Android ‘fleeceware’ apps caught charging users up to $70 a week after free trials

Fortune Mirror
(Image credit: Google Play)

“I see severe financial pain in your future.” That would be the most apt prediction from a fortune telling app for Android phones that charges $69.99 a week ($3,639.48 a year) automatically after the free trial is over — even after you delete the app.

Yes, the cesspool that is the Google Play Store just got even worse. Security researchers from Sophos have exposed “fleeceware” apps that have been downloaded by more than 600 million Android users. 

Fleeceware are apps that continue to "abuse the app trial mechanism to impose charges to users after they uninstalled an app." Sophos says the less than 25 apps range from fortune tellers, instant messages, video editors and beauty apps.

You may also be surprised to learn that many of these apps have poor user reviews for overcharging and that many didn’t work as advertised. 

The worst part is that some consumers claim they “followed the subscription model’s rules to unsubscribe, and were charged anyway.”

One nasty screen recorder app prompts users to pay for a monthly subscription rate on one screen and then a weekly subscription on another. That should probably be your sign not to proceed.

The two biggest takeaways from the Sophos report are that uninstalling an app does not cancel the trial and to “rigorously avoid” installing these types of free trial apps that kick in subscription fees after the trial ends.

This mess comes on the heels of yet another Google Play Store gem that saw adware-riddled apps hit 550,000 Android devices. The 17 apps snuck in tons of ads, including “horrible intrusive ad popups.” 

The ads were not just annoying, they caused serious battery drain on devices.

I have a New Year’s resolution for the people running the Google Play store: better quality control. 

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.