What are fleeceware apps and why you should avoid them

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Scams have existed since time immemorial but the fact of carrying a computer in your pocket has made digital are now the predominant. Taking advantage of the lack of attention or the limited knowledge of users is the bargaining chip in a fraudulent market that does not seem to have an end, that of appropriating other people’s money.

Among the multiple forams of digital scam there is one that we could call ‘soft’, and it is the scam they represent fleeceware apps. A concept that we will explain to you right now so that you have special attention when you come across these types of applications that try to take advantage of the multitude of times that we download and accept conditions without reading them.

The concept fleeceware


The term fleeceware is quite new and we only have to go back to September 2019 to know its origin. The creator of this term is Sophos, a cybersecurity company that was the one that discovered the existence of this type of application in the Google Play Store, the app store for Android.

The term comes from the mixture of fleece (colloquially, to pluck) and ware (Referring to software). Its meaning, to translate it in some simpler way, would be that of ‘software to pluck you ‘ Because its mission is to overcharge users for something that is offered for free in principle.

“Because these applications exist in a categorical gray area that is not overtly malware and it is not a potentially unwanted application, we have coined the term fleeceware because their defining characteristic is that they overcharge users for functionality that is widely available in free or low-cost applications “- Sophos website

They are usually apps with paid features and a short trial period that we tend to forget to cancel

It usually happens that these types of applications offer a series of functionalities under the guise of free software, until we download them and realize that part of them is free but the rest is paid. It is clearly indicated that we have a trial period to access these payment functionalities, although the price to pay once the trial period is over is usually quite hidden maliciously.

Thus, once we test the app and it does not satisfy us (something that happens quite frequently when observing the average grades of apps days), the usual thing is to uninstall them from our phone. What is not so common is that we also cancel the subscription with initial trial, and once the grace period ends they will start to charge us the quota established and not clearly indicated.

Simple apps that we can find for free (really)


The apps that usually use these systems are usually quite simple. We are talking about apps that are QR code readers, calculator apps, flashlights or even to edit photos or create animated GIFs. Many phones have these apps already integrated into the system and there are also free alternatives (really free) available, something that users are unaware of when they go to downloading this fleeceware that ends with amounts loaded with difficult claims.

Sophos itself indicates that at the time, when they identified and named these types of apps, they already informed Google of a total of 15 existing applications with this disguised payment system. Of those 15 apps, 14 were later removed, although since then they have not stopped appearing with some regularity.


Avast has recently reported that you have located 7 other apps on Google Play that offer items for Minecraft or wallpapers, and has even made a list with the payments charged to us once the trial period is over. Apps dedicated to the smallest of the house due to their theme and that can make us finish with charges up to $ 30 each week, with the conversion to euros.

So that, be very careful with which apps you download and their conditions. When you are in front of a paid app with a trial period, be suspicious and read the conditions carefully so as not to find yourself with a surprise later because, as we have said, your claim is complex. We download them voluntarily, we accept their conditions voluntarily and therefore their charges are apparently legal even if they are immoral. Keep an eye out.

The news

What are fleeceware apps and why you should avoid them

was originally published in

Xataka Android

Samuel Fernandez


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