Report: Fleeceware Apps Scam Users of Over $400 Million on App Store

BY Sanuj Bhatia

Published 24 Mar 2021

iPhone App Store

A few days after a developer questioned Apple about the fake reviews and rating on the App Store, a report has been published which highlights that a total of 204 fleeceware apps have scammed users of over $400 million.

It’s not the first time the App Store is under scrutiny. The developer who earlier notified Apple of the scam going on the App Store recently sued the company for not taking any action against those apps. Avast, a popular antivirus provider, released a lengthy report highlighting the fleeceware apps that have plagued the App Store.

Now what are fleeceware apps, you may ask? Well, fleeceware is a recently coined term, as per the report, and consists of the apps that overcharge the customers in the name of free-trials. For example, many apps include a short free trial, but these apps take advantage of the users who are not familiar with the subscription model.

These apps target users through catchy advertisements on social media, and promise ‘free installation’ or ‘free to download.’ By the time a user notices a weekly payment, the fleeceware apps have already extracted significant amounts of money. These apps offer no unique functionality but take the mere advantage of free trial subscriptions, and recurring high fees. Some apps, the report highlights even charge users as high as$3,432 per year.

The report even narrows down a list of apps as being most prone to fleeceware:

  • Musical instrument app
  • Palm readers
  • Image editors
  • Camera filters
  • Fortune tellers
  • QR code and PDF readers
  • Slime simulators

So how do Google and Apple combat these fleeceware apps? The research says that even though the two companies have been simplifying the process of subscription, like notifying the user of pending subscription when he/she uninstalls an app, they can still improve their in-app purchase systems.

One way of making the process more transparent would be by sending an alert after the free-trial ends. “The app could require another confirmation before paying money for the actual subscription once the free trial is over.” Another way, obviously, is to remove and filter fake and automated reviews that might fool someone into thinking that a fleeceware application is real.

Have you been scammed by apps like these? How has your experience been with the App Store in general? Let us know in the comments section below!