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Have you ever downloaded an app and found that it does something completely different from what you thought? Getting duped is a horrible feeling, and it’s even worse if you’ve wasted money in the process.

Due to the openness of the Google Play Store, many ne’er-do-wells have taken to publishing all sorts of fake apps. Some of these are simply useless, but others are designed to steal your time and cash. Probably the most well-known recent example of this is Virus Shield, a $4 Android antivirus app that did absolutely nothing. People were fooled, however, and the developers made $40,000 This Android Malware Placebo Earned $40,000 This Android Malware Placebo Earned $40,000 Malware protection for $4, with no battery impact and no subscription fee – offered in app taking up less than one megabyte of space on your phone. It sounds too good to be true. It... Read More before the scam was taken down.

01-virus-shield

Matt has given tips on how avoid these phony apps Buyer Beware: How Not To Fall For Fake & Dangerous Apps [iOS & Android] Buyer Beware: How Not To Fall For Fake & Dangerous Apps [iOS & Android] The popularity of Android and iOS has put a target on their virtual backs. These operating systems are a new frontier for those who use malware to achieve nefarious goals. Many users don’t take security... Read More , but some examples could also be helpful so you’ll be better prepared to spot fakes as they continue to pop up. This time, we’re going to wade into the stupidest, most useless, scammiest apps that the Play Store has to offer. Enjoy!

Harmless, But Stupid

These apps won’t cause any damage, but aren’t actually doing what they advertise either. They’re often tagged with *JOKE APP* in their description, though not always. Even though they’re not necessarily malicious, it’s important to check the permissions How App Permissions Work & Why You Should Care [Android] How App Permissions Work & Why You Should Care [Android] Android forces apps to declare the permissions they require when they install them. You can protect your privacy, security, and cell phone bill by paying attention to permissions when installing apps – although many users... Read More and be aware of any in-app purchases What Are In-App Purchases & How Can I Disable Them? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Are In-App Purchases & How Can I Disable Them? [MakeUseOf Explains] "I can’t believe it!" my cousin said to me the other day, "someone’s just bought a $10 in-app purchase on my mother’s phone, and she doesn’t even know what I’m talking about!". Sounds familiar? How... Read More they may contain.

X-Ray Scanners

Apps that claim to enable an X-Ray scanner on your phone are silly. No phone has the capability to use X-Rays; they can be harmful and millions of people having that potential in their pockets would be absurd. All these apps do is display a picture of a transparent hand around when you aim it at your own hand, and they generally contain a mountain of ads to boot. With one app, I was asked to rate it 5 stars twice within ten seconds of having it installed — indication of a big problem with Google Play Why You Shouldn't Trust App Ratings on Google Play Why You Shouldn't Trust App Ratings on Google Play You need a new camera app; you open Google Play and find 50. Naturally, you install the highest-rated one. Guess what? You just got tricked. Read More we’ve investigated before.

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Examples of this app type include Xray Scanner, Xray Scan, and X-Ray Scanner, which even includes in-app purchases for “scans” of the chest and skull! Hopefully nobody has wasted money on this.

Lie Detectors

Before you attempt to become another Dr. Phil and start your own talk show How To Host Your Own Talk Show Online How To Host Your Own Talk Show Online Read More with your Android using these apps, stop and think for a second. Polygraph tests cost over $400 a pop, so how would a free phone app be able to administer the same results? These apps will randomly pick Truth or Lie when you use them; you might as well flip a coin and save yourself from seeing ads.

Some lie detectors to avoid are Lie detector prank, Real Lie Detector, and Lie Detector, which requires access to your exact location for some reason. Stay away.

Beer

Instead of crafting your own beer in a geeky fashion 4 DIY Geeky Drink Recipes to Get Your Buzz On 4 DIY Geeky Drink Recipes to Get Your Buzz On As a writer, developer and all-round geek, I'm of the opinion that my best work is done while thoroughly off my head. Read More , you can just download one of these beer-drinking apps and have as much as you like!

I don’t need to elaborate much here. You obviously won’t be drinking any actual beer out of your phone, and the app’s claim that it’s “so realistic it’ll fool a bartender” is a bunch of hooey. If you’d like to actually try this app on a barkeep, please document your results and report back to us.

Of course, being free apps, these are all loaded with ads, but iBeer even has an in-app purchase if you’re extra-serious about your electronic brews. In exchange for a donation to support this wonderful app, you’ll unlock more beer “flavors” and mouthwash.

