Fake Totok
Image Credit: YZ

Dubai: Last night I tried to contact my brother abroad. “Do you have Totok?” I asked him, while on a long distance phone call. “No,” he told me. “Okay, let me check if it’s back on the app store.”

After a quick search, I spotted it “Totok Chat” it was called. Without thinking, I taped download. Maybe it was back on the app store? Maybe this was another new chat app that we can use to connect? What can I lose? I have a habit of downloading apps trying them out and deleting them.

A pop-up appeared to type in my passcode (my Face ID failed recently on my Apple iPhone XS Max, big surprise). So the pop-up said: This app is 0.00AED. Cool. Most apps cost me 0.00AED.

After putting my passcode in, my Apple Pay popped up to inform me that I just made a transaction of $199.

Fake Totok App
Image Credit: Screenshot by YZ

I was confused. The ToTok app was free. And even if it wasn’t free, there’s no way it would cost Dh730. I immediately checked the app. It was a blank blue page. You couldn’t do anything with it. I investigated further. The app was based out of Russia, since the phone number and email address given indicated such.

I switched screens back to the app store and read the reviews.

“IT’S A SCAM. DO NOT DOWNLOAD” and “This app is a scam. It said $0.00 but after I downloaded it, it took $200 from my Apple Pay account.”

This did not just happen, I thought to myself. I called my bank immediately. “Ma’am you have to contact Apple or the app itself to try and get a refund. If that doesn’t work, call us back and we will have to block your card and try to despite the amount.”

This is a screenshot of my bank statement, with the important information blurred out. This shows that Dh754 was withdrawn from my account by "Manychat" the allegedly Russian app developer.

I went on Apple.ae. After a long time navigating the website to finally find a phone number I could contact, I was on the phone with an Apple customer service representative named Meghan. After explaining in detail what had just happened to me, she explained that she couldn’t find any recent transactions and there was no evidence that I was charged. This fake Totok App managed to bypass the App Store. She suggested I try to contact someone who handles Apple Pay. That is after all how they took my credit card information. A pleasant man named Jamie explained that Apple Pay is just your card but a “digital version” of it. So they can’t do anything about any transactions I have.

“Ok. I understand,” I replied “but don’t you realise there is an app, that is authorized by the App Store stealing money from your clients?”

I was told to email Support at Apple and maybe they could help.

Gulf News got in touch with Apple to comment and they sent over a brief statement. “We can confirm that the app is no longer on the App Store.”

As of this moment, my card has been blocked and cancelled. The amount has not yet been returned to my account, but my bank have informed me they are in the process of disputing the charge.