Researchers at Sophos have highlighted how devious developers are adapting their apps to appear compliant with Google’s new policies for the Play Store that were designed to prevent customers from getting ripped-off.

This is coming after nearly a year on from its first report on ‘fleeceware’ apps that lure customers into paying exorbitant subscription fees.

But in this latest report titled, Truth-in-advertising policy fails to curb fleeceware.

This new research revealed, among other things:

  • How fleeceware creators are now using misleading language to appear compliant, but are still attempting to dupe unwary users into subscribing for extortionate amounts of money, with some simple wallpaper charging close to US$92 a week!
  • How developers are luring users into a “rabbit hole”, getting them to explore the app beyond the launch page, then bombarding them with pricey and intimidating subscription offers, even when they try to exit the app
  • A list of apps found to be either overcharging customers and violating new anti-fleeceware policies

Based on the tricks seen deployed by the developers, Sophos offers the following top tips to help users spot and avoid money-snatching fleeceware apps:

  • Check apps for greyed-out/tiny fine print that could include important information on subscription prices
  • Be wary of ‘free trials’, these tend to only last a few days before whacking customers with a hefty automatic subscription
  • Avoid generic, unrecommended apps such as photo editors or wallpaper designers, as these seem to be the most common fronts for fleeceware
  • Report apps you spot which seems to charge extortionate prices for simple services

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