Apple Users Flooded with 'Calendar Spam'

John Lister's picture

Apple experts warn that spammers are abusing the iPhone's calendar system. They say users should be wary of responding in any way to unexpected "event" invites.

The problem appears to affect multiple Apple products, including Mac computers, iPhones and iPads. It takes advantage of the way Apple's system lets users create events and then invite friends and family by inputting their email address.

The spammers, who appear to be based in China, are using large lists of email addresses to send invitations to non-existent events, usually listed as special offers on consumer goods (whose manufacturers and retailers have no connection with the spammers). That's made it a particular problem during the holiday shopping season.

The Apple devices then display the invites in the calendar application and give the user the option of reviewing the invite and accepting or declining it, a time-consuming process for users who get a flurry of invites.

Declining Invite Makes Things Worse

Apple expert David Sparks warns that the seemingly-obvious response of simply selecting "Decline" is a bad idea. Doing so means the spammers get a response and know that the email address is genuine and being actively used. That makes the owner a better target for future email spam and also makes it more likely the spammers will sell the email address to other spammers.

The problem is also made worse for users of Apple's online service iCloud: in some cases declining an invite will only have it reappear the next time the user syncs their data. (Source:

Temporary, 2nd Calendar Is Workaround

Sparks says one workaround is to simply create a separate calendar named "Spam" and move the invites into it. Every so often users can then delete the entire calendar - along with the invites that have built up - by selecting the option marked "Delete and Don't Notify." This way, spammers won't get notified that you declined their offer (and hence get notified that your email is valid). However, doing this process will likely have to be repeated. (Source:

Another solution is to change the app settings such that invitations arrive via email rather than on the app. The user can then more easily deal with the unwanted invites through the various anti-spam tools in their email service. Of course, this does mean genuine invites will be buried away in the email as well.

What's Your Opinion?

Have you noticed spam invites in your calendar app? How do you normally respond to them? Could Apple tighten up the system so that only people the user knows and trusts can send them invites in the app?

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Dennis Faas's picture

I don't own any Apple devices, but on the days leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, my email inbox was ablaze with "deals" from companies I've done business with 10 years ago and in recent past - plus an entire horde of "deals" that came from spammers. It seems the holidays bring out the best in everyone, including spammers.

Unfortunately, spam will never go away, but there are things such as email filters and blacklists than can help manage it. I even have an email filter that says "if there is an HTTP or HTTPS link in the email, mark it as spam - unless that email is from a 'friend'". That filter alone catches 98% of all spam because most email correspondence I deal with does not contain links.