This morning, I wrote how Apple’s $64 billion-a-year App Store isn’t catching incredibly obvious multimillion-dollar scams because the company isn’t even bothering to audit its most profitable apps for fraud, and how app developer Kosta Eleftheriou is showing the company how it’s done.
But that’s not the only kind of scam Eleftheriou has been uncovering in Apple’s App Store — he has also discovered that Apple’s review teams have been approving games that transform into secret gambling dens when you access them from certain countries (or via VPN). We wrote about two of them last Thursday as if they were an isolated incident, but he’s now found at least two more, suggesting this may be a trend — including a match-three puzzle game dubbed Lucky Stars that turns into a casino if you open it in Russia, and a game called Vegas Pirates that does the same.
This @AppStore app pretends to be a game for kids 4+, but if you are in Russia (or use a VPN) it becomes an online casino that doesn’t even use Apple’s in-app-purchase system.— Kosta Eleftheriou (@keleftheriou) April 20, 2021
#AppleEvent scam of the day pic.twitter.com/VU1XpaiILU
The developer - “Marina Misko” - has several gambling apps, all posing as games for kids 4+— Kosta Eleftheriou (@keleftheriou) April 20, 2021
These have been on the App Store for several months, and even had multiple updates approved by Apple! pic.twitter.com/iE8pbljeh9
In some ways, they’re even more egregious examples: while it might be more shocking that a kids’ monkey-collecting-bananas game would transform into a gambling den, these new apps would seem to invite extra scrutiny with their gambling-oriented visuals and the fact they pretended a Russian news organization was their “developer website.”
The developer’s website listed on the App Store is https://t.co/mHYeXEn8dV, a big Russian news outlet. Really.— Kosta Eleftheriou (@keleftheriou) April 20, 2021
They’re both gone now.
If you’re looking for shock value, Eleftheriou also spotted this unrelated app the other day:
Apple is testifying before Congress today — and in an incredibly high-profile court case against Epic Games next month — about how its App Store protects users, justifies the company’s traditional 30-percent cut (reportedly $64 billion last year alone), and shouldn’t be broken up. These kinds of discoveries are giving the company’s critics a lot of ammo.