Fraud Alert: Fake ChatGPT Apps Commonplace in App Stores
Last updated August 3, 2023
OpenAI, the company that created the popular new artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT, released a mobile app for Android devices on July 25. An iOS version became available in May.
These free apps, available for download from the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store, link to existing ChatGPT accounts, and synchronize your chat history between devices.
But before you download the app, make sure you’re getting the official OpenAI application. We found that app stores are flooded with bogus versions of ChatGPT.
Listen to audio highlights of the story below:
Consumers’ Checkbook visited the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store this week and searched for “ChatGPT.” The results showed the legitimate ChatGPT from OpenAI at the top, as well as various imitators with names such as “AI Chat,” “Chat GTP” (that’s not a typo), and “ChatAI.”
Our search of the Google Play Store provided us with this lineup:
Along with the real ChatGPT and Bing’s AI chatbot, which is powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4 language model, Apple’s App Store also displayed various knockoffs:
Watch Out for Fleeceware
Earlier this year, Sophos, a global cybersecurity company, warned that it had uncovered multiple apps in both the Google and Apple app stores “masquerading as legitimate ChatGPT-based chatbots to overcharge users and bring in thousands of dollars a month.”
“Scammers have and always will use the latest trends in technology to line their pockets, ChatGPT is no exception,” said Sean Gallagher, principal threat researcher at Sophos.
These clones are set up to confuse people who are looking for something else, and typically have almost no functionality, Sophos warned.
“They’re designed to make money by throwing advertisements at you, and trying to get you to sign up for costly subscriptions that can cost hundreds of dollars a year,” said Chester Wisniewski, field chief technology officer for applied research at Sophos.
These scam apps are called “fleeceware.” They’re not malicious, as some rogue apps can be—they’re just low-quality applications. After the free download, they bombard users with ads to sign up for paid subscriptions.
“They’re banking on the fact that users won’t pay attention to the cost, or simply forget that they have this subscription,” Gallagher warned. “These apps are specifically designed so that they may not get much use after the free trial ends, so users delete the app without realizing they’re still on the hook for a monthly or weekly payment.”
Sophos investigated five ChatGPT fleeceware apps, all of which erroneously claimed to be based on ChatGPT’s algorithm. While the real ChatGPT app is free, the knockoffs charge a weekly, monthly, or yearly fee (as much as $312) after a short free-trial period. These apps, Sophos said, are raking in millions of dollars a month.
Before you download any app, make sure it’s the one you want. Names and even logos can be confusing. Many chatbot knockoffs claim to be powered by ChatGPT, but they’re not the official ChatGPT app. Check the developer; for ChatGPT it’s OpenAI. If it’s anything else, it’s not the real deal.
If you’ve already downloaded one of these fleeceware apps, Sophos recommends going to the app store and following the guidelines on how to “unsubscribe.” Simply deleting the app will not void the subscription. Then check your credit card or bank account to make sure the payments stop.
Contributing editor Herb Weisbaum (“The ConsumerMan”) is an Emmy award-winning broadcaster and one of America's top consumer experts. He has been protecting consumers for more than 40 years, having covered the consumer beat for CBS News, The Today Show, and NBCNews.com. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at ConsumerMan.com.