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Fraudulent apps steal more than $400 million from users

This post is also available in: Português (Portuguese (Portugal))

Through a recent investigation, Avast researchers were able to discover a total of 204 apps that fell into the category of fleeceware.

According to the cybersecurity company, the applications on the Play Store and App Store had billions of installations. Based on estimates by the consultancy Sensor Tower, its total revenues are estimated to exceed $400 million.

The researchers explain that among the set were applications that presented themselves as image editors, camera filters, PDF file readers, QR code scanners. Highlighted were also proposals of a more dubious character, such as apps that predict the future of users or read the fate in the palm of their hand.

Apparently, the strategy of the creators of this type of application seems to be to appeal to a younger audience, using, for example, captivating ads on social networks. In most cases, when parents of young people notice that something is wrong and that a series of suspicious payments are beginning to emerge, applications have already managed to collect large sums.

Most of the applications identified by Avast researchers drew attention through free trial periods. However, its creators did not mention that, once the free period ended, users would be required to pay a subscription.

Although most had a cost of 4 to 12 dollars a week, in some of the most egregious cases, the subscription price reached 66 dollars. Experts also note that there is a worrying trend: applications that once required only one payment are becoming “fleeceware”.

Reversing the entire process and trying to get the money spent back is a complicated task. After a certain period after installation, both Google and Apple are no longer responsible for the refund process and redirect users to the developers of the application.

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