As fitness enthusiasts continue to incorporate tech and apps into their routines, the marketplace for things like heart rate monitors, step trackers and apps has grown exponentially. An unfortunate side effect of that growth, however, are the scams that come with it.

A number of apps claiming to help users achieve their fitness goals were recently removed from Apple’s App Store amid numerous claims of fraudulent charges.

According to Wired, the scam worked by exploiting the Touch ID feature available on certain models of iPhones. Users of the apps — the seemingly harmless sounding “Heart Rate Monitor,” “Fitness Balance app” and “Calories Tracker app” — would be prompted to scan their fingerprints in order to perform a basic function of the app, such as viewing a calorie tracker or taking a heart rate measurement. However, once users scanned their prints, an in-app purchase prompt would pop up and charge users $90 to $120. Add to that the fact that the screens would automatically dim, making the purchase prompt even harder to read and notice, and you’ve got the makings of an all-out scam.

Touch ID is a feature that many iPhone users enjoy because it seamlessly allows for things like purchases, downloads, authentication and unlocking of the screen. The scam apps took advantage of the feature to rip people off.

The tech security website welivesecurity.com said that despite the scheme, the “Fitness Balance app” still received 5-star ratings in the App Store. According to the site, scammers often utilize fake reviews to improve the reputation of their apps.

The scammy apps have since been removed, but malicious developers could easily take advantage of similar techniques in the future. One positive note for owners of newer iPhones is that they don’t have a home button or the Touch ID feature — meaning scammers won’t be able to trap them with the same technique. Owners of older iPhones, however, are cautioned to be vigilant.

 

Jason Scott is Online Managing Editor of Athletic Business.