Study Finds Up to 2% of Top 1,000 Paid Apps on App Store Were Scams

Apple has used its app review process as a bulwark in recent legal assaults on its App Store policy, and put particular emphasis on the security benefits for iOS users when buying apps. However, an investigation has found that almost 2% of the top 1,000 highest grossing apps on a given day were some sort of scam.

app store safe secure
According to The Washington Post, which conducted the investigation, scam apps have been "hiding in plain sight" in Apple's ‌App Store‌, including several VPN apps that duped users into paying for software they didn't need, a QR code reader that asked users for a $5 weekly subscription for a feature that's already built into Apple's native Camera app, and some apps that fraudulently appropriated the branding of Amazon and Samsung.

Two thirds of the 18 apps that The Post flagged in its paywalled report have since been removed by Apple from the ‌App Store‌. However, according to market research firm Appfigures, the scam apps are said to have cost customers an estimated $48 million during the time that they were available, while earning Apple a sizable commission in the process.

The report comes at a time when Apple has increasingly looked to security as one of the reasons it takes up to a 30% cut on all ‌App Store‌ transactions. In the recent Apple vs Epic Games trial, for example, CEO Tim Cook claimed the the company's strict review process prevented the ‌App Store‌ from becoming a "toxic mess." Cook has also suggested that allowing developers to offer their own payment systems in apps would make the ‌App Store‌ no better than a "flea market," and that by curating the ‌App Store‌, users have "a safe and trusted place" to discover apps.

Only last month, Apple announced that it had blocked $1.5 billion in potentially fraudulent transactions in 2020. In the same press release, the company claimed that it catches most scams within a month of them arriving on the ‌App Store‌.

In a statement given to The Post, an Apple spokesperson said:

"We hold developers to high standards to keep the App Store a safe and trusted place for customers to download software, and we will always take action against apps that pose a harm to users. Apple leads the industry with practices that put the safety of our customers first, and we'll continue learning, evolving our practices and investing the necessary resources to make sure customers are presented with the very best experience."

The problem of scam iOS apps has dogged Apple's ‌App Store‌ for some years now, but recently there have been concerted efforts by some developers to highlight that the problem remains as big as ever in at least some app categories.

Top Rated Comments

Will Co Avatar
14 months ago
Or we could report this another way. 98% of the top paid apps were NOT scams.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
slineaudi Avatar
14 months ago
Seems like a hit piece when "teaming with scams" is defined as 18 of 1000 apps selling something you don't actually need and Apple has already removed 2/3 of them. I'd still rather have the Apple review process than not on the App Store.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Feek Avatar
14 months ago
Anyone else remember the 'I am Rich' app ;)
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Orange Bat Avatar
14 months ago

I am a developer and have made my living from Mac software since 1992. A one-time fee does not really work. If you had bought my main product in 1992, I would have worked an additional 29 years providing upgrades for free. Apple does not support an upgrade model so IAP is the only economically viable way to handle revenue.
A competitor of my app offers the app for free with in app purchases. I offer mine as a paid app. Guess what: I’m switching to in app purchases within the next year even though I really don‘t want to do it. The problem is that people see “free” and immediately download it and make the in app purchase. Many of those some users flat out ignore paid apps. I really hate in app purchases but it is the only way for many apps to gain any traction at all.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
FightTheFuture Avatar
14 months ago
Apple Event Day = scheduled media attack morning.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
collin_ Avatar
14 months ago
“In the same press release, the company claimed that it catches most scams within a month of them arriving on the ‌App Store‌.”

Uh, how about before they arrive on the App Store?
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

iOS App Store General Feature Dock 2

Apple Would Rather Pay Up to €50 Million in Fines Than Address 'Gatekeeper' App Store Behavior, Says EU Chief

Wednesday February 23, 2022 6:14 am PST by
Apple would rather pay a maximum of €50 million in fines than address concerns brought forward by the Dutch competition authority regarding developer access to third-party payment methods on the App Store, the EU's head of digital policy, Margrethe Vestager, has said. During a speech about the digital economy and privacy (via TechCrunch), Vestager said that Apple "essentially prefers paying...
wordle

Clones of Popular 'Wordle' Game Flooding App Store, Including One Charging $30 Per Year [Updated]

Tuesday January 11, 2022 1:39 pm PST by
If you're a regular internet user you've probably heard of popular web-based daily guessing game Wordle, created by Josh Wardle. The game, which is entirely free to play, was introduced last fall and has been spreading like wildfire. Wordle asks players to guess a five letter word by identifying which letters are in the word and are located in the right location. Players get six guesses per...
iOS App Store General Feature JoeBlue

App Store Now Supports Unlisted Apps Discoverable Only With a Direct Link

Friday January 28, 2022 11:27 am PST by
Apple recently announced that the App Store now supports unlisted apps discoverable only with a direct link, as outlined on its developer website. Developers with apps that aren't suited for public distribution can submit a request on Apple's website to distribute unlisted apps, which don't appear in any App Store categories, recommendations, charts, search results, or other listings....
app store blue banner

Developers Complain as App Store Feature Promotes Rip-Off Apps

Thursday August 5, 2021 6:12 am PDT by
Apple has featured a number of apps with disproportionately expensive subscriptions on the App Store, arousing the ire of some developers. The App Store feature on the Australian App Store, first highlighted by Beau Nouvelle on Twitter, is called "Slime relaxations" and reportedly features apps that are non-functional and seek to charge disproportionately costly in-app purchase...
cydia vs apple feature

