App Store Subscription Scams Are Given a Veneer of Credibility by Fake Reviews

FlickType creator Kosta Eleftheriou:

The App Store has a big problem

You: an honest developer, working hard to improve your IAP conversions.

Your competitor: a $2M/year scam running rampant.

Natasha Lomas, TechCrunch:

The scam goes like this: A bunch of Watch keyboard apps are published that purport to have the same slick features as FlickType but instead lock users into paying eye-wateringly high subscription fees for what is, at best, a pale imitation.

You might expect quality to float to the top of the App Store but the trick is sustained by the clones being accompanied by scores of fake reviews/ratings which crowd out any genuine crowdsourced assessment of what’s being sold.

There is a threefold compounding problem here:

  1. There are many apps in the App Store that are effectively counterfeits.

  2. They plant fake reviews to establish legitimacy.

  3. They abuse expensive subscriptions.

To its credit, Apple was quick to pull the apps when Eleftheriou’s Twitter thread became popular. But this is not something that developers should have to police themselves, and it is not a new problem. Since its inception, Apple has promoted the App Store as a trustworthy and safe marketplace, and has referenced that in defending criticism (PDF) of its commission. The least App Review could do is screen for dime store knockoffs and scams like these.