One of the top paid apps on Google Play for more than a week was an antivirus app- but this app’s only real function was to change an image on the screen. It didn’t actually do anything to protect your phone, yet it cost you $3.99.
That didn’t stop Virus Shield from vaulting to the top of the paid apps section of Google Play, where it received mostly positive four and five-star reviews from 1,270 of its over 10,000 users, prior to being taken down.
Due to it being an open source platform, Android users have to be slightly more concerned about malware than iOS users. In fact, if you were to search for antivirus apps, you would notice quite a difference between the greater number in the Google Play store versus the App Store. Good antivirus apps sell quite well on Google Play, but apparently, so do bad ones.
Sure, Virus Shield’s promise of a clean and simple interface was valid- all you had to do was tap the screen to activate the app and it would protect your device. Except that it didn’t.
Earlier this month, the team at Android Police took an in-depth look at the app’s code, and found that it only did one thing- change the image on the screen from an ‘X’ to a ‘check’ mark.
Due to the false advertising, Google removed the app and its seller from Google Play shortly after Android Police posted their findings. How did the app wind up for sale in the first place? It turns out that while Google’s marketplace does scan for malware in the apps it sells, Virus Shield didn’t contain any bad code- it was totally harmless, other than the fact that users were being conned out of $4.
This also brings to light an issue with Google Play’s refund policy, which states that in order to get an automatic refund for an app, you need to request one within 15 minutes of installing it. Beyond that, you’d need to contact the developer directly, and chances are this con artist isn’t going to help users seeking refunds.
Fake apps will often show up in different categories on Google Play, and generally you’ll be tipped off by the negative reviews of other users who said the app wasn’t worth the money, but as this Virus Shield app scam shows- reviews are not totally reliable. It’s especially difficult to tell if an antivirus app is working, as most people just assume it is running in the background doing what it’s supposed to.
So how can you avoid becoming a victim of such a scam? The only thing you can really do is research the app outside of the Google Play marketplace- check to see if the developer has a website, if other websites have reviewed it, or only use antivirus apps from trusted companies like AVG, McAffee, Norton, Malwarebytes, and Doctor Web.