Apple has locked my Apple ID and is refusing to say why or unlock it

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Jul 6, 2020
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Springfield, MO
Without any warning or after-the-fact explanation, several days ago my Apple ID was “locked for security reasons.” I should have been able to go through a process to get it unlocked (by being asked to answer security questions, personal questions, billing details, etc), but no matter what I tried, how many different ways I went about it, it always resulted in my being asked to input a 28-character recovery key that I do not have.

They used to have something called two-STEP authentication, which was basically where any time you needed to access your account, they would send a SMS text message to your verified phone number with a PIN number you would enter to continue, and this system did indeed involve a last-ditch recovery key, which I actually did keep and save, but it is only 14-characters long, not 28. Anyway, they “upgraded” from this system to a newer one called two-FACTOR authentication, which was basically the same thing except instead of sending you plain ordinary SMS text messages, it sent you a PIN number only to recognized, trusted Apple devices via a mechanism built directly into their software, and my exhaustive research over the past several days has made it clear that when they adopted this system, they DITCHED the old recovery key and no longer used one at all. The people at Apple seem as baffled as I am by the asking of a 28-character key, but seem also to take it at face value.

I have been on the phone with them multiple times, had several lengthy chat sessions, allowed them remote access to see what was happening on my screen, and so far nothing has resulted in them simply unlocking my account by letting me provide answers to my security questions, personal info, billing credit card info, purchase history, and any of the myriad other ways I can document I am who I say I am.

Anyway, without use of my Apple ID, it has completely broken nearly everything I use. I can’t access Apple Music, which has decades worth of carefully curated music uploaded to it, or my podcasts, or my iCloud Documents folders, my saved iCloud Keychain which saves all my passwords, it broke my ability to text from my computer instead of my phone, i can’t stream music to my stupid wireless HomePod speaker anymore. So many things I need desperately to work are just GONE. I am also now unable to perform any software updates on my iPhone or update or purchase anything from their App Store.

I have spoken to someone from Apple twice already today, his name is Scott, and he seems nice enough, but he has had to "escalate" this to more senior engineers and has not heard back from them yet. He called me a few hours ago, not because he had any new information, but simply because he had told me this morning that he would contact me before the end of the day, but also that he would be off until Wednesday, so I don't know if I'll hear from anyone else before then or not—though he did say if I needed to speak to someone, I should just call their support number and provide them with my case number.

I am so desperate for this to be resolved that I have been considering things like posting my whole story online, tweeting it, contacting widely read technology writers such as Kara Swisher or John Gruber or posting it on Slaashdot, as well as trying to directly contact Apple CEO Tim Cook or other high level executives at Apple, and finally, legal action through an attorney.

All I want is for Apple to unlock my Apple ID by whatever means they deem best. I am certain that, except for the baffling 28-character recovery key I don't have (and am pretty sure I never had because I very carefully document and preserve this type of thing for emergencies) that I can authenticate my identity adequately for them to do this. My research also suggests that the recovery key, such as it may be, is NOT an encryption key, but merely one of several means of proving IDENTITY. What this means is, they DO have access to, and could unlock, my account simply by choosing to do so, whereas if it were indeed an encryption key, the absence of it truly would mean there was nothing they could do. This is proven by the fact that many times law enforcement has asked Apple to unlock suspected criminals iPhones, but because of the way Apple designed them, fully built around encryption keys, they are technologically INCAPABLE of unlocking an iPhone without knowing the user’s passcode. However, they CAN AND DO provide law enforcement with all the information that THEY do possess (i.e. all their iCloud files, which include email and chat records) all the time. The info they maintain on their own servers is NOT locked by encryption in a way that prevents them from accessing it if they need to.

I am calculating the cost of damage this will cause me by estimating the cost of the many Apple laptops I have owned in the last DECADE, my multiple iPhones, my HomePod, my Apple TV, all the songs, movies, TV shows, and Apps that I have PURCHASED from Apple, and the RECURRING costs associated with paying a monthly fee for Apple Music, additional storage on iCloud, and several years of having a paid Apple Developer Account. My best guess is that without my Apple ID, all of this will become essentially useless, and probably approaches $15,000.

