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How to Sniff Out Fake Apps

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Cyber criminals have been increasingly cloning apps to resemble authentic ones from reputable retail stores such as Coach and Uber.

The copycat apps have made it difficult for many online shoppers to tell the difference between real and fake apps.

Adding to the confusion, is the fact that only 2 out of 3 retailers actually have smartphone apps.

In other words, some of the most well-brands in the world don’t have apps, leaving fraudsters plenty of operating space to fool customers.

Recently, an imposter app was created that resembled Uber’s real application.

Now, anyone who uses Uber knows that the app is used for all business and money transactions conducted through the company, so anyone interested in the ride share has no choice but to download the app.

The fake Uber app was designed to steal the users login name and password and then redirect the user to the legitimate Uber app, so it appeared as nothing was wrong.

The way it worked was, after the user entered their login information and clicked on “next,” their credentials were stolen and then the app redirected to the actual Uber app.

This type of fake application was discovered on popular banking apps as well.

Once the user logged into their bank account, the cyber criminals had recorded their login information and they had full access to the victim’s bank account.

The problem is, most consumers don’t vet apps before downloading.

For instance, if you see the Wells Fargo app and it appears identical to the Wells Fargo logo, then it makes sense to think that the app is from Wells Fargo.

While apps stores such as Apple and Google Play attempt to vet apps that are on their store, there is no guarantee they can stop fake ones.

In 2019, the number of blacklisted apps has increased nearly 20%, these are apps that are known to be malicious and are blocked by the app stores.

Considering how fast this type of scam is increasing, I want to share with you a few tips to keep you safe the next time you download an app from your favorite store.

Go to the Source. One of the best ways to feel confident about downloading a legitimate app is to visit the company’s official website.

Most websites will have a direct link to follow them on social media or to download their app.

Basically, if you are downloading the app from the official website, chances are you’ll be much safer.

Read the reviews. If an application you want doesn’t have an official website, as could be the case with apps made by independent developers, read all the reviews looking for positive and negative comments.

Pay especially close attention to remarks related to the app requesting suspicious permissions, making unauthorized charges to a mobile wallet, making unauthorized changes to settings or acting strangely.

If a user mentions customer support from the publisher is nonexistent, this is another huge red flag for a fake app, as legitimate companies will obviously want to provide support to their customers (at least some do.)

Pay attention to details. You may be able to sniff out fake apps just by diligently reading descriptions and viewing the images.

Real companies usually proofread descriptions carefully and publish only clear, professional screenshots of the app. That is often not the case with fakes.

In addition, new apps should be downloaded with caution, compared to an application with a long history of updates since it is more likely to be authentic.

Read the update notes in the description to see whether updates were made to respond to customer complaints, add features, or fix bugs, and look for information on future planned updates.

Also, check the download count of the app. For instance, if the McDonald’s app only has 150 downloads, chance are, it’s not the real app.

Smartphone devices are uniquely enticing targets. First, more than 5 billion people own mobile devices around the world today. This is a huge potential victim pool.

Second, they go everywhere with us and can be used to learn everything about us, including the most private details about our lives.

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