Scammers use Apple App Store hack to steal money, boost rankings

a close up of artwork at the apple app store

The Apple App Store scam involves thieving app developers who hack iTunes accounts and use them for buying their bogus apps. Cristiano Betta/Flickr/CC-BY-.

Apple App Store users are battling an app farm infestation. The App Store is being hacked by Apple App scammers who hack private iTunes accounts to make purchases of bogus apps. The hacks steal money from iTunes accounts and boost the App Store rankings of the bogus apps.

Greedy scammer blows App Store cover

The App Store scam may have gone undetected longer if not for a thieving app farm developer known as Thuat Nguyen. Nguyen got too greedy with his app farms and 40 of his apps in the books category showed up in the top 50 App Store rankings. Other app developers smelled something fishy and Apple pulled the Thuat Nguyen apps. Thousands of dollars have been stolen by Nguyen and other App Store scammers, who are still active.

App Store rankings compromised

News about the App Store scam broke when thenextweb.com reported that Thuat Nguyen hacked iTunes accounts and purchased his own apps using those accounts. When their popular titles were displaced in the App Store rankings by Nguyen apps, two iPhone app developers sounded the alarm. Upon investigation a number of iTunes accounts have been hacked worldwide to purchase apps. Some iTunes users have reported anywhere between $100  and $1,400 spent using their accounts. All iTunes users should check their accounts for stealth purchases of cheap apps ($1-$3) followed by one at an outrageous price ($90+). Thenextweb.com said hackers are also signing users up for a free app called World War that sends their money to scammer accounts.

Protect yourself from the App Store scam

To verify that you have or haven’t become a victim of the App Store scam, it’s easy to check the security of your own iTunes account. A procedure outlined by PCWorld goes as follows:

Click on your account name on the right hand side of the iTunes menu bar. After entering your password, click on the View Account button. You’ll be taken to the Apple Account Information page where you’re able to view your purchase history. From there, you can make sure that all your app purchases are ones that you’ve made. If you spot an app you didn’t buy among your recent purchases, click the Report a Problem button. To safeguard against a compromised password, you can click on Edit Account Info to change it. Longer passwords containing numbers and special characters are harder for hackers to crack.

Bogus app farms still scamming

The Apple App Store scam hasn’t been eliminated with the purging of the Thuat Nguyen apps. Betanews.com reports that at least two other scam developers are using similar practices. Be on the lookout for three apps from Charismaist. One Charismaist app is an apparent sonic mosquito repellent that has scammed users out of as much as $100, even though it is marked as free. Storm 8’s App Store scam involves in-game point purchases costing as much as $150. One iTunes user reported up to $1,400 in bogus charges from a Storm 8 game. Both Charismaist and Storm 8 are still present in the App Store.

More app store scam details

The Apple App Store scam is used primarily make bogus purchases that elevate the apps in the iTunes ranking so users will be attracted to the apps based on their high sales. Be on the lookout for app icons that are low-res images from the web. The scammers’ websites and support links direct users to non-existent websites or landing pages. The Next Web said that all the bogus apps are owned by unknown, Asia-based developers. It is believed that the App Store scam has been happening over the last four weeks.

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