Downloading a free app? STOP! See what happened to this child | How-to

Downloading a free app? STOP! See what happened to this child

Downloading an unsuspicious free app resulted in a woman losing more than Rs. 10,000. Do not fall for this online scam. Know how to avoid it on Google Play Store.

By: AKASH DUTTA
| Updated on: Apr 30 2022, 14:07 IST
Scam
Online scams are getting harder to suspect. Downloading a free app cost a woman more than Rs. 10,000. Find out what happened and how you can save yourself while downloading apps on Google Play Store. (Alex Green/Pexels)

In today's world, where everyone is connected digitally and most of us have our financial details on our smartphones through UPI, digital wallets and net banking apps, it is crucial to be wary of any online scam that may lurk around us. While many of us maintain safety by not downloading files from unknown sources and not clicking on shady links, what happens when the online scam takes place on one of the most trusted places online to download apps – Google Play Store. We all are guilty of downloading new free apps and games from there without giving a second thought. But that is exactly what resulted in a horrifying event for this woman who lost more than Rs. 10,000 after simply downloading a free app. Read on to know what happened to her and how you can keep yourself safe.

Woman falls for an online scam on Google Play Store and loses more than Rs. 10,000

The incident took place in Essex, UK, where Sarah Bruce, a mother of two suddenly found out that a free app her son downloaded had charged her a hefty £109.99 or about Rs. 10,000. She recounted the event to Sun Online. She said, “My son was on my phone, watching something on YouTube and an ad flashed up for a game called Epic Slime – Fancy ASMR Slime Game Sim”. After taking a look at the app, she found nothing suspicious about it, so she told her son that he could download it. And that's when she got the biggest horror of her life.

“I then got an email from Google Play to say thank you for your purchase for Epic Slime at £109.99,” Sarah told Sun Online. But then, to make matters worse, she was further charged £68.99 (around Rs. 6,600) as a first payment for a weekly subscription to the app. Fuming, when she contacted Google, they could only tell her that it was not in their policy to refund the money and she would have to take it up with the app developer.

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After repeatedly contacting the developer and many reports to Google, she managed to get back the subscription fee but not the £109.99. That one free app from Google Play Store ended up costing her a fortune. Such online scams are relatively rare but have come up in recent times. Know how they operate and how to keep yourself safe from them.

How do these Google Play Store apps run their online scam

We investigated the free app in question (which is still available to download), and found out that the app presents itself as a regular free app and does not talk about purchases. But the moment you install and open the app, it opens a huge pop-up window with a big START button with a lot of text in a small script.

The text essentially asks permission to make a purchase. Many unsuspecting users would press the ‘start' button as every game has it not knowing they are giving permission to make a purchase. To make matters worse, you cannot even close the pop-up. The only way is to exit the game. This is a very problematic scam because although on the surface it complies with Google policies, it misuses them to trick users into making purchases. Find out how to protect yourself from such scams.

How to avoid free app online scams on Google Play Store

Step 1:

If possible, try not to link your bank account with Google Play Store to make it impossible for an automatic transaction to take place. 

Step 2:

Always ensure if a child is using your smartphone, they do not download any apps without your permission, even if it is from the Google Play Store. 

Step 3:

Whenever you download an unrecognized app, always take time to go through it and never press a button without reading the information above. 

Step 4:

If you come across any such malicious apps, immediately report it to Google.

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First Published Date: 30 Apr, 14:07 IST
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