Free apps have a lot of appeal for users. They don’t cost a cent and can help users complete tasks on-the-go. However, users should take precautions before installing any app on their device. Researchers here at McAfee have observed some Android apps using extremely deceptive techniques to try and trick users into signing up for a very expensive service plan to use basic tool functionalities like voice recording and opening zip files.
The two apps being called into question, “Voice recorder free” and “Zip File Reader,” have been downloaded over 600,000 times combined. So at first glance, users may assume that these are reputable apps. Once installed, they offer the user an option to use a “Free trial” or to “Pay now.” If the user selects the trial version, they are presented with a subscription page to enter their credit card details for when the three-day trial is over. However, these apps charge a ridiculously high amount once the trial is up. “Voice recorder free” charges a whopping $242 a month and “Zip File Reader” charges $160 a week.
Users who have downloaded these apps and then deleted them after their free trial may be surprised to know that uninstalling the app will not cancel the subscription, so they could still be charged these astronomical amounts for weeks without realizing it. While this is not technically illegal, it is a deceptive tactic that app developers are using to try to make an easy profit off of consumers who might forget to cancel their free trial.
With that said, there are a few things users can do to avoid becoming victim to deceptive schemes such as these in the future. Here are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to downloading free apps:
- Be vigilant and read app reviews. Even if an app has a lot of downloads, make sure to comb through all of the reviews and read up before downloading anything to your device.
- Read the fine print. If you decide to install an app with a free trial, make sure you understand what fees you will be charged if you keep the subscription.
- Remember to cancel your subscription. If you find a reputable free app that you’ve researched and want to use for a trial period, remember to cancel the subscription before uninstalling the app off your device. Instructions on canceling, pausing, and changing a subscription can be found on Google Play’s Help page.