Apple removed scam apps that used a sneaky trick to steal iPhone users - and reveals a growing problem with the App Store (AAPL) - Markets Insider

Tim CookDrew Angerer / Getty Images

  • Over the weekend, iPhone app scams have been discovered that cause users to make in-app purchases that they did not intend to do.
  • Sometimes these scams steal up to $ 120 from a user.
  • Apple has not commented, but has removed scam apps from the App Store over the weekend.
  • Apple claims to approve each and every app on the App Store, but the cracks in the review process are starting to show up.

The Apple App Store is often referred to as a "walled garden". Apple has a team of auditors that check every send and update for over 2 million apps for iPhone and iPad.

But apparently, there are some snakes that have made their way into the walled garden – and are stealing money from iPhone users, sometimes up to $ 120, in the form of in-app purchases.

Over the weekend two examples appeared that use the iPhone fingerprint scanner to trick the user into purchases they did not intend to make.

An app, highlighted by 9to5Mac, an Apple blog, told users that it would read the heart rate via the fingerprint. All you had to do was keep your fingerprints on the Touch ID scanner – which, coincidentally, is like approving an in-app purchase.

So the app developer would take a large amount of money from your credit card. (Of course, iPhones can not take heart rate readings through the fingerprint scanner.)

Watch this very similar example from an app called Fitness Balance, shared on Reddit:

Apple has not responded to a request for comment on how consumers can protect themselves from these scams and whether users are eligible for a refund, but the Apple support account stated on Twitter: "Thank you for bringing it to our attention forwarded to the appropriate team for further analysis. "

The apps discussed on Reddit and 9to5Mac have been removed from the App Store.

App Store scams seem to increase as the store gets bigger and app revenue becomes more central to Apple's business strategy. Apple recently said it would stop disclosing iPhone unit sales, preferring instead to focus investors' attention on its online services business, of which the commissions collected by the App Store are one of the most important components.

In fact, Apple is actively encouraging its developers to adopt a subscription model for their apps, allowing Apple to collect regular recurring revenue from users.

But like this happens, many independent developers are raising problems with what seems like Apple's arbitrary approach to app store approvals. Many creative and high-quality app developers complain that their apps are postponed or removed from what appear to be insignificant violations of the App Store guidelines, while scam apps often appear in the store's highest-grossing charts.

"I have tormented Apple for years publicly and privately on the manipulation and direct scams going on in the App Store. Apple has made some progress here and there, but Apple's overall severity in some areas and the approach" hands-off "in others has disproportionately rewarded bad actors while stifling conscientious developers," developer David Barnard recently wrote in a widely shared post in the Apple developer community.

Apple's control over the App Store can also raise legal issues, such as the price challenge the Supreme Court heard discussing at the start of this year.

However, Apple sees its App Store curated and monitored as a key differentiator from competitors such as Google and Amazon, which largely use a more algorithmic approach to control the content of their platforms.

According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, the human review in the App Store helps to "improve and increase the bar" and helps protect user privacy from apps that may steal data from users. "What you sell at that store says something about you, and if you do not want to sell that other thing, you do not sell it," Cook said.

"We're looking at every app in detail." What he's doing, he's doing what he's saying he's doing, he's respecting the privacy policy they're saying, right? " He continued.

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