TL;DR: First of all, I admit that the title is a bit clickbait, but I was indeed scammed by Alipay. The cost was that my Apple account in the US region was permanently banned, the money in the gift cards cannot be refunded, and all the apps downloaded through the US ID need to be re-downloaded and cannot be updated. Fortunately, there weren't many services tied to that US ID, otherwise it would have been a big problem.
If you still want to buy gift cards through Alipay to recharge chatGPT Plus, be extremely cautious. If you have already recharged gift cards through Alipay and encounter any issues with using them, do not contact customer service, as you may face the same experience as me. It's best to use up the remaining money in your account, and I suggest registering a new US Apple ID and purchasing gift cards through the official website to activate/renew.
Account Suspension Process#
First, let me explain Apple accounts, which can be divided into two types:
- One type is the account used to log into the system, which is the account you use in the settings interface. Generally, you would choose a domestic Apple ID to log in.
- The other type is the account used for subscriptions and app purchases, which is the account you use to log into the App Store. Subscriptions to services like Apple Music, Apple TV, Apple News, and Apple Arcade are also linked to the App Store account (which is the account that got banned in my case).
First Contact with Customer Service#
The reason was that I wanted to use the balance from the gift cards recharged through Alipay, but I received a notification saying that the payment was unsuccessful and asked me to contact customer service.
I contacted customer service, and they said they would help me restore it, and I should try again after 24 hours.
Second Contact with Customer Service#
Later in the afternoon, I checked again and found that my account had been disabled.
I contacted customer service again, and they said my account had been banned for violating certain terms. They then sent me a link to Apple's terms and conditions...
I asked them to tell me which specific term I violated.
The customer service representative replied that they couldn't see it, and in fact, their account didn't have the permission to check it.
I continued to ask if they could find someone with the necessary permission, like advanced customer service, to handle this.
So the customer service representative contacted a senior advisor for me, asked for my time zone and phone number, and then I waited for the call from the senior advisor.
Contacting the Senior Advisor#
I received a call from a foreign guy, who first confirmed if I could speak English. Based on his accent, he sounded a bit like an Indian guy.
I politely asked about why my Apple account was disabled.
The advisor said he would check for me and asked me to wait for 1-2 minutes.
After checking, the advisor kept saying, "Unfortunately, xxxxxx, xxxxxxx, gift card" (I can't remember the exact words).
It turned out to be an issue with the gift cards, although I didn't catch one word clearly.
I argued for a while, saying, "I didn't realize balabala," but the response was still negative...
Finally, I directly asked, "Lots of people have bought gift cards from Ali Pay. You mean all of their accounts will be disabled?"
The advisor replied, "I can't answer the question..."
Then I wanted to escalate the issue and asked if there was a higher-level advisor. The advisor said they would find one for me and asked me to wait.
However, I waited for a long time without any response, so I decided to hang up...
Alipay's Purchase Interface#
When I looked back at Alipay's gift card purchase interface, I realized that they had already distanced themselves from any responsibility...
Later, I found discussions about this issue on V2EX.
There are also some related posts, and the comments below mention experiences of accounts being banned after contacting customer service.
Why Are There Issues with Gift Cards?#
Although many people say that there can be issues with purchasing gift cards from third parties, they don't clearly explain why these issues exist. So I asked chatGPT and summarized the answer:
Credit cards are stolen/fraudulently used -> used to purchase a large number of gift cards -> sold by third parties -> discovery of fraudulent activity -> credit card companies investigate -> illegally purchased gift cards are frozen/voided.
I was curious if credit card companies could track the flow of money so precisely, knowing where every penny goes.
When credit cards are illegally used to purchase gift cards, credit card companies and relevant law enforcement agencies may try to trace these illegal transactions. This may involve looking at transaction records, network IP addresses, electronic device information, etc., to find possible leads.
However, this process can be very complex and sometimes unable to trace the criminals. Moreover, once these gift cards are used or sold to others, it becomes even harder to trace. So, while it is possible to track these illegally purchased gift cards, it is not always successful.
Is It Illegal If You Accidentally Purchase and Use Problematic Gift Cards?#
So, if you purchase gift cards that have issues without knowing it, does it count as illegal?