According to my emails, the last time I received a RECEIPT from Apple billing me was for my iCloud storage upgrade monthly expense. I keep ALL my emails, and have countless others documenting all my ongoing monthly charges, as well as each time I bought something from the App Store or from iTunes. I also recently changed my billing from using PayPal to directly charging a credit card, and have an email documenting when this took place.

My CASE NUMBER with Apple Support is xxxxxxxx and I am attaching a transcript of a chat I had with one of their representatives, though I just realized that this transcript indicates yet another case number, xxxxxxxx.Not sure why I’ve spawned multiple cases, but I believe xxxxxxxccc should be the most current, active case. The transcript can be viewed xxxxxxxx.

Below are a set of screenshots that this Apple representative I talked with earlier today asked me to take and upload to Apple. They demonstrate each step of the Apple ID unlocking process as I am supposed to be performing it, and the results of each step taken.

Needless to say, I do indeed still possess and have access to all of the “trusted devices” that were formerly part of my Apple ID account. It’s just that because apple has locked me out, each one of those devices is no longer linked up with my Apple ID (I get password prompts constantly, each of which will lead me through yet another unlocking process that yields the same “enter recovery key” result.) CLEARLY they still know that my default phone number is xxx-xxx-xx28 because every time I go through this process (see Step 3 above) it asks me to confirm my phone number in a way that indicates that the number they are expecting ends with the digits 28, which in fact are the last two digits of my phone number. And I do receive the PIN numbers that they text me, which do indeed allow me to proceed in the process to the next step, before the final step informs me that in order to unlock my account, I need access to "a device" or my recovery key in order to go any further. Sometimes I reach a screen where I could enter the 28-digit key if I had one, other times I get blocked before even reaching that point. Either way, I simply cannot proceed in any meaningful way and get my account restored. And, my Apple ID is REDACTED and all of the emails I receive from Apple did and continue to arrive at it's default email address, which is NOT an Apple address.

OK that’s all I have for now. Apple CEO Tim Cook’s email address is, I believe, [email protected]. I am currently researching contact info for the rest of their top level executives. Tim Cook is known to frequently respond directly to emails sent to him, or he designates someone to perform follow-up.

Let me know how we can proceed.

-Pete

Note- edited by moderator to remove case numbers and attachments that had personal identifying information.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Jul 13, 2016
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I feel your frustration. So sorry you are in this vicious circle. Please do not go straight to Tim Cook. It will just muddy the waters and he is not the guy who will get this fixed. It has only been a couple of days and that over a holiday weekend, during a pandemic.

I think you really need to give Apple some time to sort this out. I can see how this is above the level of a regular genius bar worker. I would wait until Tuesday morning, giving them Monday to try and figure it out. Then contact Apple with your case number and ask to speak immediately with a senior engineer. Also , please do not threaten to boycott Apple products or take your problem to social media. Neither of these actions will get the problem fixed.
 
May 30, 2019
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Agree with the prior post. But also ...

1) NEVER, EVER post Personally Identifiable Ingratiation (PII) on a public forum. That type of activity can lead to identity theft. I noticed that the moderator already removed your PII. Do not post it elsewhere.

2) Apple places Personal Privacy and Security in a high regard, which means that it is difficult to unlock you quickly. Give it a bit of time.

3) You are in a lousy situation, but remember that even with mega-corporations, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. If you go public on multiple social media forums too quickly and state that you will boycott Apple, then you've given the company no reason to help you. Be polite & professional with the people with whom you interact at Apple.

4) +1 on not starting at the top. There is a list of executive contacts on this site. If after a couple days, you do not receive adequate support, then consider those. Why? Because if you start at the top with Mr. Cook and don't get the result you need, you are SOL. However, if you start with a mid-level manager or customer solutions specialist and don't get support, you have someone else to try.
 
