Fleeceware on the Rise

Essex Police’s Fraud Alert System Newsletter no. 33

Fleeceware is a recently coined term that refers to mobile applications that come with excessive subscription fees, and in March over 200 such apps were discovered being advertised on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

The applications attract users with the promise of a free 3-day trial, but once the trial is
over, they are charged a recurring subscription fee – even if they have deleted the app –
until they cancel the subscription in their device’s app subscription settings. One app
offers a short free trial followed by a $66 (£47.73) per week subscription, potentially
costing the victim $3,432 (£2,482.19) per year unless cancelled. These fleeceware
applications are actively advertised on major social networks.

How to avoid Fleeceware apps:
• Be wary of free trials of less than a week – make sure you understand how much
you will be charged and that the app is worth the recurring fee.
• Be sceptical of viral adverts for apps – the adverts for fleeceware are likely to have
enticing messaging and images to attract users’ attention. They likely do not reflect
the actual functionality of the application.
• Read the small print – a closer look will likely reveal the true price of the app. Pay
close attention to the ‘In-app purchases’ section and be aware that even if it is a free
trial, as there may be automatic charges thereafter.
• Secure your payments – ensure that your payment methods are secured behind a
password or biometric check. This can also prevent accidental subscriptions by
children.

This information was provided via Essex Police’s Fraud Alert System Newsletter no.33