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Monday, December 07, 2009, 07:00 pm PT (10:00 pm ET)

Review scam leads to removal of over 1,000 apps from App Store

Apple has taken action against app developer Molinker over alleged review fraud, resulting in the removal of all 1,000 of the company's apps.

Thanks to the detective work of one intrepid app store enthusiast, Molinker - developer of close to one percent of all the apps available on the App Store - has been banned from the App Store and all of its apps have been removed.

The issue was first brought to light by photo blog iPhoneography in a post highlighting the concerns of one of its regular readers. Reader SCW had concluded that app developer Molinker had been using its promo codes to write fake 5-star reviews of many of its apps. Each review shared the same short, disjointed style and the reviewers had only written reviews for other Molinker apps.

In a letter to Apple executive Phil Schiller, SCW laid out the case:

I would like to highly suggest to take a deep look into not only the 'reviewers' but I will almost bet that all of these users redeemed 'Promo Codes' for these apps in order to only access the US app store & publish these endless slew of fake postings. All to increase the developers ratings, status, sales & ultimately have a pay-off when potential customers see such high ratings & then just buy the apps.


After sending the email, Phil Schiller responded that Apple would look into the issue. On Sunday, both SCW and iPhoneography received word from Schiller confirming "Yes, this developer's apps have been removed from the App Store and their ratings no long appear either."

Molinker was a particularly prolific app developer, with over 1,000 apps appearing in the store. The great majority of its apps dealt with photography, travel, and public transportation. AppFreak was able to contact Molinker about the issue and received the following response:

We got email from Apple yesterday which told us our contract is changed to pending status.

Actually we do not know what's wrong so far. We had contacted Apple for such sudden changes, hope we can get quick response and actions from Apple.


As of Monday night, Molinker's website had no mention of what had transpired.