Jul 6, 2020
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Springfield, MO
Thanks everybody who has commented so far. Points taken. I apologize for including personal details in my original posting - I thought I had edited them all out, but I guess I forgot about what was included in that chat transcript and on those screenshots. Ooops. I'm not ready to pull the trigger on any desperate course of action just yet - I'm just looking to vent and seek out advice on how to proceed.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
9,886
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San Francisco
Thanks everybody who has commented so far. Points taken. I apologize for including personal details in my original posting - I thought I had edited them all out, but I guess I forgot about what was included in that chat transcript and on those screenshots. Ooops. I'm not ready to pull the trigger on any desperate course of action just yet - I'm just looking to vent and seek out advice on how to proceed.
Well, you vented very well. All of us can understand your frustration, the situation is maddening. If no horrible crime has been committed regarding your Apple account, it will all get straightened out ... but it will take TIME. With so much of life now run by computers, these snags will only increase. The people at Apple have no idea what happened, so first they need to play detective. While they're doing that, the spectre of your identity hangs over them. So they probably seem uncommunicative at times. You have no alternative than to allow time to pass while Apple tries to help you. I would say two weeks from the date you first advised them of a problem. Double that for the virus mess and everything moving at a snail's pace. There's just no way around it. Keep in mind that if you push too hard, Apple will just ignore you, so it's important to be cooperative and polite. You WILL get this straightened out.
 
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Jul 6, 2020
8
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48
Springfield, MO
So I just got a call from Scott at Apple, the last person I have been speaking to over the last week about my Apple ID situation. He informed me that the people he had escalated my case to got back to him and said that without my recovery key, there was nothing they were wiling to do. I explained to him yet again that in doing my extensive research about this situation, I had repeatedly seen that when Apple switched to their newer two-FACTOR authentication system, they did away with recovery keys entirely, and that I didn't see how that could be true and that I could somehow have been given one. I don't feel like I have any choice but to proceed to take further action. I've been very patient but he made it very clear that as far as they were concerned, it was the end of the road.

I've been very polite and cooperative, but I'm also now completely screwed and don't see how I can not at this point proceed with seeking out legal action or taking this story public in some way.
 
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weihlac

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Jun 30, 2017
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So I just got a call from Scott at Apple, the last person I have been speaking to over the last week about my Apple ID situation. He informed me that the people he had escalated my case to got back to him and said that without my recovery key, there was nothing they were wiling to do. I explained to him yet again that in doing my extensive research about this situation, I had repeatedly seen that when Apple switched to their newer two-FACTOR authentication system, they did away with recovery keys entirely, and that I didn't see how that could be true and that I could somehow have been given one. I don't feel like I have any choice but to proceed to take further action. I've been very patient but he made it very clear that as far as they were concerned, it was the end of the road.

I've been very polite and cooperative, but I'm also now completely screwed and don't see how I can not at this point proceed with seeking out legal action or taking this story public in some way.
Based on Apple's consistent approach to this type of issue, it would appear that you will need a court order. That will be time-consuming and likely to be very expensive.
 
