Watch out for these money-grabbing fake apps
Generally, the App Store’s “walled garden” approach, in which all apps have to be vetted by Apple before launch, means that you can trust most of the things you find on your iPhone or iPad. There’s not much malicious content out there. But as one eagle-eyed developer recently spotted, Apple seems to have a blind spot when it comes to a particular type of in-app purchase scam, which is ripe on the App Store right now.
How it works
For the full details, Johnny Lin’s full article on Medium gives an excellent explanation of what the scam is and why its so prevalent. The short version is that apps claiming to offer mobile security or anti-virus features are duping customers into obscenely expensive rolling subscriptions. One app in particular is currently ranked as the #10 top grossing productivity app in the App Store, raking in around $80,000 a month in IAP money for essentially nothing. Common sense should help you avoid a lot of this stuff, but if you’re not particularly tech-literate its easy to think that the “features” in these apps are genuine.
Due to the way App Store apps are packaged, they’re unable to scan iOS or other apps. So anything purporting to offer a “full iPhone scan” or any kind of virus protection is pretty much a straight-up lie. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you don’t need to install an app to “clean/analyze your device” or “scan for viruses.” Be wary of free trials or any kind of in-app purchase or subscription signed up for by one of these apps. The pop-ups asking you to confirm a subscription can often look like official Apple messages and don’t always make it very clear how much money you’ll be spending.
Deleting an app doesn’t automatically delete the subscription related to it, and it’s not super obvious how to cancel auto-rolling subscriptions. If you want to double check whether you’ve signed up for anything unintentionally, follow these instructions to see how to view and cancel subscriptions.