While ChatGPT offers a free trial for anyone to experience its capabilities, scammers are taking advantage of its popularity. Dubious applications claiming to be ChatGPT have surfaced on the Apple App Store and Google Play, attempting to deceive smartphone users into subscribing to fraudulent services.
However, identifying these scams becomes easier once you know what to look for.
Understanding ChatGPT and Its Applications
ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is an AI-powered chatbot service that enables users to engage in remarkably human-like conversations with an AI. Through extensive programming and information input over several generations, ChatGPT delivers detailed responses when provided with instructions or posed with questions.
Naturally, the allure of ChatGPT has captivated millions of users, who employ it for various purposes. Whether it’s crafting cover letters for job interviews, receiving travel recommendations, simplifying complex scientific concepts, or even running a Dungeons & Dragons tabletop game, ChatGPT’s versatility knows no bounds. Personally, I have explored the realms of culinary creativity alongside my family, discovering new recipes with the assistance of ChatGPT’s AI.
The Menace of Sketchy ChatGPT Apps on Official Stores
So, where do scammers fit into the equation? Recently, scammers have been distributing imitation apps that mimic the appearance of ChatGPT but lack its functionality. To make matters worse, these fraudulent apps charge users fees to utilize their services, falling under the category of fleeceware. While OpenAI has officially launched the ChatGPT iOS app for US iPhone users, available for download from the Apple App Store, the official Android version is yet to be released.
Fleeceware imitates existing services that are either free or low-cost and then imposes exorbitant charges on unsuspecting users. These copycat apps often entice victims with a “free trial” that swiftly converts into a costly subscription. Moreover, fleeceware subscriptions may be billed weekly at significantly higher rates than the prevailing market prices.
Consequently, victims may end up paying a few dollars before canceling the subscription, while others might unknowingly accumulate substantial charges before realizing the true nature of the app. This all occurs for an app that is freely available or almost free elsewhere.
The challenge lies in recognizing fleeceware, as these deceptive apps can initially appear legitimate. With numerous smartphone applications offering subscriptions and in-app purchases, fleeceware blends in with thousands of genuine apps, hoping to deceive users into downloading them.
The Telltale Signs of Fleeceware and Protection Measures
To avoid falling prey to fleeceware and other malicious apps, it is crucial to follow these guidelines:
- Scrutinize the fine print: Carefully read the app description to understand the developer’s offering. If an app charges you for using ChatGPT, it is likely fleeceware. Remember, ChatGPT can be accessed for free by creating an account on its official website, https://chat.openai.com.
- Pay attention to reviews: Reviews provide valuable insights into an app’s authenticity and the company’s handling of customer feedback. In the case of fleeceware, you will likely encounter complaints about deceptive payment terms, such as three-day trials automatically transitioning into expensive monthly or weekly subscriptions. Observe how the company responds to these concerns; a lack of response or vague replies should raise a red flag.
- Beware of excessively positive reviews: Scammers exploit users’ tendency to rely on overall positive reviews with high ratings, such as 4/5 stars or higher. They flood the app’s landing page with countless fabricated and flattering reviews to create an illusion of legitimacy. This tactic also hides genuine reviews from real users, which may be negative due to the app’s fraudulent nature. Filter the app’s reviews to focus on one-star ratings, paying attention to concerns regarding aggressive billing practices, exorbitant prices, and weekly billing cycles. Check whether the app developer responds to these issues and assess the quality of their response. A reputable company will genuinely strive to assist frustrated users and provide clear steps to address the problem.
- Stick to official app stores: Third-party app stores may lack the comprehensive security measures provided by Google Play and the Apple App Store. These stores might even serve as fronts for illegal activities, with cybercriminal organizations populating them with apps that steal personal information or funds. For maximum protection, rely on the official app stores.
- Cancel unwanted subscriptions: Many fleeceware apps deliberately make cancellation processes challenging. Users frequently express frustration about difficulties canceling subscriptions in their reviews, stating, “I can’t find where to cancel my subscription!” Simply deleting the app from your phone is insufficient, as the subscription remains active until you cancel your payment method. Fortunately, smartphones offer easy subscription cancellation options through the settings menu. Canceling ensures that you won’t be charged on the next billing cycle.
Exercise caution when dealing with fleeceware apps, as they often employ aggressive billing cycles, sometimes on a weekly basis.
By familiarizing yourself with the signs of fleeceware and adopting preventive measures, you can enjoy ChatGPT without falling victim to scams. Remember, ChatGPT offers basic functionality for free, with the legitimate option of ChatGPT Plus subscription providing enhanced features like quicker responses and access during peak hours.