How "celebrity look like" apps are scamming users

A Kardashian-endorsed app, Gradient is ranked at top on App Store chart and many users are unhappy about the credit card charges it is applying.

Gradient has several AI capabilities but went viral on social media due to its celebrity look-like feature. It compares selfies with the pictures of celebrities to tell which celebrity you look like. It then creates a collage that can be shared.

The app was launched in September 2019 but did not gain much hype until Kardashian band endorsed it. Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Scott Disick all updated Instagram stories with the screenshot from the app on 15th of October. Stories posted were tagged with #ad which clearly showed it was paid promotion.

However, their endorsement left a huge positive impact, prompting several people to download it. Before it was endorsed by celebrities, the highest ranking the app ever got was no. 541 in any category. Whereas, after being promoted by Kardashian clan, it came to no. 1 spot with 8 million downloads on both, App Store and Google Play.

The app developer, “Ticket to the Moon, Inc.” was also a mystery as it released no other app and has not much information on the web. The Delaware address given on terms of service of the Company is of an investment firm, Meihua Capital Partners.

Whereas, when another news agency lately checked the app’s terms of service, an address of virtual office Services Company in Las Vegas called MyCompanyWorks was given.

Meihua Capital Partners did not respond to messages, however, MyCompanyWorks said Ticket to the Moon is their client and refused to provide any additional information.

Gradient’s representative confirmed in an email that the company is owned by Vladyslav Urazov and Bogdan Matveev, who owned a startup, Teleport that they sold to Snap last year.

The privacy policy of Gradient shows there is a possibility that the data can be used for other purposes as well. Upon asking, the spokesperson said they do not store any data, neither share it with third parties. It is owned by users solely and remains private.

A similar controversy created much uproar when FaceApp, selfie app known for age filter, received backlash over misusing data. The app immediately clarified the questions, whereas “Ticket to the Moon” has been a little reluctant.

The app has a website, an Instagram account and just an email ID to contact. It has not provided any physical address other than of the Meihua Capital partner that too has a little digital presence.

Like majority of the apps, Gradient app is using its top position to lure users to buy the automatic renewing subscription. At the time of download, users are advised to get a free three-day trail to use the look-like feature. Once the three-day trial ends, users are automatically given a monthly subscription, charging them $19.99.

Many users expressed their anger for automatic subscription and so far the app has gained $1.1 million from App Store and Google Play. It is expected that the earning might grow after several other free-trials will end.

The app also offers $3.99 per month subscription, but it is not the default offer at the time of subscription.

There are other apps as well that users need to be aware of. Like “Look Like You? Celebrity!” which for a while got no. 2 ranking on App Store, though it did not followed the Apple’s developer guidelines about copying apps. Before removing the app, it managed to earn around $9,500.

Another app “My Replica – Celebrity Look Like Me” is also using the celebrity look like trend to loot users. It lures users to buy a ‘diamond subscription’ at the time of downloading, costing $99.99 for a quarter after the three-day free trial ends. It earned $363,000 in October alone.

While there are several apps trying to scam users one way or the other, it is better to avoid apps like Gradient and others that are using the appealing celebrity look-like features to loot users.

Read next: How to Spot Social Media Scams (infographic)
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