While we’ve seen fake ChatGPT apps spreading malware in the past, a new report from the cybersecurity firm Sophos has revealed that app developers are also creating fake ChatGPT apps to trick users into paying for expensive subscriptions.
During its investigation, the company’s security researchers looked at five ChatGPT apps on the App Store and Google Play Store. Although these apps aren’t malicious, Sophos says they are actually fleeceware as they “bombard users with ads until they sign up for a subscription.”
Most of these types of apps are free to install but since the free versions “have near-zero functionality and constant ads” according to Sophos, users are more likely to sign up for a subscription. These subscriptions can get quite expensive, with their developers charging anywhere from $10 a month to $70 a year.
For instance, the iOS version of Chat GBT called “Ask AI Assistant” charges $6 a week or $312 for the year after its free three-day trial is up. Just in March of this year, the app brought in $10,000 for its developers. However, another fleeceware-like app called Genie brought in $1 million over the past month, according to data from SensorTower.
Fleeceware apps vs malicious apps
Sophos was actually the first to spot fleeceware on the Play Store back in 2019. One interesting thing about all of these kinds of apps is that they are designed in such a way “to stay on the edge of What’s allowed by Google and Apple in terms of service.”
Malicious apps often operate in a similar way but unlike fleeceware apps, they can infect the best Android phones with dangerous malware. Still though, you want to be on the lookout for fleeceware as these types of apps can end up costing you quite a lot of money if you aren’t careful.
Besides overcharging users for functionality that is free elsewhere, the creators of these apps also use social engineering and coercive tactics to trick users into signing up for recurring subscriptions. Even then though, many of these apps are often poorly written and upgrading to the paid version makes little difference.
Another way that fleeceware developers get their apps installed on smartphones is by inflating their ratings in app stores by using fake reviews along with annoying requests to get users to rate them.
Delete these apps now
Below you’ll find the full list of all of the fleeceware apps posing as legitimate chatbot and ChatGPT apps on the App Store and Play Store. While you don’t necessarily need to delete them, you probably should unless you want to end up paying for an expensive subscription for features you can actually access for free.
- Open Chat GBT - AI Chatbot App
- AI Chatbot - Ask AI Assistant
- AI Chat GBT - Open Chatbot App
- AI Chat - Chatbot AI Assistant
- Genie - AI Chatbot
- AI Chatbot - Open Chat Writer
Sophos has reported all of these apps to both Apple and Google and many have since been removed from their respective app stores. However, if you have one installed on your smartphone, you will need to manually remove it by uninstalling the app.
How to access ChatGPT on your smartphone without getting scammed
Trying out the latest software especially when it’s as popular as ChatGPT makes it quite easy for app developers to trick users into signing up for a subscription to get access.
However, the only way to get quick and guaranteed access to ChatGPT is to sign up for OpenAI’s ChatGPT Plus for $20 a month.
Likewise, you can also get access to the chatbot by using Bing Chat as Microsoft has partnered with OpenAI to bring ChatGPT to its search engine. There’s another advantage to going this route as well since Bing Chat has access to the latest data since it uses GPT-4 and searches the internet by default. ChatGPT on the other hand stopped training in 2021 and runs on GPT-3.5.
As of now though, OpenAI has yet to release an official ChatGPT app for mobile. When it does though, we’ll certainly have all the info here, so stay tuned. Until then, you’ll need to open up a new browser window on your smartphone and head to “chat.openai.com” to access ChatGPT for free on mobile.
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Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.