Antivirus and software security firm Avast has reported a number of new “fleeceware” apps showing up on the Google Play store predominantly targeting Minecraft players.
Fleeceware is described by Avast as an application which offers a service with an unusually short trial period, usually only a few days. Once the trial period expires, the app automatically enrolls the user in a subscription and begins charging money, often lots of money disproportionate to the service being provided. It relies on the user being negligent of how long the trial period lasts and cancelling prior to its expiration.
Avast has identified seven apps so far which they state they have reported to Google, but these apps are still up on the Play Store at the present time. Most of these are related to Minecraft, with at least one relating to Roblox, promising new skins and mods for the game. The going subscription rate appears to be $30 USD per week (not monthly, though one offering does have an annual rate of $90 USD). Five of the seven apps have over a million downloads at this point.
Ondrej David, malware analysis team lead at Avast, stated, “Scams of this nature take advantage of those who don’t always read the fine print details of every app they download. In this case, young children are particularly at risk because they may think they are innocently downloading a Minecraft accessory, but not understand or may not pay attention to the details of the service to which they are subscribing. We urge our customers to remain vigilant when downloading any app from unknown developers and to always carefully research user reviews and billing agreements before subscribing.”
Avast also reminds users that simply uninstalling the app is insufficient to cancel the subscription element. Subscriptions can be cancelled directly in the Play Store.