“Skinnarappar” pulls in billions on the App Store

In 2019, the security company Sophos coined a new concept: Fleeceware. It can be translated as “skin apps”, in the sense of cheating on some money.

It is a subcategory of programs in what is usually called “potentially unwanted software” (PUA or PUP in English), and is about programs that with various tricks try to trick users into paying as much as possible for as little developer effort as possible.

Avast has begun mapping the phenomenon on the App Store, following last month’s revelations of widespread fraud, and has already found 204 “skin apps” that together have raised over $ 400 million on the App Store and Play Store using fraudulent subscriptions.

Common to the apps is that they have a very short trial period of just a few days for an expensive subscription, and an unlocked functionality that does not come close to justifying the price.

According to Avast’s survey, these scams are most common in the following app categories:

  • Musical instrument.
  • Image editing.
  • Camera filter.
  • QR code scanner and pdf reader.
  • Slime simulators.
  • Divination apps.

Many of the apps are aimed at children. A lot have also done a trick and built up a user base as a free app or with a one-time price, to later suddenly switch to expensive subscriptions.