The Vancouver Island Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers to use caution when purchasing retail store or online shopping apps.
“There has been a dramatic increase in the past year in the use of mobile devices for online shopping,” says Rosalind Scott, President & CEO of BBB serving Vancouver Island. “And with this increased use there has been an increase in the development of mobile shopping apps and likewise, scam artists creating fake apps to try to rip people off.”
Counterfeit apps are designed to look and feel like they belong to legitimate retail stores. Popular brand named retail stores such as Jimmy Choo, Foot Locker, Nordstrom, Dollar Tree, Christian Dior and Zappos are only a few businesses to have counterfeit apps created using their brand names.
In some cases, the fake apps are relatively harmless and only result in an influx of pop-up junk ads in the app. In other cases, when the fake app is installed and opened on your phone phishing scams begin, credit card information is stolen or malware is installed with the intent of stealing passwords and private banking information. In some instances, phones are even being locked down and held hostage until a ransom is paid to the scam artist.
“Both the Apple App Store and Google Play have seen an influx of fake retail apps popping up this holiday season, and while they are working tirelessly to shut down fake apps, the sheer volume of new apps being created is difficult to police,” says Scott.
BBB recommends the following tips to protect yourself from becoming a victim of fake shopping apps this season:
- Be very cautious when deciding what app to download. Read the reviews as well. The Dollar Tree app was a fake one that came up and one reviewer wrote how the app kept getting stuck in menus and closes what you are doing. Just remember, it is better to be safe than sorry.
- Never click on a link in any email to download a new app. Go to the website of the retailer to get a link to the legitimate app in the App Store. Unsolicited email links are usually filled with viruses that can steal your personal information and even hold your computer hostage until you pay ransom.
- If you do decide to use an app, give as little information as possible. Most apps don’t require a lot of information unless you are purchasing something. Even then, be cautious and make sure that app is the legitimate one before you make any purchases.
- Be very reluctant to link your credit card to any app. If you link it and that app is compromised they could steal all your account information.
- Watch out for misspellings and other typos in the app’s description or write up that indicate the app developer is likely not connected to a legitimate, professional, large scale corporate business that it is pretending to represent.
- Be wary of apps that ask for too much information, including permissions to access your contacts, social media profiles and location. Retail store apps shouldn’t need that information to process your purchase.
If you find yourself the victim of a fake app scam be sure to:
- Have your phone scanned for viruses and malware,
- Inform all your financial institutions,
- Immediately change your account passwords, and
- Report the scam online at: www.bbb.org/scamtracker.
For more information about BBB or for additional consumer and business tips visit bbb.org/Vancouver-island.