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How do fleecers, apps pretending to be chatbots based on ChatGPT work to charge users?

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These apps exploit loopholes in app store policy and coercive tactics to overcharge users for AI assistants.

Sophos, the cyber security-as-a-service innovation and delivery company, has discovered a number of apps that are posing as legitimate chatbots based on ChatGPT to overcharge users and generate thousands of dollars per month.

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As detailed in the latest Sophos X-Ops report, “‘FleeceGPT’ mobile apps target AI-savvy people to make money”These apps are featured on Google Play and the Apple App Store, and since the free versions have almost zero functionality and constant ads, they force unsuspecting users to sign up for a subscription that costs hundreds of dollars a year.

“With interest in AI and chatbots perhaps at an all-time high, the types of rogue apps, what Sophos called “wareceware”., often bombarding users with ads until they subscribe. They are counting on the fact that users will either ignore the cost or forget they have this subscription,” said Sean Gallagher, Principal Threat Researcher at Sophos. “They are specifically designed not to be used long after the free trial ends, so users delete the app without realizing they still have to pay a monthly or weekly payment.”

Total, Sophos X-Ops investigated 5 of these ChatGPT fleece applications, all of which claimed to be based on the ChatGPT algorithm. In some cases, for example with the app “Chat GBT”, developers have played with the name ChatGPT to improve the ranking of their app on Google Play or the App Store. Although OpenAI offers basic ChatGPT functionality to online users for free, these applications were charging anywhere from US$10 per month to US$70.00 per year.

The iOS version of “Chat GBT,” called Ask AI Assistant, charges $6 a week, or $312 a year, after a three-day free trial; developers gave $10,000 except in March. Another fleece-like app, called Genie, which encourages users to sign up for a $7 weekly or $70 a year subscription, has raised US$1 million in the past month.

Key features of calls fleece goods applicationsfirst discovered by Sophos in 2019which is overcharging users for features that are already free elsewhere, as well as using social engineering and coercive tactics to convince users to sign up for a recurring subscription payment.

Apps usually offer a free trial, but with so many ads and restrictions, you can hardly use them until you pay for a subscription. These apps are often poorly written and implemented.meaning that the app’s functionality is often less than ideal even after users switch to the paid version.

They also inflate their app store ratings through fake reviews and constant requests from users to rate the app even before the free trial is used or ends.

Learn more about these ChatGPT scam apps and how to avoid them on mobile apps ‘FleeceGPT’ Focuses on Weird AI to Earn Cash on sophos.com

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