We all know the internet isn't exactly a safe place. While plenty of its users are innocent and kind, you won't last long unless you treat every new screen name like a criminal (we're all this cynical while surfing the web, right?). Well, that cynicism is proven correct today, a post on Medium uncovered a group of scammers on the iOS App Store that are costing victims up to $400 a month.
In the intriguingly titled "How to Make $80,000 Per Month on the Apple App Store," Johnny Lin, an app developer, describes his journey to discover this massive, unreported scam. The short version — scammers are developing fake apps with certain keywords that will help them rise to the top of user searches.
But that's not all. These random apps from nobody-companies wouldn't beat out the big players on the App Store. So, they've hijacked the ad-spaces. When you search for Wi-Fi, for example, their fake Wi-Fi password generator app shows up as an ad — which would be fine — except Apple doesn't do a great job distinguishing between ads and official app results. Inevitably, you have users clicking on the ads thinking they're getting an official app.
What they get is far worse. The apps are designed to trick users into enrolling in subscriptions of $99.99 a week. In the example Lin gives, the app hides this enrollment in a "Free Trial" button. Deception at its most despicable.
We got in touch with Lin about his article and all the shadiness it covers. This is what he had to say:
Watch out for your relatives/friends who aren't as tech-savvy. For example, I could totally see my parents accidentally falling for something like this if I didn't police them hard enough. And it's so ridiculously difficult to cancel a subscription -- Apple must make this better.
If you think these apps are only getting by with a couple of victims then getting shut down, you're mistaken. These apps are inexplicably allowed to remain in the store, raking in close to a million dollars a year.
For full-time developers like myself, it's such a shock and disappointment to see the wrong behavior being rewarded. I have hope that Apple will do the right thing eventually, because they're a company with long-term thinking. Maybe this has been on their radar for awhile, but they haven't been taking it seriously enough.
So, consider this article a warning. Share this information with your fellow iPhone-owners. The point of the App Store is to find new, exciting, and innovative apps, not to be scammed out of this month's rent allowance.
Stay vigilant out there, people. Don't let the jerks win.