In most jurisdictions, purchasing these cards only constitutes a criminal offense if you knew or should have known that the gift cards were obtained illegally. This is known as "guilty knowledge" or "culpable knowledge" in purchasing.
However, even if you accidentally purchase gift cards obtained illegally, you may still face some problems. First, these cards may be frozen or voided, meaning you may not be able to use them. Second, if these cards are frozen or voided, it may be difficult or impossible to get a refund from the seller. Additionally, if law enforcement agencies discover that you purchased these cards during their investigation into such illegal activities, they may contact you for questioning.
Therefore, to avoid these problems, the best strategy is to only purchase gift cards from Apple or its authorized retailers. If you accidentally purchase gift cards obtained illegally, you should immediately report the situation to law enforcement agencies and credit card companies, providing as much information as possible about the seller.
Tips and Experiences#
Contacting Apple Customer Service#
I found many solutions to Apple Store issues that involved contacting customer service, but these articles had one thing in common: they didn't tell you how to contact them...
Search for "support" in the App Store or the Support app (since my system is in English, the app name is "support").
Or visit the following link to redirect to the App Store:
Then, scroll down in the app interface and select the button with the App Store icon, and directly enter your query. I usually just enter "I can't pay."
Then, there will be a "chat" button, click on it to enter the queue for live chat with a customer service representative (Apple's response time for live chat is usually fast).
Escalating to a Senior Advisor#
The customer service representatives mentioned earlier are just regular representatives, and often their permissions are not enough. If you want to escalate further, tell them that you want to contact a "senior advisor" and provide your location as China and your phone number as "(+86) xxxxx". The customer service representative will schedule a time for you (usually within a few minutes), and then get ready for an English conversation!
Purchasing Apple Gift Cards from the Official Website#
Having learned a painful lesson, I will never again purchase gift cards from third-party channels like Alipay or Taobao. So, how can you purchase gift cards from the official website?
- Choose the amount, and the last box allows you to enter a custom amount.
- You can fill in your own email address for both the sender and recipient.
- For payment, you can choose Visa card/virtual credit card/UnionPay (I only tried virtual credit card and it worked).
- Usually, within a few minutes, you will receive the redemption code in your email, as shown in the image.
Virtual Credit Cards#
Although I registered for a depay account a long time ago, I didn't open a card and was too lazy to go through the process of topping up USDT. It turns out that depay has stopped accepting new registrations.
However, a colleague tested it and found that depay cards can be linked to a US Apple ID for payment, which can bypass OpenAI's risk control (of course, if Apple also has risk control, you can try registering a US PayPal account).
Although depay has stopped accepting new registrations, there are other virtual credit cards that can be used as alternatives. For example, I tried nobepay [https://www.nobepay.com/], which supports direct transfer via WeChat Pay without the need for blockchain-related processes. But there are a few things to note:
- The first top-up must be at least $500.
- The cost of opening a card is $1.
- Refunds are quite troublesome.
In the spirit of "we are all in this together," I tried it initially and opened a card, but it didn't pass OpenAI's verification. I also tried binding it to Apple payment, but it failed... I was ready to treat that money as a loss, but after a while, I was able to bind it to Apple payment again (probably after the risk control period).
After discussing this matter with my mom, her first reaction was that I shouldn't be scammed and shouldn't transfer any money. At first, I thought she was overly worried, but upon careful consideration, I realized that there were indeed many issues in the steps I went through. Which step did I discuss with a colleague/friend/family member? In the eyes of other colleagues, I might have just answered a few phone calls and performed a few actions on my phone.
Fortunately, I often use Apple's services and I'm familiar with the related processes. If there were malicious individuals intentionally leading me astray, would I have fallen into a telecom fraud trap just to unlock my Apple account? Thinking about this, I broke out in a cold sweat. It turns out that telecom fraud is not far from us.
There are a few lessons and tips I want to share:
- When it comes to money matters, never find it troublesome to take precautions. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
- The power of platforms is really strong... In the digital age, the subscription era, us ordinary people tremble in fear.
- When reading other people's experience posts, be sure to read the comments below. If I had seen that comment earlier... maybe my account wouldn't have been banned so quickly.