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Review scam leads to removal of over 1000 apps from App Store

post #1 of 53
Thread Starter 
Apple has taken action against app developer Molinker over alleged review fraud, resulting in the removal of all 1,000 of the company's apps.

Thanks to the detective work of one intrepid app store enthusiast, Molinker - developer of close to one percent of all the apps available on the App Store - has been banned from the App Store and all of its apps have been removed.

The issue was first brought to light by photo blog iPhoneography in a post highlighting the concerns of one of its regular readers. Reader SCW had concluded that app developer Molinker had been using its promo codes to write fake 5-star reviews of many of its apps. Each review shared the same short, disjointed style and the reviewers had only written reviews for other Molinker apps.

In a letter to Apple executive Phil Schiller, SCW laid out the case:

I would like to highly suggest to take a deep look into not only the 'reviewers' but I will almost bet that all of these users redeemed 'Promo Codes' for these apps in order to only access the US app store & publish these endless slew of fake postings. All to increase the developers ratings, status, sales & ultimately have a pay-off when potential customers see such high ratings & then just buy the apps.

After sending the email, Phil Schiller responded that Apple would look into the issue. On Sunday, both SCW and iPhoneography received word from Schiller confirming "Yes, this developer's apps have been removed from the App Store and their ratings no long appear either."

Molinker was a particularly prolific app developer, with over 1,000 apps appearing in the store. The great majority of its apps dealt with photography, travel, and public transportation. AppFreak was able to contact Molinker about the issue and received the following response:

We got email from Apple yesterday which told us our contract is changed to pending status.

Actually we do not know what's wrong so far. We had contacted Apple for such sudden changes, hope we can get quick response and actions from Apple.

As of Monday night, Molinker's website had no mention of what had transpired.
post #2 of 53
'Crunch!'
post #3 of 53
They got what they deserve. Apple should find a way to make sure that sellers do not have access to review their own Apps.

What a scam! What a shame!
post #4 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by OC4Theo View Post

What a scam! What a shame!

Pity for Apple, too. 1% of the App Store is no small deal.
post #5 of 53
Integrity is important! Would eBay remove a shill a seller? (Maybe for a few days)
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post #6 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by yodie View Post

Pity for Apple, too. 1% of the App Store is no small deal.

If they were the sort of developers who fraudulently write star reviews for their own apps, their apps may not have been of much value anyway.

To write such a great number of apps within the relatively short span of time that the iPhone has existed would seem to preclude spending a large amount of time on any particular one of those apps.
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post #7 of 53
Good. Keep the clean-up going, Apple.
post #8 of 53
The only part about this that is a shame is that it needed to be pointed out to Apple. I'm glad they acted when it was brought to light.
post #9 of 53
Good for Apple on this one, though like the previous poster, I wonder if we would be reading this story had someone not brought it to Apple's ''attention''.. Also interested in wether any of the apps removed were particularly popular, or had made it to the top listing.
post #10 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phone-UI-Guy View Post

The only part about this that is a shame is that it needed to be pointed out to Apple. I'm glad they acted when it was brought to light.

And just how do you think that most thieves get caught?
post #11 of 53
I think that there are a fair number of developers out there rating their own product in an effort to stack the deck. I've seen it time and again where an otherwise poorly rated app receives a streak of 5 star ratings all on the same day. The multiplayer version of Modern Combat Sandstorm by Gameloft is the latest case where I've noticed this.

Apple using statistical methods could easily monitor the ratings for anomalies if they chose to do so.
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post #12 of 53
This just proves that Apple doesn't have the App Store under control.

If Apple Chooses to be the monitoring king of all that is mobile.

They need to get their act together, because they just look foolish with this type of BS going on.
post #13 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by AngusYoung View Post

This just proves that Apple doesn't have the App Store under control.

Proof positive nothing works!

Quote:
If Apple Chooses to be the monitoring king of all that is mobile.

I say, I do like Apple monitors!

Quote:
They need to get their act together, because they just look foolish with this type of BS going on.

Oh, those fools!
post #14 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boogerman2000 View Post

Good for Apple on this one, though like the previous poster, I wonder if we would be reading this story had someone not brought it to Apple's ''attention''.. Also interested in wether any of the apps removed were particularly popular, or had made it to the top listing.

The last time Apple banned an undue number of apps I don’t think they were informed by a customer, though the apps did seem more “spammy” in nature. It was the Indian company Perfect Acumen with 943 applications that were nixed.


Quote:
Originally Posted by gobble gobble View Post

Apple using statistical methods could easily monitor the ratings for anomalies if they chose to do so.

That sounds like a great idea.