Get your imaginary drink on with iBeer, Beer, and eBeer if you’d enjoy spending $2 on virtual booze.

Broken Screen

Cracking your mobile device’s screen is awful. It’s probably one of the worst tragedies that could befall a phone, so why in the world would you want to simulate that (and advertisements) on your Android? These apps let you “fool your friends,” since everyone gets such a kick out of pretending that their multi-hundred dollar device is messed up.

There’s no good substitute for these apps; just stay away. If you’ve actually broken your phone, Tim has outlined your options iPhone Screen Broken? Here Are Your Repair Options iPhone Screen Broken? Here Are Your Repair Options A slight trip, a clutch at thin air and a sickening "pop". Bits of glass fall to the ground as you drop to your knees. A single bolt of lightning illuminates the sky and the... Read More on the Apple side of the market, and Christian has you covered on how to replace a damaged screen The Guide To Replacing a Damaged Mobile Phone Display The Guide To Replacing a Damaged Mobile Phone Display If you have damaged the screen of your mobile phone – perhaps you dropped it or sat down while the device was in your pocket – you’ve immediately given yourself a headache. Can the phone... Read More . The best advice you can take from these apps is to put a good case on your phone and be careful.

Put yourself under undue stress with Cracked Screen Prank, Broken Screen, or Cracked Screen. Can you believe that over 600,000 people have installed all three of those apps collectively?

Battery “Chargers”

Battery life can be less than desired on Android, but luckily there are some definite ways to get more juice 9 Proven, Tested Tips To Extend Your Android's Battery Life 9 Proven, Tested Tips To Extend Your Android's Battery Life No matter how long your phone's battery life lasts, there are ways that you can definitely make it last longer. Let's take a look at some different ways. Read More . These apps aren’t one of them; how would shaking your device charge your battery in any way? If this phenomenon were possible, you wouldn’t need an app to take advantage of it. Amazingly, people don’t seem to understand that these apps aren’t real. Just look at the reviews:

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It’s not all bad, though. Future battery technology Battery Technologies That Are Going to Change the World Battery Technologies That Are Going to Change the World Battery tech has been growing more slowly than other technologies, and is now the long tent pole in a staggering number of industries. What will the future of battery technology be? Read More may make worrying about daily charges obsolete, which is something to look forward to. If you’re looking to get more out of your existing battery, check out some apps that actually help solve the problem Extend Your Phone’s Battery Life - 3 Apps That Lead To a Longer Lasting Battery [Android] Extend Your Phone’s Battery Life - 3 Apps That Lead To a Longer Lasting Battery [Android] Have you ever forget to charge your phone overnight and, come morning, realize your phone’s battery life sucks? A portion of your troubles probably relate to Android’s inherent design flaws - in particular, its poor... Read More .

Look like a moron by swinging around your phone in public with Shake To Charge, Shake to Charge Power, and Shake Battery Charger.

Not Only Useless, But Harmful

These apps seem like they provide benefits, but when you look closer, you’ll see that they’ll actually cause problems.

Defragmenting/RAM Boosting Apps

Tina has explained why you need to defragment your computer 3 Excellent Defrag Utilities & Why You Still Need to Defragment In 2012 3 Excellent Defrag Utilities & Why You Still Need to Defragment In 2012 Accessing files from the hard drive is a speed limiting step in operating a computer. Hard drives used to be a major bottle neck and fragmentation of data slowed them down even further. With the... Read More , with one major caveat: Solid State Drives (SSDs) should never be defragmented! Not only does it fail to improve their speed, it also reduces their life 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD For years, standard hard drives have been the speed limiting factor in overall system responsiveness. While hard drive size, RAM capacity, and CPU speed have grown almost exponentially, the spinning speed of a hard drive,... Read More  due to the way SSDs are made. As it turns out, cell phones utilize flash memory like an SSD, so they don’t have internal parts as traditional hard drives do.

For this reason, you should avoid apps like Mirocsoft [sic] Total Defrag and Simple Defrag Tablet FREE, as they’re worthless to you. On a similar note, Joel has laid out why RAM boosting apps should be avoided Why RAM Boosters And Task Killers Are Bad For Your Android Why RAM Boosters And Task Killers Are Bad For Your Android At first glance, RAM boosters and task killers sound incredibly useful, but a closer look shows that they could actually be harming your phone instead. Read More . These have been around since Android’s introduction, and are still sadly used by a multitude of users.

