Scammy Mac apps force users to pay for subscription

A report by 'The Verge' reveals how some shady Mac apps are tricking users to pay up.

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Back in 2021, The Washington Post reported that around two percent of the 1,000 highest-grossing apps in the Apple App Store were some form of scam. Turns out the Mac App Store also isn't immune to shady developers. As The Verge reports, a developer named Kosta Eleftheriou has shed light on questionable apps listed on the Mac App Store, which use pop-ups that make it difficult to exit unless you pay their subscription fees. Eleftheriou had also previously identified a number of scam apps for iOS that made it through Apple's review process.

The developer started looking into the situation after a Twitter user named Edoardo Vacchi posted about an app called My Metronome that disables the Quit option until you pay for a subscription. (Apple made it easier to report scam apps on iOS 15, but Vacchi said there was no way to report My Metronome on Mac.) Eleftheriou confirmed Vacchi's claim and pointed The Verge to other applications exhibiting the same behavior. Mac and iOS developer Jeff Johnson did some digging of his own and found that the developer behind My Metronome, Music Paradise LLC, is registered at the same address in Russia as another developer named Groove Vibes.

The Verge downloaded apps by both Music Paradise and Groove Vibes and found that while some of them had appropriate ways to quit, others disabled the quit option and Mac's force quit keys. It's still possible to exit the applications without paying, but the links to close their pop-ups look like they were deliberately designed to be hard to find.

Apple prides itself in having a rigorous review process for the App Store — Tim Cook even said during an Epic trial last year that the store would be a "toxic mess" without it. Shady and fraudulent apps are still slipping through despite the measures taken by the tech giant, though, and it may even be earning from them. According to that 2021 report from The Post, the scam apps it found may have defrauded users out of an estimated $48 million, including Apple's commission. The My Metronome app is no longer available for us when we checked, but it's unclear if it was Apple itself that removed it. We asked the tech giant for a comment and will update this post if we hear back.