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

Posted:
in Mac Software edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 52
    'Crunch!'
  • Reply 2 of 52
    oc4theooc4theo Posts: 294member
    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!
  • Reply 3 of 52
    yodieyodie Posts: 31member
    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.
  • Reply 4 of 52
    citycity Posts: 522member
    Integrity is important! Would eBay remove a shill a seller? (Maybe for a few days)
  • Reply 5 of 52
    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.
  • Reply 6 of 52
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,744member
    Good. Keep the clean-up going, Apple.
  • Reply 7 of 52
    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.
  • Reply 8 of 52
    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.
  • Reply 9 of 52
    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?
  • Reply 10 of 52
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 52
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 52
    foo2foo2 Posts: 1,077member
    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!
  • Reply 13 of 52
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 52
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 52
    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. \
  • Reply 16 of 52
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    "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.
  • Reply 17 of 52
    citycity Posts: 522member
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 52
    scwscw Posts: 3member
    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
  • Reply 19 of 52
    scwscw Posts: 3member
    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
  • Reply 20 of 52
    This is great! If I were Apple I, would ban them forever. Make an example of them.



    Good find SCW.
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