Judge Dismisses Cydia Creator's Lawsuit Against Apple For Now

Wednesday January 5, 2022 9:33 pm PST by
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers today granted Apple's motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the company by Jay Freeman, creator of an alternative App Store known as Cydia for "jailbroken" iPhones and iPads. The case might not be over yet, however, as Freeman was given the option to file an amended complaint by January 19. Freeman sued Apple in late 2020, alleging that the...
iOS App Store General Feature Dock 2

Apple Defends App Store Changes in the Netherlands as Fines Reach €30 Million

Monday February 28, 2022 9:32 am PST by
Amid an ongoing dispute with the Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) in the Netherlands over the App Store, Apple has defended its plan to require app developers to submit an additional app binary for the Dutch storefront if they wish to use a third-party payment processing method. The ACM has ruled that Apple must allow dating apps in the Netherlands to use third-party payment...
app store blue banner

Apple Pays $100 Million to Settle Developer Lawsuit and Agrees to Multiple App Store Changes

Thursday August 26, 2021 5:08 pm PDT by
Apple today announced plans to make several changes to the App Store in order to settle a class-action lawsuit that was brought against Apple by developers in the United States. Under the terms of the deal, Apple will let developers use communication methods like email to tell customers about payment methods available outside of iOS apps, and it will expand the price points that developers...
iOS App Store General Feature Dock

Indie Developer Dogged By Scammy Clone Apps Again Highlights the Holes in Apple's App Store Review Process

Monday February 21, 2022 9:29 am PST by
Apps that copy concepts and features from other apps are nothing new in the ‌App Store‌, but scammy like-for-like clones of genuine apps remain a perennial problem that Apple still hasn't resolved, as indie developer Kevin Archer recently discovered. Archer is responsible for 2Stable's Authenticator App, a feature-rich app that stores and generates secure two-factor authentication tokens...

Popular Stories

widgets ios 16 feature

Gurman: iPhone 14 Pro to Feature Always-On Display Showing iOS 16's New Lock Screen Widgets

Sunday June 26, 2022 7:36 am PDT by
iPhone 14 Pro models are widely expected to feature always-on displays that allow users to view glanceable information without having to tap to wake the screen. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman said the feature will include support for iOS 16's new Lock screen widgets for weather, fitness, and more. "Like the Apple Watch, the iPhone 14 Pro will be...
maxresdefault

M2 13-Inch MacBook Pro With 256GB SSD Appears Slower Than Equivalent M1 in Real-World Speed Tests

Monday June 27, 2022 1:57 pm PDT by
Benchmark testing has indicated that the 256GB variant of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 chip offers slower SSD performance than its M1 equivalent, and now real-world stress testing by YouTuber Max Yuryev of Max Tech suggests that the 256GB SSD in the 13-inch MacBook Pro is also underperforming in day-to day-usage. The M2 MacBook Pro with 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM was slower than the M1 MacBook ...
13 inch macbook pro m2 mock feature 2

Base 13-Inch MacBook Pro With M2 Chip Has Significantly Slower SSD Speeds

Sunday June 26, 2022 2:52 pm PDT by
Following the launch of Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M2 chip, it has been discovered that the $1,299 base model with 256GB of storage has significantly slower SSD read/write speeds compared to the equivalent previous-generation model. YouTube channels such as Max Tech and Created Tech tested the 256GB model with Blackmagic's Disk Speed Test app and found that the SSD's read and...
m2 mac mini screen feature

Gurman: Apple Planning M2 Pro Mac Mini, New Apple TV With A14 Chip, Revamped HomePod With S8 Chip, and More

Sunday June 26, 2022 6:31 am PDT by
In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman outlined additional M2 Macs on Apple's product roadmap, including new Mac mini models with M2 and M2 Pro chips, new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, and a new Mac Pro tower with M2 Ultra and "M2 Extreme" chips. Following the M2 series of Macs, Gurman said the first M3 series of...
M2 Pro and Max Feature

Apple's Upcoming M2 Pro Chip for High-End MacBook Pro and Mac Mini Will Reportedly Be 3nm

Monday June 27, 2022 7:31 am PDT by
TSMC will manufacture Apple's upcoming "M2 Pro" and "M3" chips based on its 3nm process, according to Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes. "Apple reportedly has booked TSMC capacity for its upcoming 3nm M3 and M2 Pro processors," said DigiTimes, in a report focused on competition between chipmakers like TSMC and Samsung to secure 3nm chip orders. As expected, the report said TSMC will...
iPhone 11 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro

iPhone 11 Pro vs. 14 Pro: New Features to Expect if You've Waited to Upgrade

Monday June 27, 2022 11:22 am PDT by
With many customers choosing to upgrade their iPhone every two or three years nowadays, there are lots of iPhone 11 Pro users who might be interested in upgrading to the iPhone 14 Pro later this year. Those people are in for a treat, as three years of iPhone generations equals a long list of new features and changes to look forward to. Below, we've put together a list of new features and...
tesla carplay hack

Tesla Apple CarPlay Hack Updated to Work With Any Tesla Model

Monday June 27, 2022 3:38 am PDT by
Polish developer Michał Gapiński has released a new and improved version of his "Tesla Android Project" which brings Apple's CarPlay experience to more Tesla vehicles than ever before. According to Gapiński, version 2022.25.1 provides "100% functional CarPlay integration for any Tesla," and comes with several new features and bug fixes. The project now supports DRM video playback so that...
2022 back to school apple

Apple Launches 2022 Back to School Offer: Up to $150 Gift Card With Mac or iPad

Friday June 24, 2022 5:08 am PDT by
Apple today launched its annual "Back to School" promotion for college/university students in the United States and Canada. This year's promotion offers a free Apple gift card with the purchase of an eligible Mac or iPad, rather than free AirPods like last year. Apple is also offering students 20% off AppleCare+ plans during the promotion. Apple is offering a $150 gift card with the purchase ...