Android Security

Scam Apps in the Play Store You Need to Avoid

Ben Stegner 26-09-2014

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 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.


Matt has given tips on how avoid these phony apps 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 Android App Permissions Work and Why You Should Care 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] "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 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.


An example of this app type is Xray Scanner.

Lie Detectors

Before you attempt to become another Dr. Phil and start your own talk show 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.


Instead of crafting your own beer in a geeky fashion 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.

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 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 How to Replace a Damaged Phone Screen Display Here's how to DIY replace a damaged phone screen display. You don't have to pay for smartphone repairs if you break the screen! Read More . The best advice you can take from these apps is to put a good case on your phone and be careful.

Battery “Chargers”

Battery life can be less than desired on Android, but luckily there are some definite ways to get more juice 10 Proven and Tested Tips to Extend Battery Life on Android Suffering from poor battery life on Android? Follow these tips to get more juice out of your Android device's battery. 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:



It’s not all bad, though. Future battery technology 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 10 Proven and Tested Tips to Extend Battery Life on Android Suffering from poor battery life on Android? Follow these tips to get more juice out of your Android device's battery. Read More .

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 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 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.


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 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 [No Longer Available] 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 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.


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 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.


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 [No Longer Available]:


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 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 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 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:


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 [No Longer Available] 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 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 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) [No Longer Available].


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 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 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?

Security is one potential drawback when choosing to install an alternative Android app store, but as we’ve seen, various scams still get through Google Play.

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.

Remember, scams and scammers are everywhere these days. And if you’re a gift card shopper then you need to beware when shopping for those too. This article about how to recognize and avoid free gift card scams How to Recognize and Avoid Free Gift Card Scams: 7 Warning Signs Suspicious of free gift card scams? Here's how to confirm that you haven't, without giving away your details to cybercriminals. Read More can help:

Related topics: Anti-Malware, Google Play, Scams.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Jessica Cordray
    December 8, 2018 at 5:15 am

    I'm not sure if this is much worth saying anything, but while a lot of 'free money for this and that' apps may be fake, some aren't.

    I'm currently disabled and with the world like it is I -can't- make money without losing my benefits and then going more in debt. Catch 22. Some of the play games / watch ads for point apps are grindy, but legit.

    As a commercial artist I want to note than in an era of DVR and ad block they are legit because it's more or less free marketing. A couple dollara of gift cards here and there compared to the thousands they spent on television commercials and banners in the past?

    Sure there is strings attached. But not ones that will hit the users unless they fall to the siren call of in app purchases for the suggested games. Because at that point it's no longer the one giving you the gift card; it's the redirected game.

    I would really appreciate if you note that in your article. Low income sucks, and if people are not informed completely you might accidently screw over someone trying to make ends meet, like me. Please?

  2. Melissa
    November 21, 2018 at 6:17 am

    Got scammed by an app today. I played and played. Did survey's, installed apps. Everything. Today I transferred the money. I got. .01 £ not even American. Didn't think anything of it. The exchange rate makes me come out better. Well. It was pennies. Thanks Coin Pop. Day's of playing because my husband recently lost his job. I worked hard to get $20. Only to end up with 20 cents. Didn't bother transferring the rest. My Pay pal sits at 2 cents. I'm 42. And fell for it. Worse part is I'm playing 3 other win real money game's. I'm glad I stumbled upon this article tonight. I'm a special needs mom and I actually fell for these. I worked them like a job for a week. One I'm convinced doesn't ever pay out. The "prizes are some store items.

    • Jessica Cordray
      December 8, 2018 at 5:16 am

      The ones that do the euros send one penny of euro to your PayPal to test if its a legit PayPal before sending the full amount. I'm guessing that is what happened?

  3. RealUprisingYT
    September 16, 2018 at 8:03 am

    I have one: I am rich apps because they can be quite useless. Also they are expensive and don't do nothing.

  4. Jim9k
    August 9, 2018 at 11:45 pm

    Let's not forget all the apps with titles like "I am rich" or something similar. The app does NOTHING, but the devs charge $300, $400 or more dollars. The idea is that it conveys a certain social or economic status on you so you can go around showing everybody that you have this app, which implies that you are rich enough to waste your money on this app. The only ones that get rich off these apps are the devs. Most of the devs are in similar geographic areas.

    Do they really get people to buy this crap? How stupid do they think we are?

    IMO Google should not allow any app that actually does nothing to be listed on the Play Store. >:-<

  5. Valerie Caputa
    November 15, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    I used an app called break the cube. You earn points by watching adds plus get a few free spins per day. The goal is to earn one million points and break the glass cube to earn $50.00. It was fun to watch the numbers go down and to see cracks in the cube. It took about two weeks to break it. On 11/2/17 I broke it. You are supposed to receive your reward in 5 days. As of today 11/15/17 I have not received it or even a confirmation so I wrote to the developer. Just before breaking it my husband made a video which included my home screen with the date and time, the last required video to earn enough points, breaking the cube and the submission screen. I will share all of this with authorities if not resolved. I will also share with the many advertisers.

  6. Account
    August 28, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Is Joom a scam or safe? Its like this shopping app based in china with low priced items.

  7. Darren
    May 29, 2017 at 8:52 am

    I recently installed Applike on my phone, your supposed to gain mCoins by playing games which can then be transferred into PayPal payments. Seems pretty legit and most places actually do rate it highly. However since installing it I've found I have to go into apps and click force stop to get my phone to charge and the battery runs down much more quicker when it's running. Don't know what is doing but it seems to be using a heck of a lot of power just to monitor what games I'm playing!

    • Alex
      November 4, 2018 at 12:32 am

      I was a user of AppLike. It actually delivered the goods, paying me paypal money. However, it died. The company made a bunch of carbon copies of applike to keep the business alive.

      • Jessica Cordray
        December 8, 2018 at 5:19 am

        Applike is still around but Coinpop works better in my opinion. It also depends on the phone and if you use Wi-Fi or data for overheating. You end up keeping your screen on a lot more than average and it background runs everyrhing for notifs so being selective with downloads helps.

  8. 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!!!!

  9. 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.

  10. Anonymous
    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

  11. Anonymous
    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].

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

    Is Geek legit ?

    • Anonymous
      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.

    • Anonymous
      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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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?

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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!

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


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

      I'm glad this helped you!

  21. 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.

  22. 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?