The New York Times reported last week that “hundreds of fake retail and product apps have popped up in Apple’s App Store in recent weeks”—just in time to deceive holiday shoppers.
The Apps use well-known brand logos to deceive consumers. According to some, there has been a dramatic increase in fake apps this year over previous ones.
What are the risks of using a fake app? First, if you give your credit card number to purchase something from the fake app, you could be at risk of credit card fraud.
Some of the fake apps infect your phone with malware, that then has the ability to obtain information from your phone, including personal information that may be stored on the phone. Further, the app can infect your phone with ransomware that locks your phone until you pay a ransom. I don’t know about you, but I was having difficulty with my phone yesterday, and not having access to it was really difficult since we rely upon it so much.
The New York Times reported that most of the apps are being developed in China (shocking!). Brands should be monitoring for phony apps, but Apple also removed hundreds of fake apps last week and is encouraging users to report any fake apps to it so it can investigate and remove it from the App Store. Apple is in the process of reviewing millions of apps, but it is a constant battle.
What should you do to protect yourself? Be very careful about downloading apps that you don’t need on your phone. If you want to shop online, go to the official website of the retail company to do your shopping. If you insist on using the app to purchase items, do some basic due diligence to determine it is legitimate before you use it. Sometimes the apps are poorly written (like the old “You have won the Nigerian lottery!” Email), do not list telephone numbers for support, have no reviews and have an odd spelling, which is close to, but not the actual name of the company.
So in gearing up for the holiday season (hard to believe decorations are adorning store windows already), restrict your use of Apps for purchases and be careful about which Apps you download. Make sure they are real. Happy and safe shopping!