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Buyer beware! Fake apps are stealing people’s money and causing serious financial damage


Alex Thomas Salder

With the rise of digital technology and increasing role it plays in the everyday lives of Americans, scammers are finding new ways to hit consumers from every angle — and unfortunately, it’s working.

Part of the problem is that for whatever reason, smartphones have caused people to let their guard down — and criminals have jumped on the opportunity to tap into this vulnerability — in a variety of different ways.

Smartphones have given us quicker access to more information than ever before. The ability to text, chat, email, shop, check your bank account and other accounts right from the palm of your hand is pretty convenient — but it’s also dangerous. When many people think about scams, the typical fake email or IRS phone scam may come to mind, but criminals are now using your everyday activities to try and steal your information.

According to a recent report, several knock-off shopping apps have found their way into Apple’s App Store — enticing iPhone users with fake deals on all types of products.

Just like other types of phishing and online scams, criminals make these apps look just as legit as official apps available in the App Store.

But what about apps that appear as an ad in the App Store — those must be real, right? Nope.

After Apple recently introduced search ads, so companies can buy key search terms to have their app show up higher in search results within the App Store, criminals discovered an easy way to get users to download their bogus apps.

All a scammer has to do is simply buy the key words, and voila — great exposure for a fake app that steals people’s money.

And while a lot of these recent fake apps were found in Apple’s App Store, there are plenty of them targeting non-iPhone users, too!

Fake apps offering “great” deals and discounts

According to a recent report, more people are now accessing the Internet on a mobile device than on a desktop computer. So just like companies, websites, media and everyone else — criminals are taking advantage of the ability to capture consumers’ attention where they already are — on their smartphones.

Using email, text, phone calls, social media, and now apps, scammers are infiltrating Americans’ everyday routine in any way that they can.

With more and more consumers searching for content and apps related to shopping, coupons and deals, criminals are luring in unsuspecting users with “great” offers on products that are typically very expensive.

When users think they’re getting a great discount on luxury brand items, they often overlook one very crucial question: is this too good to be true? Yes, it is.

One of these bogus apps used a Coach label, offering “an extra 20% off” bags, shoes and accessories. Coach doesn’t have an app. Another one claimed to offer discounts of 30% to 50% off Michael Kors products — also not real.

For companies and brands that do have official apps, scammers create fake ones that look just like the real thing — but offer incredible deals and discounts you can’t get on the official apps.

And when it comes time to check out, the bogus app has a checkout form and process just like any official app — but instead of buying a product, you just end up sending a bunch of cash directly to criminals.

How to protect yourself

Scammers can do a lot of damage with these types of fake apps — not only can they steal the cash you hand over, but they can also use your personal information to make more fraudulent charges and do other things that can destroy your financial life.

So when it comes to protecting your information and money, there are a few important things to keep in mind!

  • Research the app and company before you download it: Doing a quick search online can help you spot a potentially fake app. Just search the name of the app, the company name and “reviews,” and that should give you some answers.
  • Consider calling the company directly: Go to the company’s official website and either search for information on the official app, or just call and ask if it is real. Taking a few minutes to do this can save you a lot of wasted money!
  • Never use a debit card in an app or online: If criminals get access to your debit card number, they can empty your bank account and cause even more potentially devastating damage to your financial life! When shopping online or in an app, only use a credit card! You have a lot more protections under the law if your info is stolen.
  • Check your accounts daily: This is the best way to spot fraud! If you check your accounts every day, you can spot and report any potential fraudulent activity quickly, in order to get your money back and avoid more damage.

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