Jul 6, 2020
8
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48
Springfield, MO
I discovered an old Apple ID I had completely forgotten about and hadn't used in at least a decade, and was able to sign into it by simply answering the security questions I had setup years ago. I've been using this old Apple ID for like a week now. It did not show me any way to enable two-FACTOR authentication at all, so I did some googling and found something that described how I needed to go about enabling it. I followed those instructions and it worked and I was informed that the ability to update to two-factor authentication took several days before it could be finalized, and that I would receive an email when I was able to do it. I just received that email a few minutes ago, and clicked the link in the email and it took me to appleid.apple.com and when I logged in, it immediately presented me with the option to update to two-factor authentication, but gave me the choice to not do so. I chose not to do so, and once again simply had to answer my security questions to get into my account. Once signed in, there was no indication anywhere that I could update to two-factor authentication anywhere in the security options, so I signed out, and then signed back in, and once again was offered the choice to update. This time I DID choose to update, and it asked me for the 3-digit security code for the credit card that I had provided for billing purposes, so I entered that, and it then told me that two-factor authentication was now enabled. AT NO POINT IN ANY OF THIS PROCESS DID THEY MENTION A RECOVERY KEY, OFFER ME A RECOVERY KEY, ASK ME TO CREATE A RECOVERY KEY, GIVE ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO SAVE A RECOVERY KEY, WARN ME THAT I NEEDED TO SAVE THE RECOVERY KEY. NOTHING. So once I was signed back into my account, I searched and searched everywhere for any way to manually create a recovery key, and there was no such option. So Apple is absolutely lying if in claiming that when I updated my other Apple ID to two-factor authentication, I would have been given a recovery key and it was my responsibility to preserve it, because I just went through the exact same enabling process and there was absolutely no recovery key aspect to any of it. It's all crap.

What steps am I planning on taking? I have an attorney who is going to contact them and attempt to work something out. Beyond that, I am contemplating trying to tell my story to someone in the tech journalism field - possibly John Gruber of Daring Fireball or Kara Swisher at the New York Times, or posting on Slashdot, anything widely read in the industry. I don't know. I have to talk to my attorney and see what he thinks is best to do and in what order. All I know is, I am being royally screwed and I have to do something.
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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I discovered an old Apple ID I had completely forgotten about and hadn't used in at least a decade, and was able to sign into it by simply answering the security questions I had setup years ago. I've been using this old Apple ID for like a week now. It did not show me any way to enable two-FACTOR authentication at all, so I did some googling and found something that described how I needed to go about enabling it. I followed those instructions and it worked and I was informed that the ability to update to two-factor authentication took several days before it could be finalized, and that I would receive an email when I was able to do it. I just received that email a few minutes ago, and clicked the link in the email and it took me to appleid.apple.com and when I logged in, it immediately presented me with the option to update to two-factor authentication, but gave me the choice to not do so. I chose not to do so, and once again simply had to answer my security questions to get into my account. Once signed in, there was no indication anywhere that I could update to two-factor authentication anywhere in the security options, so I signed out, and then signed back in, and once again was offered the choice to update. This time I DID choose to update, and it asked me for the 3-digit security code for the credit card that I had provided for billing purposes, so I entered that, and it then told me that two-factor authentication was now enabled. AT NO POINT IN ANY OF THIS PROCESS DID THEY MENTION A RECOVERY KEY, OFFER ME A RECOVERY KEY, ASK ME TO CREATE A RECOVERY KEY, GIVE ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO SAVE A RECOVERY KEY, WARN ME THAT I NEEDED TO SAVE THE RECOVERY KEY. NOTHING. So once I was signed back into my account, I searched and searched everywhere for any way to manually create a recovery key, and there was no such option. So Apple is absolutely lying if in claiming that when I updated my other Apple ID to two-factor authentication, I would have been given a recovery key and it was my responsibility to preserve it, because I just went through the exact same enabling process and there was absolutely no recovery key aspect to any of it. It's all crap.

What steps am I planning on taking? I have an attorney who is going to contact them and attempt to work something out. Beyond that, I am contemplating trying to tell my story to someone in the tech journalism field - possibly John Gruber of Daring Fireball or Kara Swisher at the New York Times, or posting on Slashdot, anything widely read in the industry. I don't know. I have to talk to my attorney and see what he thinks is best to do and in what order. All I know is, I am being royally screwed and I have to do something.
Just understand once you mention an attorney to them they most will no longer communicate with you.
 
