Google refunds Google Play customers after Virus Shield scam hits top charts


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Google is making good on the antivirus app that wasn't. Earlier in April, VirusShield, one of the top-selling security apps in Google Play, was exposed as a fraud.

Virus Shield promised ad free, one-click protection from malware for $4. Instead, the app displayed an "X" that transformed into a check mark when you tapped it, and that's it; No real protection from the bad guys whatsoever.

Recently, Google started sending out notifications to Virus Shield buyers that their money would be refunded in full, according to Android Police, which initially exposed Virus Shield. To sweeten the deal, Google is also offering an extra $5 credit towards future Play purchases.

Deeper changes needed

Google's move to make things right for Virus Shield customers is an important step, but what's really needed is an overhaul of Google Play. Although Google's app store has come a long way since the wild west days of the old Android Market, Virus Shield shows it's still easy to game the system.

Ultimately, scam apps always get caught—but not always before they rip people off. 

virus shield description

That doesn't mean Google has to adopt Apple's locked down approach for Android, but clearly something should change to prevent nonsense apps from rising to the top of the Google Play charts, whether that means a better algorithm to scan for fakes, or more human attention, especially for those apps that rise quickly to the top of the charts.

Google could also make it easier for users to report miscreant apps. Right now, you have to open the Google Play app on an Android device, scroll all the way to the bottom, and then flag an app as inappropriate.

But you can't choose "scam" or "makes false claims" as a reason for flagging an app. Instead, scams and malware get flagged under the generic "Other" tag, which is unlikely to sound the alarm at Google Play HQ the way "malware" would.

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