store with 10’s and maybe 100’s of people standing right behind them an ear shot away.

    Next headline? SSN theives “camp” at iPhone launch, go to town on your information and money.

    @rbcat: I love my Centro! I recommend the Ultimate Phone launcher, it modernizes the hideous Palm launcher/home screen to an awesomely fluid interface.

  38. highmodulus says:

    As much fun as it is to slag on the new iPhone, what do you think you would have to provide to get a new Blackberry or Instinct?

    If they are subsidizing the phone to that extent, they want to make sure you aren’t going to hit every local AT&T store and then turn them into a giant pile of Meth.

    For me, it’s the service plan gouging which is the biggest issue. The phone itself is spiffy (except for the weak camera thing).

  39. awolcfh5150 says:

    I have a 1st gen iPhone and I love it. I walked in the store, plunked down my $ and walked out. Activated it at home, happy and content. With the new rules I’d rather just get a different model than another iPhone. Does anyone hand out their SSN to buy a computer at Best Buy? No! So why would I give it to some AT&T goober so I can get the latest model phone from Apple? I won’t! Good bye Steve Jobs, it won’t be long until your fanboys are the only ones purchasing your products because of your goofy rules.

  40. AdmiralApathy says:

    Does anyone hand out their SSN to buy a computer at Best Buy?

    If they are applying for a BestBuy credit card to finance that computer they are giving their SSN. If I remember correctly when you sign up for a phone plan you give your SSN.

  41. audiochick says:

    I was expecting to have to show some form of ID to get an iPhone since I have ATT service already. What I was NOT expecting is that because I am an existing customer and not “Upgrade Eligible”, I have to pay $200 more for the 8 GB phone than a new customer. $399? Forget it! I realize that this is nothing new in the world of mobile phone contracts, but what pisses me off is that with the iPhone I would have to renew my contract for an extra 2 years without getting the benefit of upgrade pricing. Currently I can upgrade to a new phone at regular price without renewing my contract, but not for the iPhone. Stupid ATT.

  42. coolkiwilivin says:

    This is so ridiculous. I was at an Apple store recently and saw a bunch of foreign tourists come in. It’s stupid to think that if they wanted to buy an iPhone to take home with them that they would need to go thru all this crap. Just charge them Full Price and be done with it. Seriously, Mac people are putting up with more and more crap. Apple needs some major Hope for Change or Change for Hope or whatever.

  43. @audiochick: I FOUDN THAT OUT TODAY TOO. SERIOUSLY, why isn’t consumerist doing a story on THIS???? I’m really outraged.

  44. Trai_Dep says:

    Are all of you guys meth dealers using pay-as-you-go phones? If you buy a plan, they run a credit check. End of story.

    It seems that the whiners are either not in the market for a rich phone or have never bought a cellie that’s not for sale behind the counter of a 7-11.

  45. raskolnik says:

    A credit check is one thing, that’s not what people are complaining about: it’s having to give your SSN to some random employee with a whole lot of other people standing around (especially on launch day). Seriously, this is how identity theft happens.

    This seems to me to be another, albeit less egregious, example of companies treating all their customers like criminals because some people do things that company doesn’t like. This isn’t going to stop people from cracking the new iPhone; all it’s going to do is dissuade legitimate use.

  46. chasgoose says:

    Yeah I mean I am not some Apple freak who is horrified by those who dare to besmirch Steve Job’s name, but come on. Its not hubris on the part of Apple to make you use your SSN when you sign up for a cell phone contract. I have never seen a situation where you sign up for a cell phone contract w/o an SSN. Yes I guess its possible to do the whole fax thing that takes forever, but given that the Apple Stores are going to be a giant clusterfuck on Friday, they are entirely within their rights to require that you provide an SSN so they can do an instant credit check.

  47. enderx says:


    It’s for a credit check, assumingly. not just so you can like, get the phone – credit checks require ID, no?

  48. t325 says:

    Uh, standard operating procedure to give out SSNs when signing a contract. Move along, nothing to see here.