Special note: Installing the Download More RAM app will not actually increase your RAM.

Bad Antivirus Apps

The aforementioned Virus Shield isn’t the only rogue app posing as an antivirus on the Play Store. Android antivirus apps are of questionable worth New Study Suggests Most Android Anti-Virus Apps Aren't Effective [Updates] New Study Suggests Most Android Anti-Virus Apps Aren't Effective [Updates] Read More to begin with, but some go beyond the norm.

Enter NQ Mobile Security & Antivirus, which requires users to pay money to update its databases! This is absolutely absurd conduct, yet the app has a 4.4 star rating and over ten million clients. Reading the reviews will have you shocked in disbelief, both at the fact that this app charges for the most essential function of what an antivirus does, and that people rate this crap highly.

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Antivirus programs offering premium versions with extra features is normal, but denying users current virus definitions unless they pay shouldn’t fly. Do yourself a favor and use one of the best free Android antivirus apps The 3 Best Antivirus Apps To Protect Your Android Security The 3 Best Antivirus Apps To Protect Your Android Security As we’ve reported frequently at MakeUseOf, Android is no longer safe from malware. The number of threats is on the rise. This shouldn’t be surprise to anyone. Smartphones and tablets can carry all sorts of... Read More if you feel you need one.

Flashlights

Flashlight apps can help you out when you’re caught in the dark for a few moments, but be careful which one you install. Should you search “flashlight” on the Play Store, you might end up with a popular privacy invader, like Brightest Flashlight Free. Look at all the permissions it needs compared to a tame app like Holo Torch:

04-Flashlight-Permissions-Comapred

Why in the world would a flashlight need access to your location to function? It doesn’t — this app was sharing its users’ location with advertisers and spamming those who downloaded it with ads. Clearly even seemingly harmless, essential apps like flashlights can be malevolent, so prudence is key. If you’re looking to detox your phone of permission-heavy apps, Facebook is another with a safe alternative How To Use Facebook On Android Without All The Invasive Permissions How To Use Facebook On Android Without All The Invasive Permissions Facebook's Android app requires a ton of permissions, and it shouldn't be trusted with them. The Tinfoil app for Facebook is the privacy-conscious solution. Read More .

Lousy Dating Apps

Online dating is an interesting subject Online Dating - Men Don't Get It And Women Don't Understand Online Dating - Men Don't Get It And Women Don't Understand Do online dating websites work? It's time for a frank discussion! What I learned from interviews was that online dating is equally painful for men and for women, but for very different reasons. Read More , but it isn’t all bad. What’s important is that you choose a good service to use; Andre has put OkCupid to the test OkCupid -- How A Dating Website Wants To Fix Your Love Life With Math OkCupid -- How A Dating Website Wants To Fix Your Love Life With Math Online dating won't fix all your romantic problems. But if online dating is where you're at right now, OkCupid is the best service, free or paid, available on the market today. Read More if you’re looking for a free option. Here’s what not to use:

05-Lame-Android-Dating

As is the usual with apps and programs, if you choose to pursue online dating you should stick with a well-known site.

Shams such as Real Free Dating on Google Play are anything but free; multiple reviews claimed that as soon as they opened the app and completed a profile they were asked to enter their credit card information. One user said his card was actually debited for $49. Learn from his mistake and steer clear of random dating apps.

Money Earning Apps

Making money online seems like it’s too good to be true, but we’ve shared ways to make it a reality How To Make Money Online How To Make Money Online Let's face it, everyone wants to make money on the Internet. Read More before. While you won’t be raking in six figures, it’s a nice little income on the side 200 Ways To Make Money Online 200 Ways To Make Money Online If you've decided you have what it takes to be a freelancer, and are willing to take the plunge, this infograph is for you. Read More . Should you take this road, however, it’s wise to stick with something honorable like writing, programming, or selling your wares. Not Get Paid to Play! (Make Money).

06-Fake-Android-MoneyMaking-App

This app is just miserable. Not only are you making pennies for each task you complete, most of them require you to install trash apps or sign up for potentially paid services like GameFly. And with a no-name developer at the helm, who’s to be sure that you’ll even get the money you’ve “earned”?