Quote:
Originally Posted by AngusYoung View Post

This just proves that Apple doesn't have the App Store under control.

If Apple Chooses to be the monitoring king of all that is mobile.

They need to get their act together, because they just look foolish with this type of BS going on.

Sheesh! Apple deletes these apps and you cry foul that the developers were able to fine a loop hole in a system that is still new and that has grown well beyond anyone’s expectations. I’m sure you’ll argue at the other extreme once this forum gets an article about the Android Marketplace growing faster than Apple’s App Store, totaling ignoring that this policing is making sure the apps aren’t spams, stealing your user data and riddled with viruses.
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post #15 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by city View Post

Integrity is important! Would eBay remove a shill a seller? (Maybe for a few days)

It's nearly impossible to shill on ebay since they do not reveal the maximum bid to the seller. The only way would be for the shiller to withdraw the bid that goes over the maximum. I would encourage everyone to report that behavior even if it wasn't their high bid getting revealed.

If bidders are getting into bidding wars and driving the price past that of new items, or not comparing prices on amazon (or even straight from the manufacturer is cheaper sometimes), that's not sellers' (or ebay's) fault.
post #16 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by yodie View Post

Pity for Apple, too. 1% of the App Store is no small deal.

The 99,000 app store... I'm sure that the app store has 1000 apps in the review process agonizing over the approval process as I type. \

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post #17 of 53
"Actually we do not know what's wrong so far."

There is a word maybe you don't know: FRAUD.
1. Wrongful or criminal depiction intended to result in financial gain.
2. A person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.

It's not just a few harmless lies. Due to money being involved, it becomes more serious, with possibility of fines and jail time.
post #18 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darr247 View Post

It's nearly impossible to shill on ebay since they do not reveal the maximum bid to the seller. The only way would be for the shiller to withdraw the bid that goes over the maximum. I would encourage everyone to report that behavior even if it wasn't their high bid getting revealed.

If bidders are getting into bidding wars and driving the price past that of new items, or not comparing prices on amazon (or even straight from the manufacturer is cheaper sometimes), that's not sellers' (or ebay's) fault.

Really! That's not my experience. Or second chance with the identical item or re-list if they shill over your maximum. Shills seem more difficult to catch now with the lack of transparency available to the buyer and the consequences seemed minor to me when reported. Back on.... I love Apple's integrity here. It's not only about short term money.
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post #19 of 53
Thank you VERY much for reporting on the major event in the world of Apple. I just hope my actions on this matter were seen in a positive light, & that ridding the AppStore of a fraudulent developer was good for all. I always look at things from the consumers point of view I couldn't just sit back & let Molinker Inc get away with & potentially earn a living off misleading & cheating all of us "the people" out our hard earned money. I personally have spent far too much money of dead-end apps so to let another blatantly try & get away with it was something I had to stop.

Cheers Patrick Timney (aka) SCW
http://twitter.com/thescw
http://www.flickr.com/people/thescw
post #20 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boogerman2000 View Post

Good for Apple on this one, though like the previous poster, I wonder if we would be reading this story had someone not brought it to Apple's ''attention''.. Also interested in wether any of the apps removed were particularly popular, or had made it to the top listing.

As the person who discovered & this fraud... I don't think if I hadn't brought it to Apple's attention that it wouldn't have been taken care of so soon... Possibly far too late for those who spent hard earned money on one of the apps to then be left with a hole in their pockets.

Yes Molinker had a few TOP apps... on the day they were removed from the AppStore one of their apps was on the front page of the AppStore in an Apples Favorites section "ColorMagic" app. As well they had two apps in the "Top Paid App" section for Photography "ColorMagic & OOF Out of Focus" both were is the top 20.

Cheers Patrick Timney (aka) SCW
http://twitter.com/thescw
http://www.flickr.com/people/thescw
post #21 of 53
This is great! If I were Apple I, would ban them forever. Make an example of them.

Good find SCW.
post #22 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post

This is great! If I were Apple I, would ban them forever. Make an example of them.

Good find SCW.

Anytime =)
Cheers Patrick Timney (aka) SCW
http://twitter.com/thescw
http://www.flickr.com/people/thescw
post #23 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by SCW View Post

As the person who discovered & this fraud... I don't think if I hadn't brought it to Apple's attention that it wouldn't have been taken care of so soon... Possibly far too late for those who spent hard earned money on one of the apps to then be left with a hole in their pockets.

Yes Molinker had a few TOP apps... on the day they were removed from the AppStore one of their apps was on the front page of the AppStore in an Apples Favorites section "ColorMagic" app. As well they had two apps in the "Top Paid App" section for Photography "ColorMagic & OOF Out of Focus" both were is the top 20.

