iPhone Game Scams
Last year it was brought to our attention that more and more people were getting caught in scams via Facebook and Myspace. Social gaming companies were making their money through games like Mobsters and Farmville. The type of games where you pay actual money for in-game money to help you get higher and further along in the game. For those who didn’t want to part with their cash they then get tricked into some form of mobile subscription. Well it seems now it’s back again.
According to reports by TechCrunch these same old scams are being used again but actually on our iPhones. An example is a game called Tap Defense. The creators Tapjoy, advertised a SMS mobile subscription within the game which tricked users into commiting to a long term subscription without realising. This particular offer was run by Offerpal. When TechCrunch did their report they contacted Offerpal. Offerpal then removed the subscription offers and then made the following statement:
Offerpal and I have done everything we said we would do following the initial social-game offer controversy back in November. We quickly adopted strict compliance rules modeled on Facebook’s requirements, and we have been working closely with the major social platforms and game developers to ensure that only the highest quality offers have been run and we have succeeded. Our offers and other “alt pay” options have been running continuously and there have been no compliance issues since, and these “alt-pay” offers are many times more popular than cash purchases with social game users. Consumers love them and they provide additional monetization for developers
We also led the formation of an IAB standards board to set industry guidelines for lead-gen offers on social networks, and Offerpal is the ONLY offer-network who is participating in this effort. So the issue of offer quality on social networks has been properly addressed and is considered by the industry to be an issue of the past.
Recently, we have begun to test offers in a few mobile games and apps, in particular on the iPhone. Offerpal has been participating in this effort at the request of a couple of iPhone developers and we have also just opened a direct dialogue with Apple to jointly establish standards and guidelines for offers in iPhone apps before any general rollout. In the meantime, we have been applying the same quidelines that we have been successfully using in Social Games to the few mobile apps that are carrying offers. However the vast majority of the “offers” that are running in iPhone apps are simply installs of other iPhone apps, as can be seen for example in “Tap Tap Revenge 3”.
However, Mike has raised the question of whether mobile quizzes and other apps resulting in PSMS subscriptions may still not be clear enough in citing their terms since users may not realize they are opting in for an ongoing PSMS subscription. Although such quizzes and PSMS offers are currently in wide distribution by most of the major mobile ad networks, Mike raises a valid question. So in the interest of being conservative and wanting to operate in the best interests of the collective mobile user experience, we have immediately removed the quizzes in question and any offers resulting in PSMS subscriptions from distribution pending a further review of the concerns Mike has raised.
Over the next week or so we will accumulate as much feedback as we can from developers, publishers, mobile platforms, and others in the industry, and on Monday March 22 we will publish on our website and via a press release a written statement of our guidelines and policies regarding alt-pay offers in mobile apps.
Chairman and CEO, Offerpal.
The reason that many are failing to notice the scam is that they are just not clear enough. The small print is unreadable on a mobile device and for those that do fall for it and then realise that it is a scam they are having trouble getting out of the subscription. George Garrick did say on TechCrunch customers comments that if you do have any issues about anything you see from Offerpal that he personally is happy to discuss it.
I think the main thing we need to learn from these latest reports is to watch our own backs. These scams are not going to go away, we may eventually be made more aware of what we are getting into but for now there are things we need to be more alert with. Don’t give out any mobile numbers to anything advertised on your phone. If you do, read all the small print first and if you cant read them then that is a sign to not sign up! It’s about being more vigilant in what we subscribe to and remembering that unfortunately there are companies out there wanting to make a lot of money from you.
Have you been tricked into any gaming SMS subscriptions?