Remember all the hot water Zynga and Offerpal got into back in October 2009 over the fake surveys, malware toolbars and other forms of user fraud that were found lurking in certain Facebook games? Although the industry promised to clean up its act, TechCrunch (the outlet who originally broke the story with a series of articles entitled Scamville: The Social Gaming Ecosystem of Hell) is reporting that the same sort of unethical business practices have resurfaced on the iPhone.
The way the scams worked on social networks was to offer players the opportunity to fill out surveys or sign up for free trials from a number of companies in exchange for virtual goods or in-game currency. (It was an alternative to paying real-world cash for coveted virtual items.) While the majority of these companies were legitimate, like Netflix, others were scams designed to install malicious software on the person’s computer or set up recurring monthly charges on their credit card or mobile phone bill.
According to TechCrunch, the scam has migrated to the iPhone in the form of SMS-subscription offers that trick players into putting long-term subscriptions onto their mobile phones.
“These types of offers are particularly insidious,” TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington explains in the article. “Users are offered virtual currency in exchange for answering a quiz or some other seemingly harmless offer. But once they click through and answer 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.”