How I Lost Access To Apple ID (And All My App Purchases)

Last week, I cracked my iPhone screen for the very first time (not really sure how). Since we are 2 hours from the nearest Apple Store, Apple sent me a replacement via Fedex. When I got the new iPhone, I quickly went to work restoring it from iCloud. Like many of you, I have a secondary account I use for purchases. This is my original iTunes ID. As I was typing in that passcode, I entered it wrong a few times. I have it memorized (it's still difficult to guess), but my brain was just off sync at that moment. I typed it in wrong enough times that I locked the account.

I went online to unlock it, but since I have 2 step authentication (the old kind), it wanted the recovery key. The problem is I had no idea where I put it. I tried all the ones I could find, but no luck. I then realized I was typing in the wrong password (I looked it up in 1Password). Doh!

I gave Apple a call, and I assumed this would be a quick fix. They'd unlock it, and I could then sign in. They quickly realized I was in a weird state of lockout. According to this support article, I should be able to get in. I remembered the password, and I had the device. The problem was I was still locked out. Apple can't unlock it without the recovery key. I was basically stuck. Both people I talked with at Apple said this was an extremely weird situation they had never been in. Had I not remembered the password, I could see where I'd be out of luck. It was a bit frustrating that I remembered the password, but still couldn't get in.

Thankfully, this isn't my iCloud account (it's on two-factor, and only my purchase history. Due to the recent trend of free apps with subscription, I only had to pay for about $25 worth of apps that I was currently using daily. I had been using quite a few of them for years without having to pay for a new version, so a part of me was happy being able to support them again. The bigger bummer is I had $65 worth of iTunes credit that I did lose. A number of the free ones registered subscriptions with iCloud, so I didn't lose access to them either (Overcast as an example).

I lost a few movies and TV shows, but they weren't ones I planned on watching again. I had local copies of all my purchased music as well. I have recently switched back to Spotify, so I didn't mind losing my Apple Music library.

This was all really annoying, but I don't have anyone to blame but myself. While I wish Apple could have unlocked it, I am also thankful they take security seriously.

One thing this has reaffirmed is that I will never (ever) trust the only copies of my photos to anyone. Imagine if this happened to my iCloud account, and I had all my photos in iCloud photo library without local backups. I could have potentially lost them all. A good rule of thumb is keep copies of the things you can't easily replace.

Update 2017-02-08

I decided to try to log back into my Apple ID on the web, and it let me in! I guess waiting 8 hours or so unlocked it enough where I could get the 2FA text message.