Google has made the decision to offer refunds to customers after researchers recently disclosed that a top selling antivirus application that was available at the Google Play Store was nothing more than a complete scam.
The developer of the software called Virus Shield, which sold for $3.99 and had a rating of 4.7 stars, claimed that it would “improve the speed of your phone” and “protect you and your personal information from harmful viruses, malware, and spyware,” but in fact it did absolutely none of those things.
“It’s a complete and total scam,” wrote Michael Crider for The Android Police at the time of the disclosure. “We don’t mean in the slightly skeevy way that some anti-virus and general security software overstates dangers and its own necessity. We mean it’s literally a fake security app: the only thing that it does is change from an ‘X’ image to a ‘check image after a single tap. That’s it. That’s all there is, there isn’t any more.
Research Artem Russakovskii had decompiled and analyzed the code for the application, and it was made available on GitHub. Unfortunately, the application had already been downloaded more than 10,000 times over the course of one week before it was removed from the Play Store.
“It looks like Google is eager to make amends for allowing a fake app to rise so high in the Play Store. Despite the probability that a large portion of the app’s purchases and reviews were fake, Google is issuing full refunds to those who purchased the app, extending well beyond their usual refund window,” Crider wrote in a follow up.
Fortunately, the scam was only intended to con users out of their money, and the analysis showed no evidence of malicious code that would compromise users’ devices. Google notified purchasers of their intentions in an email, according to Crider.
“We’re reaching out to you because you recently purchased the ‘Virus Shield’ app on Google Play. This app made the false claim that it provided one-click virus protection; in reality, it did not. Google Play’s policies strictly prohibit false claims like these, and in light of this, we’re refunding you for your ‘Virus Shield’ purchase. You should see funds returned to your account within the next 14 days.”
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