If you like taking surveys, Google’s legitimate Opinion Rewards app gives you credit Answer Surveys To Receive Play Store Credit With The New Google Opinion Rewards App Answer Surveys To Receive Play Store Credit With The New Google Opinion Rewards App Google has released a new app that allows you to earn Play Store credits by answering surveys. The Google Opinion Rewards app is U.S. only for now. Read More for completing infrequent, short questions that you can put toward paid apps.

Barring that, put the time you’d spend watching advertisements for nickels with this app into improving your hidden skills Don't Let Your Hidden Talents Die: 7 Ways To Go & Find Them Again Don't Let Your Hidden Talents Die: 7 Ways To Go & Find Them Again The bad news is that you have to work hard with intention to polish your hidden talents. The good news is that there are more opportunities than ever to spit-shine your talents. Read More , a much better alternative.

Any Other Scams To Avoid?

Unfortunately, we’ve only taken a glimpse at the trash you’ll encounter on the Play Store. Look a little more and you’ll find a “Hot Girl” detector (seriously?), shady social media boosters that require in-app purchases to use, and apps that claim to translate your baby’s crying.

It’s not all bad, though, as there are some awesome Android apps on Play that you should definitely look into, and if you’re looking to uncover some more seedy Android apps check out Justin’s debunking of net boosters 8 Android Net Boosters Tested: Real Or Placebo? You'd Be Surprised 8 Android Net Boosters Tested: Real Or Placebo? You'd Be Surprised Can you increase your data speeds just by downloading an app? Read More .

Have you ever fallen for a scam app? Which types of apps grind your gears? Leave a comment and start the conversation!

  1. Atticus
    November 26, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    This is just commen sense stuff i though you were going to actually name known scam app but you just list some things to look for thanks for wasting my time!!!!

  2. Jason Z
    December 14, 2015 at 1:10 am

    Is the HOME AP on iPhone legit? The prices seem impossibly low afraid to put my CC.

  3. Vinay Chandel
    November 4, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    One app that fits the category of harmless but stupid, for the great majority of Android smartphones and tablets, is Pixel Battery Saver. Except for AMOLED displays, it can’t work. Not easy to tell whether the developer had a screwball idea of how a typical display works, or actually did know, and was trying to scam us for unknown reason[s]. Top 12 Best Root Apps

  4. Vinay Chandel
    November 4, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    One app that fits the category of harmless but stupid, for the great majority of Android smartphones and tablets, is Pixel Battery Saver. Except for AMOLED displays, it can’t work. Not easy to tell whether the developer had a screwball idea of how a typical display works, or actually did know, and was trying to scam us for unknown reason[s].

  5. Kevin
    May 24, 2015 at 3:36 am

    Is Geek legit ?

    • Anastasia Carter
      July 17, 2015 at 12:16 am

      If you find out let me know...My husband is thinking of buying something of the site but it seems too good to be true. You know the old adage if it sounds to good to be true then it probably is.

      • Ben Stegner
        July 18, 2015 at 3:55 pm

        My apologies, but I don't understand what you're asking here. Is this about an app on the Play Store, or a certain website? If you give me a link to what you're talking about, I can take a look.

    • S Wil (Shi)
      September 24, 2015 at 9:31 am

      I am very interested in finding out the legitimacy of this app as well by someone who is not only familiar with Google Apps but blatantly honest to boot. It was recommended to me by a friend but I remain skeptical. The reviews I've read about it have been mixed, with some that are praising it to the point of ridicule that it ultimately just leads me to believe the reviews were planted. If some honest insight into the Geek app could be provided, it would be very very much appreciated! Thx!

  6. Sharn
    December 11, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    The world wide web is not such a safe place to be after reading these comments.
    I'm a victim of the lovely Australian Federal Police Scam/Virus from just searching around on Google.
    Luckily I didn't "Reload Page" on the pop up message and I was able to restart my phone to get rid of the pop up. If I had of reloaded the page it would of completely locked me out of my android phone. I'm not entirely sure if it was an app or link I had clicked on.

  7. Prateek
    October 2, 2014 at 3:44 am

    These apps generally fool those users who are waiting to get fooled. Well otherwise who would download such absurd apps. Whatsapp on PC

    • Ben S
      October 7, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      That's the point of this article; hopefully the target audience would read through this and be able to spot these fake apps.

      What does WhatsApp have to do with this discussion?

