Fake Apps Phishing for Shoppers

It seems that every retailer, online and offline, has an app they want shoppers to download and use, promising savings and deals to shoppers in return. Scammers have noticed the popularity of retail apps and they are taking advantage of it by flooding the app stores with fake apps for retailers such as Nordstrom, Zappos.com and Christian Dior. Some of these apps are relatively harmless adware, but many contain malware or are designed to get users to enter their personal information, such as Facebook credentials or credit card numbers.

According to the New York Times most of the fake apps came from China. They managed to slip through Apple’s review process, which Apple represents as an advantage over the more open Google Android app store. Although the Apple store has been more careful than the Google store in approving apps, Apple’s screening is primarily for malware and they leave it up to the brands to police the app store for inappropriate use of their brands. The Times suggests that users watch for red flags indicating the app is not real, such as menus written in poor English, no reviews and no history of previous versions of the app.

Many of these apps mimic legitimate apps from companies that have official apps. For example, supermarket chain Kroger Company has 20 iPhone apps representing its many brands. An app seller called The Kroger Inc. had 19 apps in the store, selling everything from sneakers to luxury perfume. Adding to the confusion over real and fake apps are search ads run in the Apple App Store. Do a search for a popular brand and the fake apps come up along with the real ones, leading many confused consumers to download the fake apps.

Before you download shopping apps to your mobile device, take a look at these tips from the Better Business Bureau:

  • Check out the app before you download it. Read reviews. Look at the website for the store to see if they mention their app and link to it in the app store.
  • Don’t click links in any email to download apps. Scammers may send phishing emails to get you to download their fake apps.
  • Provide as little information as possible when using the app. Most apps should not require a lot of information unless you are making a purchase. Only make a purchase through an app when you are absolutely certain the app is genuine.
  • When making a purchase via an app (or online), consider using a credit card for added fraud protection.