PSA: Beware of Fake ChatGPT Apps and Other Scams in the Mac App Store

There have long been complaints from App Store developers and users about apps offering limited functionality and charging high prices in an effort to scam people out of their money, and the latest trend is a glut of ChatGPT apps that have invaded the ‌App Store‌.

Privacy 1st researcher Alex Kleber over the weekend took a deep dive into the Mac App Store after noticing an alarming number of ChatGPT apps from the same group of developers, and shared his findings on Medium. As Kleber explains, dozens of OpenAI/ChatGPT copycat apps have appeared on the ‌Mac App Store‌, with “shady” developers “flooding” the ‌Mac App Store‌ with apps that are nearly identical to confuse consumers and exclude other developers.

Searching for OpenAI or ChatGPT in the ‌Mac App Store‌ brings up a long list of apps that offer much of the same functionality, and as Kleber found out, there are some developers who are playing the ‌Mac App Store‌ with keywords, deceptive marketing tactics , fake reviews, stolen OpenAI logos, and multiples of the same app.

It is not uncommon to come across multiple applications with identical or similar names and logos, icon copies, and colors of OpenAI, claiming to offer advanced AI-powered chatbots or language models. However, most of these apps are nothing more than cheap imitations or scams that don’t deliver on their promises. These scams not only mislead users, but also tarnish the reputation of legitimate developers and hinder the growth of the app ecosystem on the MacOS platform.

Two of the app developers, Pixelsbay and ParallelWorld, for example, share the same parent company in Pakistan and the apps have 99 percent of the same code. They have the same interface and paywall, and there’s no way to exit the paywall popup, which can be confusing for app users who aren’t used to quitting an app and restarting it.

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All these ChatGPT apps charge comparatively high prices by taking advantage of the popularity of chatbots, which generates a good amount of money for the developers of the apps.

On the web, ChatGPT is free to use. OpenAI offers a “Plus” program with faster response speeds and priority access to new features for $20 per month. Microsoft’s Bing chatbot, based on OpenAI, is free to use, and Google Bard, Google’s version of a chatbot, is also free. Most, if not all, of the relatively new, incompletely named “ChatGPT” apps in the iOS and macOS app stores are scam apps that you shouldn’t pay for, and many of them don’t even offer the functionality they promise. Most of these apps have weekly subscription fees, which is a red flag.

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There are a few exceptions because legitimate apps have built-in ChatGPT features, but most apps built around ChatGPT prey on ‌App Store‌ users they don’t know better.

Kleber is calling on Apple to take a tougher stance against rogue apps like these to prevent users from losing money to unscrupulous developers. His full post on Medium takes a deeper look at apps to watch out for and the lengths developers go to mislead users of the ‌Mac App Store‌.

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