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kenish

Sep 1, 2015
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Just understand once you mention an attorney to them they most will no longer communicate with you.
+1 to this ^ ^ ^

I understand your complete frustration but is the problem is resolved? (Your post seems to say you restored account access but not clear if your data is now available). Just like home security, safeguards for cyber security make things difficult for the honest person. Apple takes a hard line with privacy and sets the bar very high (even making it difficult for government cyber experts to access). Apple wants to be in a position to provide the encrypted data under subpoena or government duress, but also be truly unable to decrypt it. And yes, to be pragmatic and cynical, Apple is CYA against lengthy legal battles, government sanctions, and negative media coverage while appearing to be the hero to their fandom.

If you have your data back, at this point it's your choice to go the legal or media route but it's unclear what further redress you are seeking. And keep in mind Apple may choose to close out your account if you are more pain than gain to them and there's truly no way they can help you.
 
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Jul 6, 2020
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Springfield, MO
No, I have not had my account unlocked or my data restored. Not sure where you got that idea. I have reached out to someone on Apple's senior executive team, and he replied and has been seemingly interested in working with me to resolve this problem, but said it could take some time and asked me to be patient. So that is what I am doing.
 
Jul 6, 2020
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Springfield, MO
Just a little update so y'all can understand just what an ordeal this has been for me.

I am not able to sign out of my old, currently worthless Apple ID on my iPhone. Therefore, I cannot set it up with a new Apple ID. I also cannot erase the phone to factory settings without turning off Find My Phone, which I also cannot do without a working password. So my phone is essentially bricked now, because I can't get new apps or update existing ones, or link the phone to my computer, or many of the other things I should be allowed to do with it.
 
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Neil Maley

Moderator
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Dec 27, 2014
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Here are our contacts for Apple you can try but do not mention litigation. Start at the bottom and work your way up- read this and follow it exactly.


 
Jul 6, 2020
8
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48
Springfield, MO
I contacted one of the names on that list but the person who replied was someone else who isn't on the list. I've been dealing with him for about a week but so far no luck.

All of you people are urging such extreme caution and meekness - I'm the aggrieved party. At what point do I not get to insist that my needs be taken care of. As of now, I'm risking losing 20 years of a music collection, the complete functionality of my entire phone, and countless other features and data, and none of the people who have posted here seem to think I should do anything but grovel and accept whatever Apple decides. Well I'm sorry, but I paid good money for this phone and laptop and the media on it and I did not ask for any of this and it's Apple's screw up and Apple should be making good by me. I'm disappointed that nobody on this site seems to think my grievances are legitimate.
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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Then move to the next person on the list, tell them who you have been working with and that they haven’t been able to fix it. Do that every week until you get to the top again. Name the names of who you’ve been in contact with.
 

BittyBoo

Jul 30, 2018
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I contacted one of the names on that list but the person who replied was someone else who isn't on the list. I've been dealing with him for about a week but so far no luck.

All of you people are urging such extreme caution and meekness - I'm the aggrieved party. At what point do I not get to insist that my needs be taken care of. As of now, I'm risking losing 20 years of a music collection, the complete functionality of my entire phone, and countless other features and data, and none of the people who have posted here seem to think I should do anything but grovel and accept whatever Apple decides. Well I'm sorry, but I paid good money for this phone and laptop and the media on it and I did not ask for any of this and it's Apple's screw up and Apple should be making good by me. I'm disappointed that nobody on this site seems to think my grievances are legitimate.
It's important to point out that this forum is staffed by volunteers. We all advise OP's to use the Elliot Advocacy method because it works. I have personal experience that it does. We all have empathy for your plight, but anger and threats of legal action won't resolve your issue.

The person who reads letters from consumers does this all day and does not have time to comb thru every letter to determine what the problem is. Additionally, this person did not cause your problem, yet is in a position to help you. Its important to list the facts using bullet points and politely conclude your letter with a reasonable solution. Refrain from writing emotion or extraneous information. Certainly do not make any threats of legal action; its common knowledge that any letter containing such statements are automatically sent to the legal department and the company will cease further communication. Wait a week for a reply before moving on to writing the next contact on the list. If, after you have written all the contacts and your problem isn't resolved, you can request that one of the advocates evaluate your case based on the paper trail you have from writing them.