It’s that time again: a bunch of crappy apps have made their way to the Google Play Store, and it’s on you to make sure you don’t have them on your Android phone. If you do, you’ve just been suckered by “fleeceware.”
What’s “fleeceware?” I confess, it’s a term I don’t often hear, but it’s basically deceptive marketing. An app hides its terms, fees, and/or subscription costs, or otherwise has some clever way to cajole you into signing up for a “free trial” that actually expires very soon and costs you a lot more than you expected when it’s over. These apps aren’t malware per se — at least, they won’t infect your phone with malicious crap that tries to steal your account information or any of that — they’ll just take your money.
The worst part? They skirt the rules for the Google Play Store just enough to avoid getting hit with Google’s ban hammer. As Sophos writes:
“Among the list of apps we reported to Google, the company declined to take action on all but a few, and in those cases, the apps changed how they display the free trial description and terms, removing the only violations. Publishers, at their discretion, may charge unconscionably high subscription prices so long as they abide by these anti-deceptive practices in their promotions.
We understand it’s difficult to provide a fixed price for a app service, but when the app is subjected to review, surely reviewers can easily separate a dodgy looking photo editor charging $US90 ($124) per week from a reputable developer charging a fair price for an app with professional or premium features.”
Generally speaking, you should always tread very, very carefully when an app offers you a free trial — especially if the app already seems a bit underdeveloped, is full of poor grammar, or feels like the kind of app that probably doesn’t need to have in-app purchases, let alone subscriptions. Know exactly what you’re signing up for, how long it lasts, and what happens to you when it’s over. This includes how much you’ll get billed and the billing frequency for your new subscription, if applicable.
If you aren’t crystal clear about these details, tap out of the app and uninstall it. If you’re not sure what you might have just signed up for, or previously signed up for, you can always check your Android subscriptions here. Make it a regular point to visit that page to ensure you’re not paying for something you didn’t mean to.
And while this is hardly a comprehensive list of fleeceware on the Google Play Store — there’s always going to be more — avoiding or uninstalling these apps is a good start:
- File Converter & JPEG Converter
- Recover deleted photos, Photo backup
- Screen recorder: Game recorder
- Photo grid mixer : Insta grid & photogrid
- Search by Image: Image Search – Smart Search
- Dynamic Wallpaper
- Gametris Wallpaper
- Tell Shortvideo
- Video Magician
- Xstar: Sleep and Mindfu – Apps on Google Play
- Palmistry Astrology
- Fortune Mirror
- Prank Call Free Lite
- Fake Chat Conversation – Prank
- Old Me
- My Replica 2: Ethnic Origin, Celebrity Look-Alike
- Live GO Map 2020 for Poke Radar
- IV GO Calculator for Poke GO Genie
- Hy G File Scanner
- Zynoa Wallpaper
Those all sound totally legit and not scams at all, right?