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$3,432 scam: Huge problem with popular apps

Lucy Dean
·7-min read
Image: Getty.
Image: Getty.

Australians could lose as much as $3,432 over one year by downloading insidious apps, a cybersecurity firm has warned.

Digital security firm Avast has uncovered more than 200 new fleeceware application on the Apple and Google stores, with the apps having already been downloaded one billion times.

The fleeceware apps, which have gained more than $400 million in revenue, often attract users with free three-day trials.

However, once the trial expires, the recurring subscription fee can be extremely expensive, with one app charging users a $66 weekly subscription. Under that payment plan, victims could be $3,432 poorer by the end of the year.

Often the only way to stop the fees is by cancelling the subscription in the device’s app subscription settings.

“The fleeceware applications we've discovered consist predominantly of musical instrument apps, palm readers, image editors, camera filters, fortune tellers, QR code and PDF readers, and 'slime simulators',” said Avast’s threat analyst Jakub Vávra here.

“While the applications generally fulfil their intended purpose, it is unlikely that a user would knowingly want to pay such a significant recurring fee for these applications, especially when there are cheaper or even free alternatives on the market.”

Younger audiences appear to be the target, Vávra added, with the apps often advertised on social media with the promise of ‘free downloads’.

“By the time parents notice the weekly payments, the fleeceware may have already extracted significant amounts of money.”

What apps do I need to be aware of?

These are the apps that Avast has reported to Apple and Google to review:

Google Play store:

App Name

Piano Free - Keyboard with Magic Tiles Music Games

edjing Mix - Free Music DJ app

Real Guitar Free - Chords, Tabs & Simulator Games

Fancy Slime

FortuneScope: live palm reader and fortune teller

Guitar - play music games, pro tabs and chords!

Drums: real drum set music games to play and learn

Drum Set Music Games & Drums Kit Simulator

Drum Pads - Beat Maker Go

Piano - Play & Learn Music

Beat Maker Pro - music maker drum pad

Magic Face:face aging, young camera, fantastic app

ToonApp: AI Cartoon Photo Editor, Cartoon Yourself

Palm Secret - Palm Reader, Cartoon Photo, Fun

Palmistry

Daily horoscope, palmistry, numerology - Astroline

Insta Story Art Maker for Instagram - StoryChic

FX Master

Karaoke - Sing Songs!

Relax - Daily Palmistry, future baby, palm Scanner

Life Advisor: Baby predict, Palm Reader&Face aging

QR & Barcode Scanner

Palm reader - horoscope, palmistry and divinations

Palmistry: Predict Future by Palm Reading

Nebula: Horoscope & Astrology

Life Palmistry - AI Palm&Gender&Prediction

Miami Rope Hero -Light Speed Frog Black Ninja Hole

Motorbike Games 2020 - New Bike Racing Game

Sticky Slime - ASMR Slime Simulator

TeasEar - ASMR Meditation & Slime Simulator Games

Realistic ASMR Slime Simulator

Slime Simulator - Super ASMR Game

BeSticky - Sticker Maker for WhatsApp

DJ it! - Music Mixer

Jambl: Beat Maker & Dj Music Creator

Loop Maker Pro - Music Maker

Piano - music games to play & learn songs for free

Guitar Tuner Pro - Tune your Guitar, Bass, Ukulele

Guitar Play - Games & Songs

Famio: Connect With Family

AiScan: All QR Code, Scanner & Barcode Reader

PDF Document Scanner

Photo Editor Pro - Kooky

Palmistry — a Quick Chinese Palm Reading Guide

SeekMe - Palm Scan Cartoon Camera Baby Prediction

My Palmistry & Astrology: Face Aging & Palm Reader

Jelly: Slimes & ASMR, antistress simulation games

Sticky Slime - Fancy Slime Simulator ASMR

Horoscope 2019 and Palmistry - Everyday Prediction

Slimes satisfy asmr. Make diy. Slime maker

Plant Lens - Plant & Flower Identification

Light Presets

FortuneScan - Predict Future by Palm Reading

Eon - Astrology and Daily Horoscope

Fortunescan - Palmistry, Palm Reader & Horoscope

Stellium Daily Horoscope

PalmistryHD - Palm Reading & Daily Horoscope

Palm Expert - Palmistry, Horoscope & Tarot Reading

Soular

Astrology & Palm Master

Facetory: Face Yoga & Facial Exercises

Blossom - Plant Identification app

Music Zen - Relaxing Sounds

PDF Document Reader

🍑DayStress Relief: Relaxation & Antistress app

Tarot Numerology: card reading

Astrospot: horoscope matches, daily predictions

Perfect Slime Simulator - ASMR & Satisfying game

Face Scan: Horoscope & Astrology

Apple App store:

