Apple touts stopping $1.8B in App Store fraud last year in latest pitch to developers


Image Credits: TechCrunch

Apple released new data about anti-fraud measures related to its operation of the iOS App Store on Tuesday morning, trumpeting a claim that it stopped over $7 billion in “potentially fraudulent transactions” across the four years between 2020 and 2023.

More than $1.8 billion of that total was stopped in 2023, per Apple, which is down from the $2 billion in potentially fraudulent transactions Apple reported preventing in 2022. It also said it blocked over 14 million stolen credit cards and more than 3.3 million accounts from transacting again between 2020 and 2023.

As with any self-reported corporate metrics, the aim is to shape a narrative: In Apple’s case it’s a longstanding claim that its mobile ecosystem sets “the standard for security, reliability, and user experience”, as its blog post puts it.

It’s worth noting that counter-narratives do exist, such as the developer lawsuit Apple settled back in fall 2022, which had raised complaints about unfair app rejections, scams and fraud.

The timing of Apple’s blog post coincides — coincidentally or not — with the kick-off of Google’s developer confab, I/O. That’s interesting because, in recent months, Mountain View has been running a pilot of a new automated anti-fraud measure for its own app store, Google Play, suggesting competition to burnish mobile security cred is heating up thanks to AI.

Apple’s other pressure point on ecosystem integrity comes from regulators. In the European Union the iPhone maker has, since February, been forced into allowing third-party app stores and app sideloading under the bloc’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). It must also let developers use third-party payment tech (rather than its own) if they wish. Apple argues the DMA’s enforced openness is weakening the security of its iOS ecosystem.

The “fourth annual fraud prevention analysis” Apple has published today offers a retrospective look at where its App Store ecosystem stood on stopping scams and other problematic behaviors before meddling EU regulators got involved.

It also reads like a marketing pitch to developers who, in the EU at least, have an increasing array of choices about how to distribute their apps, rather than being forced to submit to the Apple’s App Store to reach iOS users.

App Store integrity in the frame

Reporting additional metrics for 2023, Apple said it rejected more than 1.7 million app submissions for failing to meet its “stringent” standards for privacy, security and content. It also said its efforts to stop and reduce App Store fraud led to it terminating nearly 374 million developer and customer accounts, and removing “close to” 152 million ratings and reviews over fraud concerns.

Also in 2023, Apple said it shuttered close to 118,000 developer accounts — which its blog post notes is a marked decrease from the 428,000 terminations in the prior year (2022). It credits “continued improvements” in preventing the creation of potentially fraudulent accounts in the first place with this decrease, without specifying the changes it’s made.

In further actions last year, Apple said it rejected more than 91,000 developer enrollments for “fraud concerns” — preventing these accounts from submitting what it couched as “problematic apps” to the App Store. 

Apple’s App Review team has over 500 staff who Apple said are tasked with evaluating every app submission. “On average, the team reviews approximately 132,500 apps a week, and in 2023, reviewed nearly 6.9M app submissions while helping more than 192,000 developers publish their first app onto the App Store,” it wrote.

Per Apple, the App Review workflow involves both automated processes and human review to try to spot and block fraud and other harms. In 2023, more than 1.7 million app submissions were rejected by Apple for “various reasons, including privacy violations and fraudulent activity”.

“Bad actors employ deceptive tactics to harm users, including the practice of disguising potentially risky apps as innocuous ones,” the company wrote. “Over the past year, there have been numerous instances where App Review identified apps initially misrepresented as harmless products — such as photo editors or puzzle games — that later transformed postreview into pirate movie streaming platforms, illegal gambling apps, or fraudulent and predatory loan issuers.”

“In some extreme instances, the team also identified and removed financial service apps involved in complex and malicious social engineering efforts designed to defraud users, including apps impersonating known services to facilitate phishing campaigns and that provided fraudulent financial and investment services,” Apple added, noting App Store reviewers “removed or rejected 40,000 apps from developers who engaged in bait-and-switch activity” across the year.

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo