UPDATED: Following Clonegate and bot farms, 3 alleged Chinese iTunes scamming games arrive onto US top grossing charts
With the App Store in the grip of what has quickly become a number of scandals - Clonegate, bot farms and claims apps can steal users' address books - ;there couldn't have been a worse time for a previous offender to make a reappearance.
Back in December, PG.biz reported on alleged App Store scammer Chinese studio Hoolai Games, which managed to storm the UK's top grossing charts with a freemium release delivered entirely in Chinese.
The game's user reviews were full of claims of fraud, with some suggesting they'd never downloaded the app, or paid for any of the title's in-app purchases (IAPs) - the most expensive of which came in at a weighty $99.99.
Now, the same app has made the trip across the Atlantic to the US, making an equally unannounced appearance at #3 in the App Store's top grossing chart.
As before, the game is coupled by a whole host of negative reviews - many claiming they never download the app or approved any IAPs.
"Several in-app purchases posted, but not requested," reads one. "Scam, thieves. Shut them down."
"This thing made several in app purchases for me which I haven't started to create an account for," reads another.
Apple never commented when the game original sneaked into the UK's top grossing chart - climbing at high as #3 in the end - though it was claimed keystroke loggers preying on users with jailbroken devices were to blame.
Others suggested a batch of user login details had been stolen, with downloads and purchases made via the desktop version of iTunes and delivered to handsets without permission via iCloud.
Misery loves company
The prospect of mass user account theft will be weighing heavy on the minds of those at Apple right now.
Wang Tilan of alleged bot farm site TopDealApps has recently claimed to have amassed the login details of over 200,000 iTunes accounts in the US - albeit through legitimate means - raising inevitable questions regarding the state of App Store security.
Hoolai Games isn't the only Chinese developer currently gracing the higher echelons of the top grossing chart in the US, however.
Another game, also delivered entirely in Chinese by Shanghai MUHE, peaked at #11, again with user reviews accusing the app of hacking their details and making purchases without their permission.
And to cap the situation off, Happy City from ZheJiangYiJin is also currently sitting at #59, with claims of account hacking and "fraudulent charges" populating the game's reviews section.
As before, it remains to be seen whether any action will be taken against the firms involved - if, indeed, they're guilty of fraudulent activity at all.
But as we've already seen with 'clone games' removed from the App Store such as Temple Jump and Pixel Story, and alleged bot farmed games - removed and since replaced - the lack of any public guidance from Apple about what's happening is part of the problem.