App Store adverts being abused by scammers

One of Apple’s major marketing points is how much they pay developers in revenue. Highlighting only a few weeks ago that it has paid them $70 billion dollars, with more than $21billion last year alone. However it would appear that dodgy App Store adverts and in-app purchases are bumping that total up through very illegitimate means.

A recent Medium post by Johnny Lin highlights the ways that some, very loosely termed developers, are taking advantage of App Store customers. Companies are displaying confusing in-app purchases and convincing adverts to trick users into signing up for services they simply don’t need. These apps are wide ranging and include a long list of VPN apps, password generators and virus scanners.

I scrolled down the list in the Productivity category and saw apps from well-known companies like Dropbox, Evernote, and Microsoft. That was to be expected. But what’s this? The #10 Top Grossing Productivity app (as of June 7th, 2017) was an app called “Mobile protection :Clean & Security VPN”.

One app in question, ‘Mobile protection’, signed a user up for a $100 per week subscription for offering absolutely nothing in return. The ‘developer’ of this particular app gains an estimated $80,000 per month from this practice – so all of a sudden that $70billion figure comes into question.


You may think users aren’t stupid to fall for these scams, or somehow deserve it for laying their finger on the Touch ID sensor. Yet these apps are extreamly confusing and have managed to dupe at least 200 subscribers in order to gain its $80,000 per month or $960,000 a year. This app is ranked number 144 in most downloaded and sits proudly amongst productivity apps from high profile, legitimate developers.

Should a user simply search for ‘wifi’, they will be treated by similar apps such as WEP Password Generator displayed at the top of search results. This app uses similar practices, signing users up for a $50/month subscription simply for generating a random string.

This investigation highlights a massive issue with not just App Store adverts but the very function of Apple’s review processes. It is clear Apple could and should fix this as a matter of urgency. Their App Store is held up as an example of the legitimacy of iOS first development, yet is turning into a cesspool for average users.

There are currently no App Store adverts in iOS11 so perhaps things will change, but they really shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place.

Edit: App Store adverts are back in iOS11 and nothing has changed. The scams still continue to be not only in the App Store but also to advertise! 

Site Footer