PSA: Better stay away from apps like these that are ripping you off blind

PSA: Better stay away from apps like these that are ripping you off blind
You might wear fleece, but whatever you do, stay away from fleeceware. These are apps that lure you in by offering a free trial (usually for three days) and when it comes time to cancel the trial, the user fails to do so. That leaves the user on the hook for subscriptions that can add up to thousands of dollars per year. According to researchers at Avast, they discovered a total of 204 fleeceware apps in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store with an aggregate number of more than one billion downloads. These apps have collected revenue of over $400 million. That's money that has been scammed out of users' pockets.

Don't get ripped off by ridiculously priced apps charging you extremely high weekly subscription fees

The apps discovered to be fleeceware included musical instrument apps, image editors, camera filters, mind readers, fortune tellers, QR Code readers, slime simulators, and palm readers. The apps for the most part do deliver the goods but they do so at a price that no normal person would pay. In the App Store and Google Play Store there are apps that do the same things as the fleeceware but for a much lower price or even for free. Adults aren't the only one getting tricked as Fleeceware is being marketed to kids who might not see through the gimmick and are enthralled by phrases like "free to download. "By the time the parents notice that they are getting billed sums of money for something that they don't remember buying, enough money has changed hands for the scheme to be profitable for the malicious developers.

These apps don't offer anything unique and were basically listed in the iOS or Android app storefront for the express purpose of scamming consumers by offering them nothing spectacular and a really, really overpriced subscription price. Avast turned over the names of the fleeceware apps that it has discovered to Google and Apple so that the pair can review the situation.

One of the problems facing consumers is that these are not considered to be malicious apps which gives the developer the ability to promote them in normal channels. Sensor Tower's Ad Intelligence notes that these applications are being actively advertised on popular social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok.

Keep in mind that deleting the app does not cancel the user's obligation to continue paying the monthly subscription fee. The subscription itself must be canceled and things being what they are, many will end up forgetting that they have to do this and that is exactly what the developers are counting on. Avast found apps charging up to $66 per week or $3,432 over the course of a 52-week year. Most charged $4 to $12 per week which works out to a range of $208-$624 per year.

How can you protect yourself from fleeceware? The easiest and quickest way is to do something that we have suggested for years when it comes to malicious apps. Read the comments and reviews posted by others. They are a red flag, especially now that a new version of fleeceware involves developers who might have sold an app to you for a one-time price but suddenly change the app to one using a weekly subscription model. Those that decline to accept the new terms are blocked from using the app even though it was already paid for in full. Avast says that this could start happening more and more because of the monetary rewards that developers could collect.

Google has a notification that warns users when they have an active subscription for an unwanted app and Apple sends out a message asking the user if he/she still wants to keep the subscription. But to avoid getting stuck in these situations in the first place, take a very good look at apps offering free trials lasting less than a week. Calculate exactly how much you'll be paying for the app on an annual basis. Shop around to see what similar apps are going for. And talk to your entire family about fleeceware.

Despite all of the warnings, you could still find yourself caught by fleeceware. To cancel a subscription on iOS, go to Settings and tap your name. Tap next on subscriptions and then on the app that you want to cancel. Tap on Cancel subscription to escape that weekly payment. On Android, go to the Google Play Store and make sure the right account is open. Tap the three lined hamburger menu and tap on subscriptions. Select the one you want to cancel and follow the directions.

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