Fake apps are big business. While they've long been thought of as an Android issue, they're now proliferating in the Apple App Store. These scams have evolved, and are now targeting personal shopping apps, making them more dangerous than ever.
Both Android and Apple users were subjected to fake Pokémon Go apps after that game exploded with popularity in the summer. Counterfeit apps come in a few different forms; many bombard users with ads to get a quick buck, while others are a platform for stealing your financial information or even your identity.
Below, we give you the scoop on the current crop of fake shopping apps, and offer handy tips on how to avoid them.
Counterfeit Apps Pretend to Be Big-Name Retailers
Most recently, several outlets have reported a spate of fake apps in Apple's App Store masquerading as big brands, such as retailers like Overstock.com and brands like Jimmy Choo. A reporter at The New York Times found 16 apps from a company called Footlocke Sports Co. Ltd. purporting to be from the Foot Locker retailer. The real Foot Locker has three official iPhone apps.
Of course, these apps are for shopping. If you make a purchase through one thinking it's the real thing, your payment information could be compromised.
Sales on mobile devices topped $1 billion on Cyber Monday according to comScore, and makers of counterfeit apps are taking advantage of this retail trend. Compounding this issue is Apple's rollout of search ads in its app store, giving counterfeiters a platform to push their product and put it at the top of search results.
Apple will likely enhance its vetting process, perhaps offering a "verified" feature like those offered by Facebook and Twitter. But in the meantime, it's up to you, the consumer, to dodge fakes.
Here's How to Avoid Fake Apps
Before downloading a new app, go to the brand's official website and look for a mention of its mobile apps; use the link it provides rather than searching the app store. Two of the retailers spoofed in the Apple App Store include Dollar Tree and Dillard's, neither of which has an official app. A quick search on their websites would verify that fact. It may be hard to believe, but there isn't really an app for everything.
Android users should stick to the Google Play Store or the Amazon Underground app; Apple users are, of course, restricted to the App Store. Once there, confirm that the name of the developer matches the company exactly. One reporter found a fake Overstock.com app from Overstock Inc. The real company represents itself as Overstock.com on app stores.
Also look at reviews associated with the app. If no reviews exist or if they're largely negative, steer clear. Finally, check for spelling errors in the company name and app description; that's a major red flag. When in doubt, don't download that app!
Readers, have you come across any counterfeit apps? Did you realize at the time that it was fake? Share your experiences in the comments below!