Apple’s App Store Hosts 84 Scam Apps That Rake In Millions

Over one year has passed since Avast published the list of the 133 dangerous iOS scam apps. Yet, in 2022, we still see more than 60% of these apps active on the App Store. In fact, they boast 500 million downloads and over $100 million in annual revenue.

The fraudulent apps also saw 7.2 million unique downloads for the month of May. And based on this one month’s revenue for the 84 fraudulent apps currently active, it is calculated that the developers have earned over $8.6 million in combined net revenue for May 2022.

According to a report published by VPNcheck, these figures don’t even account for fraudulent apps identified through other sources. Although Avast’s list of fleeceware subscription apps states that the developers of these apps have made more than $365 million in total revenue, based on Sensor Tower data, they did not provide any details of Apple’s cut of these earnings.

Most fraudulent apps that are known to make massive profits from the AppStore are fleeceware apps that charge exorbitant subscription fees, are hard to cancel, and often surprise users with hidden costs and deductions. While these apps don’t aim to attack users’ devices, their goal is still to take as much money from the user as possible - with hardly any interest in actually improving the app for the user to enjoy.

Fleeceware apps are typically camouflaged as entertainment apps. For example, photo editors, filter apps, wallpaper apps, etc. could be well-concealed fleeceware apps designed to defraud any user who provided payment information and subscribed to their services.

Fortunately, it is not too hard to spot a scam app on the App Store. Users will usually notice a lot of fake 5-star reviews. And, if one takes a moment to look at the 1-star reviews, it will be apparent that hundreds - or even thousands - of users have been defrauded by high subscription costs.

As VPNcheck points out in their report, if you have tried unsubscribing and cannot do so, the best method to stop payments to scam apps would be to contact your bank to freeze payment requests from the developers.

According to Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, the company reviews around 100,000 apps every week and about 40% of these apps get rejected. Excluding Avast’s list, critics of Apple’s business practices have also published evidence of fraudulent apps on the App Store. The information has been publicly available for a relatively long time and, while stricter policies were put in place due to antitrust lawsuits, most scam apps are thriving.

30% commission from app developers’ sales, it stands to reason that they have earned a substantial sum from the activities of these fraudulent apps. As such, frequently employing some of the world’s best talent, it does not make sense that these apps would remain on the App Store for long. Further, scam apps have been around since the existence of the App Store - which opened on July 10, 2008.

As an example of a run-of-the-mill scam app, Tweets from AppStore critic Kosta Eleftheriou indicated fraudulent apps - such as StringVPN - used fake reviews, a contact email, and a blank website.

The App Store provides a button to report these scams, but no decisive action has been taken to ensure that scam apps do not remain on the App Store - even after multiple reports have been made public about their existence.

But, with this kind of monetary motivation, it seems that Apple is in no rush to completely rid their App Store of fleeceware apps anytime soon.

The list of fleeceware apps that are currently active on Apple’s App Store:

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