Cheers Patrick Timney (aka) SCW
http://twitter.com/thescw
http://www.flickr.com/people/thescw

I dont think that you where the only one who reacts on this, actually I am sure :-). But it was good that it came to the right place directly.

Also I think he is not the only one who do this kind of acting. But what about TV commercials about shampoo's or SlimLine products, TellSell whatever, their self created user comments are also fraud. They should stop with this also.


He, Molinker, did do a hard job, so many app's. A few yes they where nice. But his greed did shoot him in the head. Not remembering about what, but I do remember that he was in the news before, but I forgot why.
post #24 of 53
Good send all such developers to Droid.
post #25 of 53
It means Internet lemmings have just figured out how to bring their endless on-line wars to AppStore. YouTube II.
It's obvious, you have to pay attention first to what is missed in app and to whether you can live without those features, while looking through customer reviews... "Great! Excellent! A must! etc." posts should always be skipped. Are you buying football tickets to see cheerleaders anyway?

We mean Apple no harm.

People are lovers, basically. -- Engadget livebloggers at the iPad mini event.

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We mean Apple no harm.

People are lovers, basically. -- Engadget livebloggers at the iPad mini event.

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post #26 of 53
None of my 104 apps were from this developer. Does anyone reading this have any of their apps?
post #27 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post

The 99,000 app store... I'm sure that the app store has 1000 apps in the review process agonizing over the approval process as I type. \

Exactly. What a waste of everyone's time.
post #28 of 53
How can a developer have 1000 apps in 18 months? Do they have 100 developers working on creating apps, each doing a new app every 6 weeks? I fail to see how the quality can be that good.

Unless they're selling books or something - repackaging a single eBook Reader engine with different books.
post #29 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

"Actually we do not know what's wrong so far."

There is a word maybe you don't know: FRAUD.
1. Wrongful or criminal depiction intended to result in financial gain.
2. A person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.

It's not just a few harmless lies. Due to money being involved, it becomes more serious, with possibility of fines and jail time.

YOU REALLY can't make this stuff up . They copied and posted the same review 1000 x / duh .
Amazing how quick these jerks will disappear for ever in the electronic jungle wasteland of lost dreams /
I mean to say that in a few days we'll think did they ever exist ?? deleted forever from the app store
sleepy apple awakens and wields a mighty sword
swish
swish
off with there heads !!>>or apps >



next stop for these milli vanilli dudes is too slime on over to the palm app store

peace 9
whats in a name ? 
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post #30 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hattig View Post

Unless they're selling books or something - repackaging a single eBook Reader engine with different books.

Exactly. They were baking travel guides "Welcome to Madrid", "Welcome to Comoros", "Welcome to Gambia", etc.

We mean Apple no harm.

People are lovers, basically. -- Engadget livebloggers at the iPad mini event.

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We mean Apple no harm.

People are lovers, basically. -- Engadget livebloggers at the iPad mini event.

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post #31 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by SCW View Post

As the person who discovered & this fraud... I don't think if I hadn't brought it to Apple's attention that it wouldn't have been taken care of so soon... Possibly far too late for those who spent hard earned money on one of the apps to then be left with a hole in their pockets.

Yes Molinker had a few TOP apps... on the day they were removed from the AppStore one of their apps was on the front page of the AppStore in an Apples Favorites section "ColorMagic" app. As well they had two apps in the "Top Paid App" section for Photography "ColorMagic & OOF Out of Focus" both were is the top 20.

>>> >>>>> Patrick Txxxxy <<<<<<<(aka) SCW
http://twitter.com/thescw
http://www.flickr.com/people/thescw

hey hey
your a real hero dude !

I am clapping my hands right now
good show !!!

Patrick Tixxxxy ?? try not to post real names online \
ot so safe
maybe delete this huh ??

again wow
made my day
rock on

peace
9

ps we now expect you to go out and find more bad guys //maybe <<< Phil Schiller >> could give you a free 27" fully stocked 8 core i mac as a  thank you gift ..

I know Phil reads this site . << so what say you Phil ?? A small reward for SCW ??
whats in a name ? 
beatles
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post #32 of 53
I for one, would love to know how MONEY they made before they got found out?

It would seem like he's not a happy camper right about now. He just went from making some good EASY money, to none in a very short period of time.

Skip
post #33 of 53
This sounds like a fairly minor "crime" to me. This sort of thing happens all the time on Amazon, eBay and thousands of other message boards and discussion forums. With 100,000+ apps on the store it's getting harder and harder for developers to get their particular app noticed.

If you read some of the blog posts by developers marketing and getting apps reviewed by major publications and websites is getting more important in generating user interest. The days of slapping together an app over a weekend and making $100,000 in a month are long gone.

