What should I do about this potential iPhone screen repair scam?
September 18, 2013 1:33 PM   Subscribe

I brought my shattered iPhone 4 to a screen repair place in a strip mall. This particular dude is only charging $55, which from what I understand would lead to pretty marginal profits. I left it with him for 45 minutes, and when I returned, my phone no longer turned on.

He apologized, told me it happens every few months and that he would give me $150 in exchange for the broken phone. I was pretty stunned and had to go back to work, so I left and told him I would be back this evening. Now I don't know what to do - I do have access to another phone so I won't have to shell out a lot for a new one; I don't want him to have access to photos/apps/everything on my phone; I do have a passcode on the phone.

Should I take it to a different repair place and see if they can get it working? Should I just take the $150? Is he going to fix my broke-ass iPhone and sell it on Craigslist? Should I even take that into consideration? Will he be able to access everything on my phone if he is able to get it working again, or will having to reset the passcode prevent that?
posted by tatiana wishbone to Technology (14 answers total)
The first thing you can do is find out what your iPhone 4 is worth on the open market. It's not going to be $150, I don't think, but do your research.

Personally, I'd just take my phone back and get it to the genius bar at Apple. They can probably upload all your stuff to your iCloud account for backup.

Then you can decide how you want to proceed. If you have service with ATT, you can get a new iPhone 4 for $99 and just swap out your SIM card.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:37 PM on September 18, 2013

Response by poster: Pertinent: the screen was repaired. The phone just won't turn on anymore.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 1:41 PM on September 18, 2013

Collect your phone and go to Apple. Don't pay for the repair, since he 'broke' it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:44 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds a lot more like he earnestly fucked up repairing it or it's some sort of actual recurring technical problem exactly as he says. Either way, he can use the phone for parts (lots of dead iPhones on eBay) and he's making you a genuine offer.

If this was a straight-up scammy-scam, the dude would have seriously pressured you into giving him the phone there and then and would not have let you go home with the offer standing (i.e. "take the money now or never.") If he didn't pressure you, that means you can do whatever you want -- get another repair estimate, back up/scrub your data, try to make >$150 off the dead phone yourself -- and you still have a standing $150 offer on your dead phone and if he's legit, the offer isn't going anywhere. Parts are parts, they're worth money, and it's not like your phone is going to rust over in the meanwhile.
posted by griphus at 1:54 PM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

(Also if he's a strip mall guy working on small margins, there could be some face-saving cash padded onto whatever the parts are worth just so you don't go complaining on Yelp or whatever. $100 for parts and $50 to keep his reputation could very well be worth it to him.)
posted by griphus at 1:56 PM on September 18, 2013

How do you even know that the phone he returned to you was your original legitimate iPhone and not a cheap nonfunctioning knockoff? That would be my first assumption.
posted by elizardbits at 1:57 PM on September 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

A used iPhone 4 in good condition is worth about $150. I know because I bought one a couple of months ago and that was the going rate. If he wanted spare iPhone 4 parts he could obtain an unending stream of them at a rate of $150 per phone, and do it completely legitimately.

From what you've written here, I don't see any reason to think this is a scam. I'd change passwords on any accounts linked to apps on your old phone, take the $150 he's offering, add the $55 you would've spent on the screen, buy a good used iPhone 4s, sync up and move on.
posted by jon1270 at 2:29 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh right, sorry, I thought the 4 was the newest model. DISREGARD SUSPICIONS.
posted by elizardbits at 2:35 PM on September 18, 2013

Yeah, this really sounds like the guy did some damage to the phone in the course of disassembly/reassembly (keep in mind these phones are not really designed to be taken apart and worked on so it's a risk anytime you open one up) and is trying to make good on the error by offering you money equal to the cost of replacing your phone with an equivalent working unit. I see no reason to suspect any wrongdoing here.
posted by contraption at 3:02 PM on September 18, 2013

Best answer: Guy who's repaired huge piles of iphones and bought and sold many here.

this is a fair price, and apple will charge more to replace the phone(like $179 last time i checked, and may tell you to get fucked if they can tell it's been opened/messed with. Don't go there.

Take the $150, go on here and pick up a fresh one for a few bucks more. Chalk the extra bucks up to the fact that it went in broken, and came out broken and you never had a working phone. $150 is a very generous price for a dead iphone 4. You can barely craigslist them for more than that now, and the point of swappa is you're basically guaranteed to get a good working unit that's ready to activate.

The point about using this as an excuse to upgrade to a 4s is good as well. They're only a little bit more now.

Really though, i'd take the $150. You're not going to get that for it anywhere else, and you don't even know what's wrong with it.

Will he be able to access everything on my phone if he is able to get it working again, or will having to reset the passcode prevent that?

He'll have to restore it to get around that, he won't be able to get at any of your data. This is one of the major reasons to set a passcode, you're safe from anyone but the NSA.
posted by emptythought at 3:23 PM on September 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

This is total garbage. You came to him for a screen repair. He messed up the repair and messed up your phone. He needs to replace your phone, or fix what he broke. None of that $150 garbage. If he is going to operate a business, he needs to deliver on what he's charging money for. His problem, not yours.

If you took your car to a mechanic and they broke something in the process of repairing your car, would you expect the mechanic to fix their mistake, or would you be ok with the mechanic buying your car for parts?
posted by oceanjesse at 7:29 PM on September 18, 2013

Well.... But if I was having my car fixed in ways that the warranty expressly asked me not to, I wouldn't expect my mechanic to provide a new car, or fix it when he says he can't. Offering me what my old car was worth would seem reasonable.
posted by jojobobo at 2:15 AM on September 19, 2013

You started out with a broken phone, and now that he's screwed it up further he's offering you the cost of an equivalent model working phone. You go from having a broken phone to having one that works without paying for the repair, he gets a completely busted, out of date phone to scavenge for a couple bucks in used parts. It's hard to see how he's taking advantage of you here, it really seems more like he's trying to be a decent business owner and treat you fairly while minimizing his own loss on the botched job.

Personally I'd take the deal as offered and put the money toward a current-model phone, but if you want another iPhone 4 you could try asking him to just provide you with one in lieu of the cash in order to minimize your hassle. This might even be a better deal for him, as he presumably has good access to old phones through his professional connections.
posted by contraption at 10:11 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agree with several others above: $150 cash would be a generous trade-in for an iPhone 4 (not 4S, right?) with a shattered screen.

You have a passcode, and he's already had the phone in his hands for a while - the incremental risk of losing your data to him, identity theft, etc., is small. (If he was motivated enough, he already got the data off your phone and you're screwed anyway.)

The new iPhones hit the market tonight. Even if you don't want a new one, there will be lots of gently used older models (4S and 5) hitting craigslist or swappa or whatever. Get an upgrade.

Do change your mac account password - why not?
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:48 AM on September 19, 2013

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