  8. marciacatt
    September 28, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    Does anyone know anything about Amaboy app?? got loaded without my knowledge, and I can't see it (even ) in my apps list

    • Ben S
      September 28, 2014 at 10:36 pm

      I've never heard of this app and a Play Store search didn't find anything. What's the app do?

  9. Nicholas Bodley
    September 28, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    One app that fits the category of harmless but stupid, for the great majority of Android smartphones and tablets, is Pixel Battery Saver. Except for AMOLED displays, it can't work. Not easy to tell whether the developer had a screwball idea of how a typical display works, or actually did know, and was trying to scam us for unknown reason[s]. The dev. surely didn't test the app, or test it properly.

    • Ben S
      September 28, 2014 at 10:35 pm

      I've never heard of an app like that, but looking at it now it does look like snake oil. Thanks for the tip!

  10. Nagaraj
    September 28, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Live tv app are all not real... Some have register to watch channels and some have monthly subscription....

    • Ben S
      September 28, 2014 at 6:48 pm

      Another good category of scams! TV apps are probably better left alone unless you're paying for a subscription elsewhere.

  11. Allan L
    September 27, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Google needs to do a way better job of ferreting out these malicious or useless apps.

    • Ben S
      September 27, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      That is true! While I love the openness of Google Play, some of this stuff is really shady. Now, stuff like iBeer is stupid, but not harmful. I don't really care about those, but people shouldn't be getting ripped off.

      At least it isn't as bad as the Windows 8 store for Metro apps.

  12. TK S.
    September 27, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    There are several versions I've heard of with varying names but Google Play Store doesn't have any REAL Pornography Apps.

    HDPorno is perfect example of a malicious file that could cost u u you're phone. Hubby dl this abd luckily i figured it out but basically it causes a wallpaper to cover entire screen stating FBI has locked your phone for multitude of illegal activities (as if). Then they request number to a $300 money pak top unlock phone. If u try to deactivate it as device administrator (Big NoNo on permissions), it throws wallpaper back over entire screen. Even factory reset did not help!! BE VERY AWARE OF PERMISSIONS
    One of the explanations of it's permissions for this scam even says it can draw over your screen so that what you are seeing may not be what is actually there.

    • Ben S
      September 27, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      Wow, this is a perfect example of an app to avoid; thank you!

      It shouldn't be a surprise that these types of apps would be incredibly unsafe. I've never heard of the FBI MoneyPak infection on Android, but it's very interesting that you mention it. I didn't know that was out there, and your point about permissions is exactly on-point!

      Thanks for sharing your experience! I'm also really surprised that a factory reset didn't fix the issue; did he explicitly set it up as a device administrator?

    • TK S.
      September 29, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      YES HE DID! You could bypass it for limited time by either entering in a long enough number it was a money park by restarting phone.

      It was automatically set as device administrator and the second you try to remove it as admin the screen would cover again.

      Not sure everyone knows this but you can address Google Play online through web browser and tell it which device you want to install a program onto since this device obviously wouldn't let me download anything from play store.

    • Ben S
      October 2, 2014 at 12:55 am

      Wow. That's scary. Probably worth mentioning in the future to check your device administrators regularly.

      Thanks for the story!

  13. Leopardmask
    September 27, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    If the name of the app contains the word "Mirocsoft" that's probably kind of a dead giveaway :P

    • Ben S
      September 27, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      Yes, spelling mistakes are a great indicator of a sleazy app!

  14. Marika B
    September 27, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Thanks.

    • Ben S
      September 27, 2014 at 6:22 pm

      I'm glad this helped you!

  15. Sergio
    September 27, 2014 at 11:56 am

    My phone was working a bit slow so I figure it was either to much ram been used or perhaps maybe an app I downloaded. So I downloaded the app All in One Tools. After reading this article and removing the app my worked just fine. Come to figure the All in One Tools app made the phone even more sluggish and all I really needed was to clear the cache from my phone. Now it just works like new.

    • Ben S
      September 27, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      I'm glad you got that working; I'm so happy to hear it! These apps really aren't beneficial and it's a shame so many people use them.

  16. Dina
    September 27, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Ram boosting apps can harm a smartphone? I am using CleanMaster, an app which deletes unnessesary memory and boosts Ram. Can apps like that cause problems to my smartphone? If they do, is there any other way to improve my battery life and clean up my memory?

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