Facebook and MySpace Social Gaming Scams Moving to iPhone?


According to TechCrunch, some of the worst scams in social gaming are moving from Facebook and MySpace to the iPhone:

Users are offered virtual currency in exchange for answering a quiz or some other seemingly harmless offer. But once they click through and awswer the quiz questions they’re told they need to enter their mobile phone number to get quiz results. Often there is fine print outlining the charges. But the already tiny print is completely unreadable on a mobile screen, making that disclosure meaningless even when it appears.

SMS subscription scams are among the most lucrative offers to game publishers because users get a recurring fee of $10 – $25 per month until they are able to terminate the subscription. Many users never notice them, and those that do usually have a lot of trouble getting them shut off.

TechCrunch has reached out to the companies they claim are powering the scams, including "OfferPal Media and SuperRewards and now Google" and has received reassurances from some of them that they are working towards guidelines and policies -- not to get rid of the practice but to make the terms clearer for end users. Apparently, there's so much money involved in this type of "advertising" that it's not going anywhere soon, it just might get less "scammy".

Read the articles linked above for more information on how it works and who the players are, but bottom line remember -- if something sounds too good to be true, it is. If a game offers you"free" in-game currency (or whatever they use to incentive play) there's always a cost. Don't give out your mobile number, and don't download apps unless you trust them completely.

If you've had any experiences with social gaming scams, or any type of in-app scams, let us know!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Facebook and MySpace Social Gaming Scams Moving to iPhone?


I recently had all the data from my iPhone "mined" by an app (which I still have not be able to discover which app) and have receive phone call after phone call from scanners trying to get me to either sign up for their service to calls asking for money. The only way I knew it came from my iPhone was the app mined my contact list and had been calling individuals from my list. I had friends who claimed receiving the same phone calls. After relentless calls and emails, I soon discovered the calls and emails started to have a patteren. Their information was based off information stored on my iPhone.

@Hungwell ...
you're an idiot , these are part of adverts that rely on the webkit , the only way apple could stop this is by blocking safari and webkit API in apps. The policing needs to come from the advertisers.

@zero credibility ... thanks for the name calling. I guess that would make you a complete and total moron. Apple can do whatever apple wants. If an app in their store invokes a behavior they don't like, they can ban it. Now go crawl back in your little hole you slug.

I fell for one of these scams a while back... AT&T was pretty good about it. I called them up and asked what the $10 charge was for, and they took it off right away. Lady on the line said it's been happenning for a long time, certainly long before TC reported on it.

you still don't get it do you... it's NOT an app .. but it's part of the advertising eg, admob and google within the apps. Let me help you out further .. you know on normal websites? , some flash adverts have malicious code in them ? same sort of thing .. so , just to recap not the apps fault .. but falling somewhere in the advertising platforms reign .. although they would have to check each ad before they let it through.... thanks for playing tho ;) ?

Hahaha, blaming Flash, that's rich.
The only reason Apple and Steve Jobs hate Flash is because it allows you to bypass the iTunes store to get video content. Flash does not have any of the issues the Apple people say it does, they just want you to pay for content that you could get for free from netflix streaming, hulu, rev 3 and the like.

I laugh at the people who can waste their lives playing stupid little quiz games online. Probably the same people that think they're really gonna win a free iPod for filling pit a survey...

I ran across this exact mobile tv ad from a weather app so it's not just games. I'll bet they get a lot of people. Everyone seems to want real video content on their iPhone just like other mobile phones have.

Lady on the line said it’s been happenning for a long time, certainly long before TC reported on it.