So these guys cheated and posted a bunch of very obvious fake reviews. It's a matter of cutting corners on the marketing side, nothing was wrong with the apps themselves. They deserve to get their wrist slapped and made an example of, not banned for life.
post #34 of 53
I DO hope Apple will reward the active internet user who discovered all of this. Perhaps he could use a new 27" iMac?
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post #35 of 53
Quote:
I would like to highly suggest to take a deep look into not only the 'reviewers' but I will almost bet that all of these users redeemed 'Promo Codes' for these apps in order to only access the US app store & publish these endless slew of fake postings. All to increase the developers ratings, status, sales & ultimately have a pay-off when potential customers see such high ratings & then just buy the apps.

Well it got the job done, but that's terrible sentence construction.

Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others.
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Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others.
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post #36 of 53
Is there some sort of policy in the developer agreement that bans developers from reviewing their own apps?

How is this different from the countless developers that offer promo codes to random people in exchange for reviews?

How did Phil Schiller become VP of anything with the writing skills demonstrated above?

Do any of you honestly believe that Apple was unaware of this developer? When one developer consists of 1% of your entire app store, and has a catalog larger than any other single developer, its impossible to miss.

Trust me, Apple is just as disappointed as the developer is, that these 1000 apps had to go. Apple benefits from Apps on sale, not apps that are removed.

Apple also doesn't even slightly care how the 5 star reviews get there, as long as they lead to more sales. When some whiny P.I.T.A. like this so-called "SCW" starts screaming no fair no fair, then Apple has to put on the face as if they care, and take action.
post #37 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by pmz View Post

Is there some sort of policy in the developer agreement that bans developers from reviewing their own apps?

How is this different from the countless developers that offer promo codes to random people in exchange for reviews?

How did Phil Schiller become VP of anything with the writing skills demonstrated above?

Do any of you honestly believe that Apple was unaware of this developer? When one developer consists of 1% of your entire app store, and has a catalog larger than any other single developer, its impossible to miss.

Trust me, Apple is just as disappointed as the developer is, that these 1000 apps had to go. Apple benefits from Apps on sale, not apps that are removed.

Apple also doesn't even slightly care how the 5 star reviews get there, as long as they lead to more sales. When some whiny P.I.T.A. like this so-called "SCW" starts screaming no fair no fair, then Apple has to put on the face as if they care, and take action.

Steve Ballmer, is that you? Whoever you are, do you honestly think that Apple doesn't care about the QUALITY of apps on the store? Apple is NOT Microsoft!

The fact is, that crap apps receiving better than their share of publicity or reviews reduces the overall quality of the app store itself, which neither Apple, their shareholders or their users want.
post #38 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by tonton View Post

Steve Ballmer, is that you? Whoever you are, do you honestly think that Apple doesn't care about the QUALITY of apps on the store? Apple is NOT Microsoft!

The fact is, that crap apps receiving better than their share of publicity or reviews reduces the overall quality of the app store itself, which neither Apple, their shareholders or their users want.

Apple wants money. Shareholders want Apple to have money. Users want value for their money.

Your point can easily be argued away. There are plenty of crap apps for the Mac, that do nothing to hurt the popularity of the Mac or the quality software available for the Mac.

However, Mac Apps are not exclusively distributed through one portal with absolutely no organization, or visual way to differentiate quality apps from total garbage.

AKA. The App Store Design is Abysmal. It is the reason for crap apps receiving better than their share. They AUTOMATICALLY receive better than their share, because they're put on the same shelf with the same packaging as a $20 weather app that gives live radar over 3G.

You sound like the type of person who blames middle class families for trying to buy a home while predatory lenders dangle life in front of you.
post #39 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by pmz View Post

Apple wants money. Shareholders want Apple to have money. Users want value for their money.

And the way Apple gets that money is by consistently providing a superior user experience. They do not benefit from crap apps, so your allegation that Apple doesn't care about app quality is just plain wrong.
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post #40 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darr247 View Post

It's nearly impossible to shill on ebay since they do not reveal the maximum bid to the seller. The only way would be for the shiller to withdraw the bid that goes over the maximum. I would encourage everyone to report that behavior even if it wasn't their high bid getting revealed.

If bidders are getting into bidding wars and driving the price past that of new items, or not comparing prices on amazon (or even straight from the manufacturer is cheaper sometimes), that's not sellers' (or ebay's) fault.

Bzzzt. Sorry, thanks for playing. Since Ebay now hides the names of bidders from other bidders, it's even harder to easily identify shill bidding accounts and activity. For lots of helpful examples, see the following website.
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