Fleeceware apps caused mobile users spend over $400 million unwillingly

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Everything you want to know about Fleeceware apps and scams

The researchers at the cybersecurity firm Avast have discovered hundreds of fleeceware apps which were downloaded over a billion times. Not only that, but they also generated revenue of over $400 million on Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.

If you were fed up with the malware, spyware, stalkerware, and/or any other scam apps, you must have the fleeceware apps. The term “fleeceware” refers to mobile apps that come with excessive subscription fees.

Most of these apps include a short free trial to lure the users in. But in reality, they take advantage of the users who are not actually familiar with how subscriptions work on mobile devices and usually forget to cancel subscriptions before deleting the app. The worst part is, after attracting users for a free trial, the apps overcharge them through subscriptions.

These weekly, monthly, or annual subscriptions then sometimes reach over $3,000 per year. Unlike many legit applications with professional services, these apps have no unique functionality. Yet these apps are only the pathways to lure users into scams. Avast explains how fleeceware scams promise free subscription trials but charge heavily to the victims.

These applications generally have no unique functionality and are merely conduits for fleeceware scams. Avast has reported the fleeceware applications to both Apple and Google for review.

Avast has noted that these apps normally serve the purpose as intended. However, it’s highly unlikely that users will want to pay huge recurring subscription charges for it. Jakub Vávra, the expert at Avast, noted that these apps usually target a young audience through playful themes and catchy advertisements on popular social networks with the tag lines of “free installation” or “free download”.

Adverts and Fake Reviews

Fleeceware Apps
1,2) three-day free trial with a recurring subscription fee – 3) a video advert of a similar app played on Instagram.

The developers of these apps use adverts and fake reviews which work great to spread the fleeceware apps. Thanks to the official platforms as these apps are available on, they have full access to advertisement features. The report also noted that advertising is one of the major tools for these apps to reach as many users as possible. They heavily “invest” in “advertising” on major social networks including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Fleeceware Fake Reviews
Likely Fake Reviews

Once the user clicks on the advert, they’re redirected to the app’s profile on the respective device’s app market. Here, the user is met with a well laid out app profile that often has a four or five-star review. 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.

List of kinds of apps fleeceware scam may hit you through

The security firm has also listed a few kinds of apps that it discovered the most for fleeceware scams.

  • Musical instrument app
  • Palm readers
  • Image editors
  • Camera filters
  • Fortune tellers
  • QR code and PDF readers
  • Slime simulators

Avast advised the app stores to protect users from fleeceware scams

One simple solution is to spontaneously prompt the user about any active or recurring subscription when uninstalling an app with the subscription. This solution is already in place by both Apple and Google but Avast thinks it could be better. The security firm has given a few more solutions that the platforms should follow for their users’ protection.

Such as “If the user accepts a free trial, the app could require another confirmation before paying money for the actual subscription once the free trial is over.” In this scenario, the app’s functionality would stop until the user pays the required fee. This would give the user direct control over subscription payments and allow them to make a fully informed decision on continuing with the subscription.

The platform must identify and filter out fake or automated reviews as it will improve user’s ability to find more reliable real reviews. It advised listing in-app purchases in more detail and clarity. It will definitely help the user to see what an application is charging and how the charges will end up.

A few tips for users to avoid fleeceware scams

Avast has also advised end-users to keep from fleeceware scams and apps. The list is short and simple.

  • Be careful with free trials of less than a week.
  • Read the fine print and application’s profile. Check the “in-app purchases” section.
  • Be skeptical of viral advertisements.
  • Shop around and look for alternative apps if the charges seem higher.
  • Secure your payments with a password.
  • Discuss the dangers of fleeceware with your family.

Avast has even listed a few steps to report to your respective platform if you fall victim to fleeceware scams or apps. Check details in the source link below.

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