Interest in AI and chatbots is arguably at an all-time high, with ChatGPT, an AI developed by OpenAI, leading the pack. However, with this popularity comes a significant risk – a wave of fleeceware applications that masquerade as legitimate chat apps, overcharging users, and earning thousands for their developers through shading subscription models and backdoor advertising.
The Hidden Threat of Fleeceware Apps
Fleeceware apps, a term first coined by cybersecurity firm Sophos in 2019, appear legitimate and promise enticing features. Sophos recently uncovered multiple apps in both the Google Play and Apple App Store posing as ChatGPT-based chatbots with an alarming business model. They offer near-zero functionality in their free versions, bombarding users with ads until they subscribe to a costly premium version, sometimes reaching up to $312 a year.
These apps often leverage the popularity of genuine AI applications like ChatGPT to boost their rankings, luring in unsuspecting users with seemingly affordable subscription plans. Unfortunately, users who neglect to read the fine print end up being billed exorbitantly, even if they delete the app.
Staying Safe: Know What to Look For
Fleeceware apps usually have key characteristics that can alert cautious users. They tend to overcharge for functions that are freely available on other platforms, use coercive tactics, and rely heavily on social engineering to pressure users into subscribing. One common approach is to offer a ‘free trial’ that’s so loaded with ads and limitations, the app becomes virtually unusable unless a subscription is activated.
Moreover, these apps often inflate their ratings through fake reviews and push users to rate the app even before fully using it. Understanding these characteristics can help you recognize and avoid potential fleeceware.
Protection Measures for Users
There are practical steps that users can take to safeguard themselves against fleeceware scams:
- Educate Yourself: Stay informed about fleeceware apps and understand their deceptive tactics.
- Check Reviews: Be wary of apps with many five-star reviews but no substantive comments, as these might be fake.
- Unsubscribe Properly: If you’ve downloaded a fleeceware app, follow the proper procedure in the App or Google Play store to unsubscribe. Merely deleting the app will not cancel the subscription.
- Read the Fine Print: Always check the terms and conditions before subscribing to any app. Pay close attention to the subscription details, particularly the cost and billing frequency.
Trustworthy AI Chat Apps
It’s not all doom and gloom. There are legitimate, trustworthy applications leveraging the powerful capabilities of ChatGPT to provide users with innovative chat experiences. Here are some of the three best ChatGPT apps for both iOS and Android that you can safely use:
The official ChatGPT app by OpenAI is available on iPhone and brings the power of AI right to your fingertips. It features voice recognition and chat history, offering a highly intuitive and conversational experience. Available on the Apple App Store, it supports both text and voice input and offers a variety of settings to personalize your experience.
Nova app, designed for iOS and Android devices, is another significant player in the realm of AI chatbots. Using the latest GPT-4 technology, it answers user queries and offers cross-compatibility between devices. This feature allows seamless continuation of chats across different platforms.
For Android users, Bing by Microsoft is an excellent choice. It leverages the power of OpenAI’s GPT-4 to provide a conversational search engine experience. Bing turns your questions into an interactive chat, providing relevant and sourced summaries instead of a list of links.
Remember, while these apps provide amazing chat experiences, always remain vigilant about your digital safety and security. Keep your subscriptions in check, read the fine print, and maintain a healthy skepticism about too-good-to-be-true promises.
Fleeceware apps represent a growing challenge in our tech-driven world. They cleverly exploit the line between unethical and illegal, often dodging the strict guidelines set by app stores. Staying informed, being vigilant, and choosing reputable apps is the best defense against these unscrupulous scams.