Stay away from these popular Android apps if you don't want to be fleeced

Stay away from these popular Android apps if you don't want to be fleeced
There are many types of malicious apps running rampant in Google's Play Store, ranging from good old fashioned adware to spyware and ransomware, but Android users may need to be more concerned about a relatively new phenomenon discovered and documented by security researchers over at SophosLabs that pushes the boundaries of what is traditionally considered malware.

The so-called "fleeceware" plague may have affected more than 600 million users in total by a new count that covers just 21 surprisingly popular apps. Obviously, it's impossible to know how widespread this disease really is across the entire Google Play platform, which reportedly counts around 2.9 million titles published as of December 2019.

As their label suggests, these apps are designed to fleece unsuspecting Android users by overcharging them for weekly, monthly, or annual access to services and tools as basic as fortune-telling (yes, really), video editing, screen recording, and selfie beautification. In most cases, app developers looking to rip you off will offer short free trials to get you started, then charging you obscene sums of money for "premium subscriptions" insufficiently detailed or highlighted during the registration process.


A common practice employed by many of these largely obscure companies to make big bucks off careless users seems to be charging for subscriptions even those people that uninstall their apps before the free trial period concludes. While most devs acting in good faith would interpret that as a clear sign that their "subscribers" want out before having to actually pay anything, the villainous minds behind the rapidly spreading fleeceware epidemic will not cancel your subscription unless you explicitly ask for that.

In certain cases, users complaining about the malicious behaviour of the apps monitored by Sophos even claim their credit cards were charged after cancelling their subscriptions during the free trial window, which definitely crosses the border between shady and outright heinous practices.

Without further ado, here are the 21 Android apps (ordered by popularity) identified as fleeceware that you need to avoid at all costs so you don't risk spending a small fortune on substandard services or features you may not even end up using:

  • GO Keyboard
  • GO Keyboard Lite
  • GO SMS Pro
  • Z Camera
  • S Photo Editor
  • Filmigo
  • GO Security
  • Wonder Video
  • V Recorder
  • VCut
  • Fortunemirror
  • GO Recorder
  • Clipvue
  • Filmix
  • ScreenRecorder
  • Master Recorder
  • Astrofun
  • Easysnap
  • Face X Play
  • Photo Recovery & Video Recovery
  • V Recorder Lite

It's especially important to remember those names or bookmark this page, as every single title on the list is still available for download on Google's Play Store. For what it's worth, the search giant did ultimately kick out all of the fleeceware apps labeled as such by Sophos back in September, so sooner or later, we expect the same to happen to all the titles listed above.

By the way, if you're wondering how some of these largely unknown apps have been able to exceed impressive install tallies of 5, 50, and even 100 million, the answer is probably as nefarious as their fleeceware tactics. Specifically, paid services supplying a large number of phony 5-star reviews, as well as artificially bloated install figures. 

Even for that reason alone, Google has to eject these apps immediately and prevent them from ever returning to the official Play Store. Of course, this is just one of the many security issues the search giant needs to deal with, and devising a universal solution to spot fleeceware apps early or even block them from entering Google Play in the first place is much easier said than done.

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15 Comments

1. shiv179

Posts: 197; Member since: Aug 08, 2012

Dear Adrian Thanks for your Android bashing, it was not a surprise. The Apple App Store has a similar problem as well:https://techcrunch.com/2018/10/15/sneaky-subscriptions-are-plaguing-the-app-store/

3. jellmoo

Posts: 2675; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

But if this is somehow Android bashing, then the article you linked to is iOS bashing. How us that any better?

7. dimas

Posts: 3446; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

What the f**k bashing are you talking about? The article is giving warning to android users, egghead.

13. midan

Posts: 3213; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Why bring Apple here? Also you should use word had instead word has. Your link is from 2018! Apple saw this behaviour and fixed the problem a long time ago already. End of the 2018 all upcoming subscription apps had to have pop up window which clearly says how much you need to pay and when and how long your free tier is. Also with iOS13 Apple went even further to protect users by adding feature to apps which warns that you have active subscription if you delete app where you are using subscriptions. So yes Apple already fixed this a long time ago with these few things. I don't know how it works with android currently, but seeing this news they clearly need to do something for it just like Apple did to prevent this thing to happen anymore.

2. Vancetastic

Posts: 1869; Member since: May 17, 2017

Those are popular?

8. dimas

Posts: 3446; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Yes, in asian countries those apps are big hits

10. Vancetastic

Posts: 1869; Member since: May 17, 2017

Ok, that makes sense. I didn't think of that.

4. speedingcheetah

Posts: 97; Member since: Jul 22, 2017

i used to use some of those Green icon GO apps like the SMS ones, but that was many years ago. they were fine back then.

6. Alter

Posts: 237; Member since: Mar 25, 2016

Same here, I used a GO app on my first android phone a long time ago but even back then plenty of people tried to warn that the developer was shady

16. AlienKiss

Posts: 315; Member since: May 21, 2019

Same! Actually I used to love Go Keyboard and Go Launcher EX. But that was a long time ago.. Now I'm using SwiftKey and Buzz Launcher.

5. Cyberchum

Posts: 1133; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

Of all the app-related images he could use, he chose a Samsung homescreen showing none of the apps in question. He could had used an image of the Play Store icon, but no! He possibly wanted to scare people into thinking it was a Samsung issue. PA is meh!

9. Blazers

Posts: 779; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

Calm down. You're reading way to much into this. Samsung is one of the most popular Android makers (especially in the US) outside of China and India, so it makes sense to show a Samsung screen.

14. Cyberchum

Posts: 1133; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

No, it's an android "app" issue, what makes sense is to show the image of the biggest Android app store. No one would read other meaning into it that way.

15. nodes

Posts: 1164; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

Yeah, Samsung use their own OS, how dare PhoneArena use Samsung phone as an article picture. Samsung is not related at all.

11. CDexterWard

Posts: 130; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

Recognize the Z Camera app. I think it was in an article on another site a while ago about best photo apps. I just checked it out. Average rating 4.6 and over 100 million downloads. Eek

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