Apple, Please Make It Easier To Report Scam Apps

I was searching Apple’s App Store for something and came across a bunch of apps from a developer who offers a suite of apps that seem designed to confuse customers into paying for in-app purchases and subscriptions under false pretences.

First there is a “Find My AirPods” type app which costs $4.99 a month and claims to be able to find Fitbit devices as well. Obviously this is a scam since this functionality is built into iOS and the APIs are not exposed to allow developers to even do this.

Next there is a Among Us wallpaper app with a £2.99 in-app purchase – questionable as it seems to be using intellectual property owned by the creators of Among Us, Innersloth. This app is however nothing to do with them.

Finally, there is an app named “Audacity” that uses the same icon as the popular open source audio editor Audacity. Only judging from the screenshots, it offers none of the functionality you would expect from its open source namesake and its privacy policy is hosted by Google Sites, not on audacityteam.org as one might expect. Unsurprisingly, this fake Audacity app costs £4.49 a month.

There is also a “count down to a day” app which on the face of it doesn’t seem like a scam, this is a useful piece of functionality and I use such an app myself. This countdown app costs a whopping £9.99 per month.

When responding to the case of a man who lost $600, 000 worth of bitcoin by using a scam app, Apple claimed that “In the limited instances when criminals defraud our users, we take swift action against these actors as well as to prevent similar violations in the future.”.

I am surprised that this developer has managed to get apps that use the names AirPods, Among Us, and Audacity through Apple’s review process since they are all well known brand names. While not directly comparable, when developing an Android app for a well-known global bank that was to be published in the Google Play Store, I had to have someone from the bank contact the Google Play review team to confirm I was authorised to publish an app that uses the bank’s name and logo. While the stakes here aren’t as high as a fake banking app, I would expect Apple to do something similar for apps related to popular games and open source software, not to mention apps using Apple’s own trademarks.

So how to report these seemingly dodgy apps to Apple? The only way I can find so far is to install an app first.

Yes that’s right – it’s only possible to report a problem with an app by going to your App Store purchase history page after purchasing or downloading it. There is no “Report Suspicious App” button on the App Store listing itself.

But who in their right mind would install software they suspect is dodgy? I understand that some people might inadvertently pay for scam apps and need a refund, but waiting until after the fact seems lazy of Apple.

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