Chrome Browser Theme 'Free Movie' Offer is a Scam

John Lister's picture

A series of Google Chrome browser 'tools' that claims to offer free movies is the first part of a convoluted credit card scam. The people behind it seem to be playing the numbers game.

The tools are distributed via the Chrome Web Store. They aren't the usual apps (which run independently) or extensions (which add extra functionality to the Chrome Browser), but rather themes. The idea is they change the appearance of the browser in a similar way to the early 2000s craze for installing custom-made desktop wallpaper.

While a browser theme shouldn't be anything but purely decorative, the ones in question each claim to allow the user to watch a movie online. Offered titles include Avengers Infinity War, Black Panther, Rampage and Ready Player One. In reality, none of these recent cinematic releases are yet available for legal streaming or download, or indeed any viewing outside of a movie theatre.

No Movie On Offer

The theme doesn't play the movie, but once installed will open up a bogus site called "Vioos" that appears to stream movies. However, each title comes with an equally bogus play button that simply opens up another site, "Zumastar." In some cases, simply visiting Vioos automatically redirects to a different site called "EtnaMedia."

It appears the scam is that these sites ask users to sign up for a "free membership" but require credit card for "verification." Multiple online accounts from people who fell for this say their cards were then charged without permission. (Source:

Store Reviews Highly Dubious

While you might think the vast majority of people would be smart enough to avoid such scams, most of the bogus themes have been installed more than a thousand times. Even if only a small percent of those people go on to provide their card details, it could make a decent return for the people behind the operation. (Source:

It's not clear if the themes themselves - which don't actually do anything illegal - violate the terms and conditions of the Chrome Web Store. Most of them carry clearly bogus reviews with no comments left by people who were misled by the billing. Then again, it could be that people who were searching for legally dubious video streaming don't want to advertise the fact.

What's Your Opinion?

Do victims of this scam deserve what they get? Should Google remove web store entries that are actively misleading about what they offer? Should Google actively check every theme and extension before it goes in the official store, or is than not practical?

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (5 votes)


Dennis Faas's picture

Surely Google can do more vetting so this type of scam doesn't persist. For example, they could run a virtual machine on such "themes" and if it detects a suspicious file being installed (with browser redirects, for example) then poof, the theme is removed from the store. Also, speaking from experience (because I own a website) - the majority of bogus reviews almost always come from India and are written with very poor grammar. That could easily be filtered.