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Security & privacy

Hundreds of fleeceware apps found in app stores – Don’t be tricked into paying

Whether you want to learn a new language, edit photos or seek counseling, you can find an application or service to help you out. Some will not charge you any money, though they may collect payment in other forms, such as your personal data.

While some services are worth a paid subscription, you can find many useful tools, apps and more that don’t require a credit card. Tap or click here for 20 things you can get for free.

When it comes to subscriptions, it’s up to you to keep track. Many of these services have an autopay function that won’t alert you upon renewal. The problem is it’s easy to sign up for multiple services and forget about those you don’t use often. On top of that, canceling a subscription isn’t always straightforward. This has led to an increase in fleeceware or apps with excessive subscription fees. We’ll show you how to avoid falling victim to these scammy services.

Here’s the backstory

While using an app you downloaded from Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store is generally safer than an app from a third-party store, there are still risks. While some apps hit you with malware and attempt to steal your information, fleeceware goes right for your wallet.

These seemingly innocuous apps can lure you in with free trials that automatically switch to a subscription upon expiration. Once you’re roped in, canceling your subscription can be very difficult.

A study by Avast revealed 204 fleeceware apps in Apple and Google’s official stores. These apps were downloaded more than a billion times and raked in more than $400 million. Some subscription charges ran nearly $3,500 per year.

The list of these crooked apps consisted mostly of musical instrument apps, palm readers, image editors, camera filters, fortune tellers, QR code and PDF readers. Tap or click here to use your phone’s built-in QR code reader. Even if one of these apps delivered the promised experience, users were hit with high recurring fees without their knowledge.

Many of these apps target young people through social media with ads proclaiming free downloads and installations. Free trials usually last three days before the fee kicks in, which can recur weekly or monthly.

You can check out Avast’s full list of fleeceware apps found on Apple’s App Store for iOS devices here and those found in the Google Play Store for Android devices here.

The trap is set

When you get tired of an app, you just delete it, right? Wrong. You need to go in there and remove your profile, membership and any other connection you have with the app. This sometimes calls for correspondence with the developers, but you must take these steps before removing any service from your device. Tap or click here for our app audit tips.

Fleeceware developers don’t want you to cancel your subscription. They make it difficult for you to find the information you need to drop them. They will make you run around in circles, telling you that you can’t cancel through the app and must do it over the phone or email.

Do you feel that you were scammed? Good luck getting a refund. Apple and Google will not step in after a certain amount of time has passed. You can contact the developer directly or talk to your bank to get the charges lifted, but the outcome will always vary.

What to do if you’re fleeced

Before you worry about past payments or refunds, you should stop payment ASAP. You can cancel subscriptions from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store directly from your phone or tablet. Here’s how:

iOS

  • Open your device Settings and tap your name.
  • Tap Subscriptions and choose the ones you want to cancel.
  • Tap Cancel Subscription.

Android

  • Open the Google Play Store App and make sure you’re signed in to the correct account.
  • Tap the Menu icon and then Subscriptions.
  • Select the subscription you want to cancel and tap Cancel subscription.

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