Using a retailer’s app is a great way to avoid the crowds in shopping malls and many apps conveniently provide all the information and links you need to make shopping easy and convenient. However, criminals are taking advantage of the popularity of shopping apps by creating fake apps that look authentic but are really just a ploy to steal your personal information.

How this scam works

Scammers create an app that has a similar look and feel to the apps of legitimate retailers under an intentionally misleading, legitimate-sounding name. Then the fake is posted in the app store, waiting for you to download it and use it. If you do, the app could be placing malicious software on your phone or accessing your credit card information when you enter it.

How to avoid fake apps

Major app store platforms like Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store monitor content and routinely remove malicious apps. But consumers must still be vigilant about the apps they download. Here are some tips:

  • Visit the retailer’s website and look for the link to their legitimate app there.
  • Verify the name of the publisher (typically displayed under the app’s name). With fake apps, the publisher’s name may be close to the retail app you’re looking for, but not quite right.
  • Be wary of apps with poorly written descriptions or that don’t have user feedback.
  • Review the permissions required for installation. If the permission seems excessive for what the app is supposed to do it could be malicious.
  • Maintain security features – do not remove or disable the security features on your smartphone or tablet. They are there to protect you and should be maintained.
  • If you’ve downloaded an app that has a lot of pop up ads or if you are constantly being asked to enter personal information you should be wary. Do some research and make sure that the app you’ve downloaded is the legitimate one. If it isn’t, delete it immediately.