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I have a couple of modestly successful android apps in the store and I've recently been approached by a company to buy out two of the apps from me. The company was webuyapps.top.

There are a couple of red-flags that concern me, particularly:

  • Their willingness to buy apps even if they make very little or no money. (Mine have barely just broken even).
  • Similar websites of the same name and identical content (here and here, for example)
  • No information about company location or phone numbers on their website.

However, they do offer to pay by escrow (which I believe is a 'safe' payment method), but I don't know what they gain from buying android apps that don't make any money. Is this a scam? How does it work?

I have spent a bit more time on this and have concluded that there are legitimate app buyout companies. (For example, my second 'here' above). That company has a significant social media presence, a functioning website, and company contact details on their facebook page.

However, I believe I was contacted by a scammer masquerading as a company like this. Their website contains identical copy as the legitimate one, although, it also has grammar errors and broken links. They also seem to have lower requirement criteria for the apps they buy.

I have contacted both websites to check if they are affiliated with eachother and asking for more information about the process.

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    Potential scam aside: I don't know what they gain from buying android apps that don't make any money It's hard to project, but my assumption would be: they gain advertising bandwidth. They want to buy apps with at least some userbase and stuff them with adds, versus buying apps that are inherently profitable already. Have they described what their plans are for their apps? Can you see a list of apps they already own? – dwizum Jun 14 at 13:05
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    Is the escrow company they suggest a valid company, or something that sounds official, but is shady? – Milwrdfan Jun 14 at 18:37
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    i got same email, let me know if you go for deal. – s4suryapal Jun 15 at 8:35
  • @Milwrdfan they link to escrow.com in their website, but I have reason to believe that it is just copied from another website. I have contacted them directly to see what they say but haven't received a reply. – stanri Jun 16 at 17:40
  • I got contacted by the same company. They contacted me for a game, which we had to abandon due to being unprofitable. Selling it, even for a few K, would be beneficial at this point I was wondering if you went through, or at least they made an offer. – user1288789 Jul 8 at 10:38
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The answer to most questions in the form "Is ____ a scam?" is yes. However, I have my doubts in this one, although I do not dispute the red-flags mentioned by you.

Been asked to pay by escrow is a recurrent stock trick in many scams. Paying by escrow is as safe as the escrow is. And that might mean not at all, since the escrow is a 'business' partner of the scam artists. The scam builds on the perception of the escrow as an uninterested 3rd party.

On a brighter side, buying things that do not make money (yet) might be a perfectly legal, although speculative, business MO. You buy for pennies before the app makes it big. They have some criteria: more than 10,000 users, 1-12 months old.

They list many business partners on their site. I'd check these to see whether that's for real, whether they recognize them mutually.

It might also be that they are fraudsters, but their real scam is targeting app users, not app developers. Once they get their hands on an app they could reach the users with some scheme.

Try to contact them and ask for address, company name and such and why it's not on the web-page. Fraudsters rarely keep interested on a potential victim when they see this one is skeptical.

  • I have contacted them to see what they say. Interestingly enough, the second link I posted (appsbuyout.vc) seems to actually be a legitimate company. This company didn't email me, I found their website through google and noticed the content was the same. They have a pretty thorough social media presence, contact details on their facebook page and more stringent app-buying criteria. I have contacted them to ask if there is any affiliation between the two and to let them know that another 'company' has copied their website. – stanri Jun 16 at 17:37
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    My suspicion is that the company that emailed me is a scam, but there are companies that do buy apps legitimately, and this email was masquerading as one of those companies. I am waiting to see what replies I get to confirm this hypothesis. – stanri Jun 16 at 17:39
  • "Been asked to pay by escrow is a recurrent stock trick in many scams. " Except that they are being paid by escrow, which is a bit different. – Acccumulation Jun 17 at 20:54
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    @Acccumulation: honestly, I don't know what you are trying to say. – Quora Feans Jun 18 at 10:18
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One very shady thing to notice here is that they do not provide any information about the company. No physical address, no names of company managers, no company registration numbers, no way to contact them besides the app submit form, not even what form of company they are. Even the website is registered by proxy through a registrar in Ukraine. Someone obviously wants to stay anonymous. That's a big red flag. Reputable companies are not afraid of telling people who they are.

But what's their angle?

The answer by Quora Feans mentions an escrow scam, but what would they actually get out of that? Credentials to a couple junk apps which the original authors can easily get taken down or reacquire by contacting Google? Seems hardly worth the hassle.

I suspect that their mark aren't the app developers, they are the users.

Notice how they only seem to care about two performance indicators: Active installs and daily active users. They don't ask about growth projections, kind of app or what target demographics it attracts. They explicitly say they don't care if the app makes any money or has a valid business model. That hints that they don't actually want to buy apps. They want to buy users. What do they want with these users? Likely push updates to those users which add certain functionality they would never allow on their devices otherwise.

Is this your problem? If you don't care about your users, your reputation or your ethics, then it won't harm you financially.

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Somebody already asked the same question in another website. This is not the first company that trying to buy established apps a good reputation, which they may inject fraudulent ads loading/clicking script to generate revenue from there.

If your apps are original, then you will stand to risk ruining your reputation. But if the price-tag is "reasonable", then you need to worry about the actual payout after surrendering your code and access to the Android app's account. An online escrow cannot be guaranteed the legitimacy of the payment.

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Not to say that this is legitimate, but just to look at one aspect of this: I wouldn't consider "offering to buy an app that barely breaks even" a red flag. They may think that you have a great app but you don't have the resources to market it properly, and with their marketing money and skill it could really take off. It may be that they already own a similar app and want to buy out the competition and bury it. It may be that they are planning to develop a similar app and they are afraid that it is similar enough to yours that you might sue them for copyright or trademark violation, and they figure it's cheaper to buy you out than to go to court. There are many possibilities. I'd look at the total picture. How much would it cost to develop an app like yours? How much money is it making? Compare that to how much they are offering. If it's an app that you banged out in a week and that's making $100 a year, and they're offering $10,000 for it, I wouldn't see that as implausible or suspicious. If they're offering $100 million, yeah, I'd wonder why.

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