During a Senate no-confidence hearing yesterday, questions were raised about Apple Store’s inability to rein in subscription scammers. The technology giant argues that one of the reasons developers need to pay app store commissions is to help Apple fight market fraud and protect consumers.
The developers, however, claim that Apple is doing little to stop explicit scams that are now flooding millions of people and will affect consumers’ overall subscription economy, as well as their own legitimate, subscription-based business. One developer in particular, Costa Eleftherio, has created his mission to highlight some of the most deadly scams in the App Store. Elitherio, who works as a one-man Bunco Squad, regularly tweets examples of apps that use fake reviews to promote such harmful businesses.
Other scams he has uncovered include a crypto wallet app that has scammed a user out of his life savings ($600,000) in Bitcoin; A kids game that actually contains a hidden online casino; And a VPN application is scamming out millions of dollars every year. And, of course, there’s the scandal that started the fire in the first place:
Elitheri’s own Apple Watch app rival claims that she steals $2 million a year from scammed users, steals her marketing materials, clones her app, and buys fake reviews to make the scammer look better. Elitheri’s tweets have caught the attention of the wider app developer community, who are now emailing her other examples of their uncovered scams. Elephatherio recently took its crusade one step further by filing a lawsuit against Apple for the revenue it lost to app store scammers.
Although Ilferio’s name was not tested at yesterday’s no-confidence hearing, it was certainly his job. In a line of questions from Georgia Senator John Osof, apple’s Chief Compliance Officer, Kyle Andrews, was asked why these fraudulent apps could not detect scams, as Osof said, “It’s easy to identify as trivial scams.”
He asked why we rely on “open-source reporting and journalists” for the application scandal – a reference that probably refers to at least some of Elphirio’s recent activities. Eletherio himself says that his efforts are worthless. You can only make the most money on apps and then check them out for suspicious user reviews and high subscription prices. When you find both, you’ve probably uncovered a scam.
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