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How to Avoid Counterfeit iOS and Android Mobile Shopping Apps

The news media, including the New York Post and the New York Times, exposed hundreds of shopping apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store as fraudulent.  Consumers using such apps are at risk of facing possible consequences harmful to privacy or personal information. Such apps were found to have lots of annoying advertisements and banners.

Apps considered fraudulent could contain malware designed to take sensitive data such as credit card numbers from unsuspecting users.  Scammers may try to get your information through bogus apps but consumers can take action to prevent being a victim.  Here is what you need to know when determining if a shopping app is the real deal:

  • Check App Publisher. Who created the app and are you familiar with their products? Some developers create apps people trust or use on a regular basis.   When you learn who the publisher is do your homework. Be cautious and pay close attention to details.  Scammers will try to be slick and use the name of a real company to throw people off such as Amazon.com (true) and Amazon Net (fake).
  • Read App Reviews. Before downloading the app check reviews in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.  Fake apps will have very little in positive reviews or any at all.  A trusted app will have thousands of (hopefully) positive reviews. Read the reviews and look for clues about how it works, experiences people have with it, and why people recommend it.
  • Check Publishing Date.  Real apps will have a date that includes when it was last updated.  A fake app may have a recent date.  Just because it was published recently doesn’t mean it is something people can trust right away.  Skim through other shopping apps to get an idea of dates and timing of when they were published to gain perspective.
  • Look for Spelling Errors.  Check the app description for errors in spelling. Reports have shown many fake apps come from China.  Pay close attention to spelling of the title and app description.  If English isn’t the first language of the developer beware.
  • Discounts Sound Too Good to Be True.  It is one thing for retailers to offer discounts, but when discounts are promised to shoppers this could be a red flag.  When a discount sounds too good to be true it could be false.
  • Check Retailer Website When in Doubt.  If you find an app through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store claiming to be from a top retailer but you’re in doubt regarding its authenticity, visit the retailer’s website site.  Retailers such as Amazon, Overstock, and many others will have an official link on their website to their app on either app store platform.  Such retailers will have a link on their site saying something along the lines of “Get our app.” You would click that link and it takes you directly to the app for immediate download.

Additional Tips for Using Mobile Shopping Apps

Ask people you know about shopping apps to use or which they recommend.  They may be familiar with scammer apps to stay away from they can share with you.  Go online and research top shopping apps recommended by expert shopping bloggers.  Pay attention to mail advertisements for local retailers.  They also give info on how to get connected with deals and discounts online and through their mobile app.  Pay attention to such apps during the holidays as more scammers look to increase the number of counterfeit apps available.