Last week, I got a sales pitch e-mail from Buy.com touting a recertified 4GB iPod Nano for $99. I lost my iPod Touch last December and one of my older iPods had just given up the ghost, so I decided to go for it.
The iPod came in just a couple of days--but as soon as I unwrapped it and connected it to my Mac at home I got an ominous alert from my usually quiet antivirus software. The iPod, it informed me, contained some virus known as AdobeR.exe.
As I dug into the problem, I learned something I probably should have realized before I ordered. The "recertified" iPod wasn't recertified by Apple, but instead through some third party.
Apple sells its own Apple-certified refurbished products via its Web site, with said devices also coming with a one-year warranty. A 4GB from Apple's site would have set me back $129 and come with a $15 iTunes card, while a new model would have cost $149. (So yes, perhaps the lesson is simply that Ina should be less of a skinflint.)
That said, as a customer, Buy.com treated me right, shipping out a brand new iPod and apologizing for the inconvenience.
That doesn't answer the question, however, of how the virus got on a supposedly "recertified iPod." I spoke Monday with Buy.com's VP of operations, Fred Martin, who promised to contact the Illinois company that supplies Buy.com with the refurbished iPods.
On Tuesday, he reported back to me to say that after checking with the company, it did not appear that the problem was widespread.
"Our opinion is that this is not a significant problem that is happening with any frequency at all," Martin said. Martin noted that the company does wipe off any user data from the iPods it ships out as recertified. That process might involve a PC or Mac that could theoretically be infected with a virus, though I don't know that to be the case for sure.
Apple itself had a problem with a Windows virus getting on to some new iPods back in October 2006. It said it traced the problem to a single infected Windows machine used at a contract manufacturer.
The company said it had put steps in place to make sure this wouldn't happen again. To my knowledge, it hasn't happened since then.
Nor is the issue limited to iPods. Best Buy had an issue earlier this year where it was forced to warn customers that some of its Insignia photo frames shipped with a virus.
Has anyone else ordered a refurbished iPod from someone other than Apple and gotten more than they bargained for?