  49. ageshin says:

    What ever happened to the idea that social security numbers are not to be used as id. I thought that was a part of the law. I don’t like the way social security numbers are being reqired for id. I would never buy a IPhone in the first place. The thing is over rated and silly. I use a pay as you go phone that is as feature free as posable.

  50. farker says:

    Years ago I worked at a Sears Hardware. People signing up for a Sears Mastercard or a regular Sears card got some sort of dollar amount discount on that day’s purchase.

    Anyways, when we did the instant credit check, we always picked up the keyboard from in front of our terminal, put it on the counter facing the customer, and moved so that we could not see what they were typing.

    The characters on the screen were blanked out as well, so the customer’s SSN was not known to the employee.

    If store employees at Apple stores did this (or even more simply, provided a number pad with some sort of visual barrier on the customer’s side of the counter), the whole SSN thing would be less of an issue.

  51. Sven.T.Sexgore says:

    The equivalent info for the Canucks (as far as I’ve been able to determine):

    1. No info for or against

    2. No business specific plans at launch

    3. ID will be necessary as it isn’t available without a contract

    4. If this is the same as the norm: Credit checks for new customers or existing customers wanting to set up whole new lines (assuming they have not had a recent check). Fido does not *require* a SIN though they ask for it first. If not provided additional info above the shown id is required (credit card number, bank details, passport, etc.) As they are under the same ownership I assume Rogers is the same but I’ve never opened a line there.

    5. You are required to have a plan at time of purchase but it does not have to be an iPhone specific plan. It does need a voice option but does not need a data option (though with what they charge you’ll likely want one).

    6. Not mentioned but I assume this will be the case if purchased in store.

    As a note for existing Fido customers you can use any Fido dollars (their reward program) you might have towards the cost of the phone.

    Fido also has much fewer restrictions listed on their website in regards to the phone but they may just be slow in coming. I doubt they will have the price plan downgrade charge that Rogers’ does as they’ve actively advertised their plans as free to change anytime during their contracts for all their past plans.

    No information yet listed as to whether phone/internet orders will be allowed for either company or if any of Fido’s partner stores will be carrying the phone or if it will be only the main Fido stores (likely the latter). I’ve heard of a Futureshop that claimed they were taking preorders for the phone but both Rogers & Fido said they will not be doing them.

    I recommend Fido over Rogers if you live in an area with their coverage though that’s just personal opinion and a healthy disdain for Rogers talking.

  52. ellastar says:

    @barty: Sprint is cracking down on credit checks without SSNs. At RadioShack in the current era, we recently got a memo advising us not to run a credit check without a SSN. If the customer refuses to give their SSN, we are supposed to offer them Pre-Paid options. As far as At&t, I don’t remember, because I haven’t tried to run a credit check without a SSN. I believe that it spits out an incredibly high deposit due to a lack of credit history. Also, on the manual contracts, the carbon copy that the store keeps has the personal information area blacked out.

    @Roxie: You can get the 3G iPhone without a contract, you just pay a lot more money for it. $200+ subsidy requiring a contract is nothing new. I’m glad they at least offered the option to buy it without. I believe I read somewhere that at the highest price it also comes unlocked. I don’t remember for sure, but if that is indeed the case, it would be nice as it’s something that most cell phone companies DON’T do. (Some of the European iPhones will be unlocked, as places like Germany don’t allow companies to lock in phones).

    @awolcfh5150: No, because buying a computer is not extending a line of credit as getting a cell phone is (unless, as AdmiralApathy pointed out, you’re applying for their in-store credit card to pay for that computer).

    @coolkiwilivin: A lot of the European tourists I’ve dealt with don’t seem to realize that the iPhone is launching all over Europe the same date as in the US.

    @raskolnik: A credit check requires giving your SSN to some random employee. I’ve had some people write it down on a piece of paper for me to enter it, and then I give it to them afterward so they don’t worry about me keeping it for identity-thieving purposes or something. That would be the way to go for people concerned about other people overhearing it. Also, it’s not that the new iPhone COMPLETELY requires a two-year contract (and, hence, the credit check). Getting it for the subsidized price ($199) requires a contract (only for new customers, hence the need for the information for a credit check), but it’s also available for $599 without a contract.