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Unmasking the New Wave of AI-Related Scams on Mobile App Stores

In today’s digital age, artificial intelligence (AI) is undeniably transforming the way we interact with technology. Its adoption has surged across various sectors, leading to an influx of companies seeking to capitalize on the promising AI terrain. However, this trend has also paved the way for unscrupulous entities looking to exploit the public’s curiosity and enthusiasm about AI. A recent wave of scams involving applications purporting to offer AI services has washed over mobile app platforms, most notably Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.

These deceptive apps claim to offer connectivity to OpenAI’s widely recognized language model, ChatGPT. While some of them do establish a connection, they also cunningly charge users for a service that is, in essence, publicly available for free. This practice of subtly burdening users with subscription fees has been aptly termed “fleeceware,” hinting at the silent shearing of unsuspecting users’ funds.

A classic example of such an application is “Chat GBT.” At the outset, it presents itself as a free service. However, after a brief usage period, it locks users out, instead offering a paid “pro” subscription that automatically renews after a three-day free trial. The app also saturates the user interface with frequent ads and incessantly prompts users for reviews, a deceptive tactic aimed at gaining perceived legitimacy.

One might wonder why these scammers are not deterred by the looming threat of their apps being banned. Their strategy is straightforward and ruthlessly efficient: once an app is banned, they simply repackage the same software under a new name and re-submit it for review, continuing their cycle of deception.

A similar app, “GAI Assistant,” operates on a different business model, charging users $6 per week. Interestingly, despite its malfunctioning interface and truncated responses, the app has managed to rake in significant revenues. A considerable portion of its success can be attributed to artificially inflated ratings facilitated by fake five-star reviews.

It is crucial to note that while these apps do offer a service once users purchase a subscription, the experience they provide mirrors what users could access for free via OpenAI’s web app. An app named “Genie” stands out in this regard as it allows limited functionality without a trial or subscription but persistently urges users to opt for its paid services.

Although the apps’ removal from the stores is a step in the right direction, it does not eliminate them from users’ devices, nor does it halt the auto-renewal of subscriptions. Consequently, users must actively cancel their subscriptions manually through their device settings.

In conclusion, the rise of AI has undoubtedly ushered in an era of innovation and growth. However, with it comes the risk of exploitation and fraud. As consumers, we must remain vigilant and discerning in the face of such emerging threats. As technology evolves, so too do the tactics of those looking to exploit it, making the need for awareness, education, and digital literacy more critical than ever.

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