July 2, 2014 Last Updated 11:26 am

Newsstand spammer back with a vengeance, now under different names, but with the same apps

Multiple developer accounts start flooding the Apple Newsstand with new digital magazine apps that bare a strong resemblance to apps previously released, and then pulled

The scams just keep on coming inside the Apple Newsstand. Today the developer account of “Hannan Ruiz” has launched a series of new digital magazine apps that look an awful lot like the scam apps that came out of the developer account of Chris Burns. The reason they look like those apps are that they are, in fact, coming from Chris Burns.

Mr. Burns has, for the past year, been launching dozens of look-a-like digital magazine apps that target the health and fitness categories. The digital magazines are simple, ugly and a complete scam as the apps promise regular issues but only deliver their first issue.

Unless one believes a person can produce dozens of magazines a month on their own, the new Newsstand apps are an obvious set-up. Burns has probably launched over a hundred such look-a-like magazines since beginning his run, under a number of different developer account names.

Now comes 16 new apps since mid-April appearing under the account name of Hannan Ruiz. The latest of these, Easy Chef, has benefiting from the fact that it is the first app seen in the Cooking, Food & Drink category.

NewstandMags-lg

The apps contain a link back to a website located at healthyapps.me The website brags that “Healthy Apps Pty. Ltd. is a smart phone and tablet publishing company with over 100 Newstand (sic) Magazines and Apps.” It also brags that the unnamed publisher has “over 2,000,000 happy users.”

The developer website contains no names, no phone number, and no address for its publisher (how many publishers of “over 100” apps wants to stay anonymous). But a Who Is search finds that the website was bought through Go Daddy and its owner is… you guessed it, Chris Burns.

Digital magazine scams devalue the whole Newsstand for legitimate publishers, of course. But they also make lots of money for Apple as they get to collect 30 percent of the sales. Scammers probably can get around Apple’s developer account guidelines pretty easy, including the banking and tax information that must be submitted. But the scams are pretty obvious so one wonders if Apple isn’t, in fact, a willing partner in all this.

seo_cw_productThe basic premise of the scam is that a digital magazine app is launched that promises a monthly magazine if you subscribe. But only one issue ever appears inside the Newsstand app. These particular apps that have launched are so new that when a reader only sees one magazine inside the app’s store page it does not seem strange – which is why the developer has to eventually pull the old apps and replace them with new ones. The oldest app from this new account is from April, and sure enough that app contains only an April issue despite the app selling monthly and annual subscriptions.

Why would I wonder that? It might be that the new magazines that have been released right before these from Hannan Ruiz look very similar, but come from a completely different developer account. Vegan Cooking Magzine (sic), and several others, are appearing under the account name of Irfan Elahi. That developer account links back to healthyapps.me, the same website as the Hannan Ruiz account, the same website registered by Chris Burns.

As usual, TNM has reached out to Apple – both the press team and the iTunes support team – but have not heard a response.

Update: I did hear back from someone in iTunes support, but they really had nothing to say beyond wondering it I was seeking a refund for a specific purchase. The press team, as TNM is not the WSJ, did not return my call.

  • Tablazines 3 years ago

    scum bags.

  • Nick Martin 3 years ago

    There will always be someone trying to game the systems. I think we are going to see more of this unfortunately. It’s getting cheaper and easier to publish magazines and, as we can obviously see, there is a lot of money in gaming the newsstand (which is a great sign for legitimate publishers).

    Think about search engines in the early days and then think about all the slaps, upgrades, algorithm changes etc there has been over the last 10 years. People try to game (grey/black hat) the search engines and we will for sure see the same in newsstand.

    We are already seeing it with games right! Today it’s not about creating valuable, rich and entertaining games. No, it’s about flooding the app store with half ass games to build the so called app network. It’s all in the numbers now and I have heard from several successful game developers, that you need games in the 100’s in order to make it big.

    Pardon the rant, I hope Apple is prepared to reinforce magazine submission checks regularly or otherwise enhance the quality of magazine apps soon, as more try to game the newsstand.

  • Wojciech Szywalski 3 years ago

    I think that real issue here lies at the lack of meaningful feedback from Apple (simple rule: S*it in s*it out.)
    I believe there is lot of good things going on at their side, however the dynamics of progress is far slower than developers would expect.