App Name

Filterra - Photo Editor

Frames - Picture Collage Maker

Facelab - Face Editor & Beauty

TeasEar: ASMR Slime Antistress

StoryChic - IG Story Templates

Photo Splash - photo editor

Nebula: Horoscope & Astrology

Sweet Selfie:Photo Editor, Cam

Cartoon yourself & caricature

Astroline: The Daily Horoscope

FLMX - Video Editor

Stickerfy: Sticker Maker

Pixomatic - Background eraser

SpeedPro Slow speed video edit

Fortunescope: Palm Reader

Music Zen - Relaxing Sounds

Sticker Maker - BeSticky

Picsjoy: Photo Editor & Cutout

Photo To Sketch - Drawing book

FX Master

Mood Balance: Journal, Tracker

Presets for Lightroom - Vidl

Jigsaw Puzzle - Brain Games

Lift: Story Maker

Dazzle - Insta stories editor

Baby Sticker- Track Milestones

Life Palmistry - AI Palm & Tag

Girl Games & Fun Cooking Games

Photoly Remove Object & Editor

Facetory: Face Yoga & Exercise

VOCHI Cool Video Effects Maker

Lucky Life - Future Seer

Voice Changer - Avatar

Face Seer -Time Traces

Dazz Cam- D3D Photo Effect

Translator -AI & Real time

Picsloop-Cartoon & D3D Effect

Beat.ly Music Video Maker

Funny Clip Maker

Pixel - Color by Number

Cartoon Photo Editor-Comic Art

Youni – Photo Effects, Presets

UltraFX - Effect Video Maker

Girl Games: Unicorn Slime

Everbloom – Stories Editor

Impresso - Insta Story Editor

PDF Scanner: Document Scan

Zodianic Astrology & Horoscope

Beat.ly - Music Video Maker

Dizzi - Photo & Video Effects

TikCut - Video Editor Tempo MV

Hyper Cleaner: Clean Phone

Photic - Pic & Photo Editor

Highlight Story Cover Maker!

Cartoonify Photo Editor Camera

PicMagic- Cartoon Photo Editor

Cartoons Me - Photo Art Editor

Vidos - Music Video Maker

Camera+: Photo Video&Cutout

Piconic - Photo Editor&Collage

Sweet Pics - Baby Photo Editor

FX Mage - Magic Video Effects

Slimy: Anxiety Relief Slime 3D

Frame - Slideshow Video Maker

Auto Sticker Maker Studio

iCons - Icon Changer App +

ToonApp Cartoon Photo Editor

MagicFX - Magic Video Effects

Horoscope 2019 and Palm Reader

PolyColor - Color by Polygon

Famous: Celebrity Look Alike

BoomArt - Auto Cutout

Slime Boutique by TeasEar

Handset - Second Phone Number

Pixpic Color by Number

SlidePic - Slideshow Maker

Widja - Photo Widgets

Astro+ Horoscope & Astrology

FaceMe-Fun Personality Tests

Watercolor Effect Oil Painting

Widget PLUS+ - Photo & Weather

Wordy - Word Search Adventure

KeyTune - Custom keyboard

aipic - Magic Photo Editor

PicsFX:Photo&Video Editor

Path - Horoscope & Astrology

Magic Makeup - Tattoo Design

tmm - Chat Fiction Stories

Photo Collage - Collageable

Followers+-My Ins Reports

Hub - Story Templates Maker

iWidget Pro : Custom widgets

VidTempo - Music Video Maker

Video Puzzles - Magic Puzzle

Funny Face Swap Me - GIF Maker

Body Editor : Manly Body&Hair

Flame: Smart Online App

Menu Maker!

Fortunescan: Palmistry Online

Video Maker - Photo Effects

edjing Mix - dj app

Guitar - Chords, Tabs & Games

Piano - Lessons & Tiles Games

Beat Maker Go - Make Music

WeDrum: Drums, Real Drum Games

Metronome - Tap Tempo & Rhythm

Guitar Tuner - Ukulele & Bass

Guitar - real games & lessons

Drums: Play Beats & Drum Games

Piano - Music & keyboard game

Guitar Tuner Pro, Bass,Ukulele

Beat maker pro - DJ Drum Pad

Karaoke Songs - Voice Singing

Piano Crush - Keyboard Games

edjing Pro - music remix maker

DJ it! - Music Mixer Pad

Jambl: DJ Band & Beat Maker

Guitar Play - Games & Songs

Memoristo: Brain Test, IQ Game

Loop Maker Pro - Music Maker

Metronome Pro - Beat & Tempo

Equalizer+ HD music player

Bass Booster Volume Power Amp

Equalizer Fx: Bass Booster App

ScanGuru: PDF Document Scanner

Drink Water ∙ Daily Reminder

Password Manager - Lock Apps

Live Wallpaper Maker: 4K Theme

RECOLLECT: Color by Number

Avatar Maker Character Creator

Translator Guru: Voice & Text

Ringtones HD ∙ Ringtone Maker

Scanner App ∙ Scan & Sign PDF

Translate Camera - Speak On

The apps will also use fake reviews to fool potential victims, added Vávra.

"The app profile looks official and doesn’t raise red flags at first sight. However, upon closer investigation, it becomes apparent that a big portion of the reviews are fake (they contain repeating text or are poorly-worded and generic in nature). There is reason to believe this form of review boosting is becoming a more prominent practice," he said. 

However, within the real reviews, users' dismay is clear. 

"I did not want to purchase this! I was trying to back out of the whole thing! Not confirm a $15 purchase of a useless game that doesn't make sense... I just want my money back!!"

And, he warned, several popular apps that were previously free have now converted to the fleeceware model, and now offer expensive subscriptions. 

"Judging by reviews, sometimes users who have previously paid for the full application are also forced into the fleeceware subscriptions without being given access to the already-purchased app. It is likely more developers will follow suit, as the revenue generated from fleeceware is evidently substantial."

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Image: Yahoo Finance
Image: Yahoo Finance