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Popular Android anti-virus app found to be a scam, gets booted from Play Store (update)

Updated on 4-22-14 by Williams Pelegrin: Google is sending out emails to those who downloaded the app, saying that not only will they get refunds, but they will be given an additional $5 Play Store credit. The post below has been edited to reflect this.

Google has removed the highly-rated Virus Shield for Android from its Play Store after it was revealed that the app is a scam. According to Android Police, Virus Shield, which once occupied the top spot in the Play Store’s paid apps charts, is “a complete and total scam.”

“We don’t mean in the slightly skeevy way that some anti-virus and general security software overstates danger and its own necessity. We mean it’s literally a fake security app: the only thing that it does is change from an ‘X’ image to a ‘check image after a single tap.’ That’s all,” Android Police’s report read. As added proof, the website has put the app’s Java code on display via Github

The app, which had a $4 price tag and a 4.7-star rating, was downloaded more than 10,000 times during its two week stint in the Play Store. The app claimed that it “protects you and your personal information from harmful viruses, malware, and spyware.” It also promised to “improve the speed of your phone with one click.” 

Virus Shield’s developer, Deviant Solutions, did not leave much of a trace. However, the developer’s email address, Jesse_Carter@live.com, turned up as a banned account at Sythe.org, a website for exchanging virtual goods such as World of Warcraft gold and Runescape items. The user, “InceptionDeviant,” was banned for scamming people out of game items. 

The scam has highlighted Google’s shortcomings when it comes to the vetting of apps in its online marketplace. Not only was Deviant Solutions able to sell a worthless app, it was also able to cloak itself in anonymity. Google had recently updated its Google Play Developer Program Policy in an effort to protect users. However, the changes mostly addressed shady advertising and affiliate schemes and had no guidelines regarding the effectiveness of apps.

In response to the scam, Google is sending out emails to those affected. Because the app made false claims, thus violation the Play Store policy, Google is issuing refunds to those who purchased the app. In addition to the refund, Google is handing out an additional $5 Play Store credit.

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