App warnings are usually reserved for Android users but the latest alert has been issued to those who choose to use an iPhone. According to the team at Avast, Apple fans who have downloaded certain Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s) onto their devices may become the target of expensive fleeceware which could leave them seriously out of pocket.
The security firm says it has spotted three VPNs which are free to download but then begin charging users a hefty $ 9.99 per week thereafter.
Beetle VPN, Buckler VPN, and Hat VPN Pro appear to have good ratings on the App Store but Avast says many of these glowing comments are probably fake.
In fact, once you head deep into the reviews there are plenty of people warning against downloading the apps with one user of Beetle VPN saying: “This app needs to give my money back. Premium membership auto-renews after a free trial. How to cancel? Nowhere to be found on the app. Pitiful.”
Whilst another iPhone user added: “This app is a good app but costs $ 40 a month. It would be better if the price was lower.”
According to data from Sensor Tower, a mobile apps marketing intelligence and insights company, the apps have been downloaded over 420K, 271K, and 96K times, respectively, between April 2019 and May 2020.
Apple iOS app warning as these VPNs could leave you with a nasty bill
Avast researchers say they installed the three apps and successfully purchased subscriptions to each app; however when they tried to use the VPNs, the apps only provided subscription options again. After attempting to purchase the subscriptions again, Avast researchers were notified they already have a subscription and thus were unable to establish a VPN connection using any of the apps.
This type of fleeceware are a problem as the apps aren’t actually violating any terms and conditions as their users have to agree to the weekly cost before being charged.
However, it’s the fact that there are VPNs on Apple’s App Store which are cheaper and infinitely better that has got Avast so concerned.
“Fleeceware apps fall into a gray area, because they are not malicious per se, they simply charge users absurd amounts of money for weekly, monthly or yearly subscriptions for features that should be offered at much lower costs. In this case, the VPNs are being sold for $ 9.99 (USD) a week, when trustworthy VPNs cost ten times less.” said Nikolaos Chrysaidos, Head of Mobile Threats & Security at Avast.
“These apps are not behaving maliciously so they circumvent screening processes to be added to the official app stores’ that users trust. With many people turning to VPN apps to protect their data while working remotely, this illustrates how important it is for users to research VPN apps before installing them, including who is behind the product, their track record with other products and user reviews, and experience in offering security and privacy apps.”
If you have downloaded these apps and are being charged you should be able to stop the payments by following these simple steps.
Simply head to the App Store on your iPhone and tap on your profile picture in the top right-hand corner of the screen.
Then tap Subscriptions. Tap the subscription that you want to manage. In the options which then appear, Apple will given you the opportunity to cancel it and stop any further charges from the developer to the credit or debit card linked to your Apple ID.