The holiday shopping season is underway and scammers are out in abundance. Their newest trick is creating fake apps and stealing your identity information. A recent New York Times article reports “a barrage of fake apps” are popping up on Apple and Google.
Retail apps started with Starbucks and many stores have gotten on board by creating their own apps. But scammers are making fake apps, tricking people into downloading them to a smartphone or tablet. Once you load your credit card information in these apps they grab it and run.
The counterfeiters have masqueraded as retail chains like Dollar Tree and Foot Locker, big department stores like Dillard’s and Nordstrom, online product bazaars like Zappos.com and Polyvore, and luxury-goods makers like Jimmy Choo, Christian Dior and Salvatore Ferragamo.
It appears that most of the rogue apps are coming from developers overseas and slipped through the company’s reviewing process. The problem lies with Google and Apple’s highly automated algorithms. They are designed for malware and these apps don’t have malicious code. The apps simply aren’t what they say they are and it requires a human to review them. Apple and Google have not been able to keep up with the number being created.
They appear to be legitimate retail store apps — in some cases, they even fill a void left by retailers that don’t have apps — but when users install them, the criminals can steal their victims’ personal information, or install Trojans that pull confidential information from smartphones and tablets.
Consumers initially rejected store-specific apps because there was no real value. But now, these apps have become gift cards with benefits and people use them. These new apps are like debit/credit cards and have “digital stored value.” Dunkin Donuts was first, then CVS, and now McDonald’s are offering one. Other retailers are racing to copy them.
The most likely target companies are those who currently have no app available. For example, Dollar Tree and Dillard’s Department Store don’t have an official iPhone app so it’s easier to lure their customers with fake apps. Consumers are willingly loading credit cards into these apps, which opens the door for the scam artists.
Also, the counterfeiters, hoping to capitalize on consumer confusion about which apps are real, mimicked companies with an official presence. For instance Kroger has 20 iPhone apps connected to its various retail chains. Someone calling itself The Kroger Inc. had 19 apps, purporting to sell things as diverse as an $80 pair of Asics and Dior perfume. This app is not Kroger. Even fake apps for the Pokemon Go game appeared after the real app was released in July.
Apple has made huge efforts to remove fake apps but more keep coming. In some cases developers changed the content of an app after it had been approved by Apple’s review process. In other cases, names and credentials were changed and similar apps are submitted after the originals are removed. But more keep appearing causing the consumer to have to be more vigilant.
Many of the fake apps have red flags signaling they are not real. Here are a few things to keep in mind when downloading apps:
- Be very judicious in deciding what app to download. Better safe than sorry.
- If you decide to download an app, check the reviews for it first. Apps with few reviews or bad reviews are a big Red Flag.
- Never click on a link in any email to download a new app. Only download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Apps that require you to download them from a website are a Red Flag.
- Give as little information as possible if you decide to use an app, such as birth date or personal information.
- Be very, very reluctant to link your credit card to any app.
If you think you’ve downloaded a fake app and need help getting rid of it call us at 765-692-3100. We can help. At WynWay, we provide technology services to clients across the country while being locally owned and operated.
Our services include, but are not limited to:
Mac Repair, PC Repair, iPhone Repair, Printer Setup, Virus Removal, Individual and Business Training, Individual and Business Monthly Tech Help and Technology consultations. Contact us and we can work together to find a solution for all your technology needs.