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.
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.