Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Web Secret 448: Fake apps

It stands to reason that if we have fake news, we can have fake apps.

And unfortunately, you can't assume that an app is safe to use just because it's listed in the Apple store or Google Play store. Fake apps pop up faster than our mobile services can get rid of them, so it is on users to perform due diligence.

Most of us rely on apps to help make our lives more convenient and more fun. (In fact, 85% of the time we spend on smartphones is on apps.)

I, for example, am hopelessly addicted to Fairway Solitaire, (download at your own peril.) However, app scams are on the rise. From Uber to banking apps to shopping apps, hackers are tricking smartphone users with fake apps.

Just last week users were tricked by a ‘Coach’ app which promised 20 percent off bags,” says Karl Volkman, CTO of SRV, Inc. and tech trends expert. (Full disclosure, Karl sent me a press release with the info quoted in this blog post.)  “However, Coach actually doesn’t have an app at all.”

So how can you tell the difference between a fake app and a real app? Volkman says to look for the following things:

Be a grammar nazi. Check for incorrect spelling, poor grammar, or other signs that the app was not created by a professional organization.

Read the reviews. It’s important not to just zero in on a five-star score, especially as reviews can be easily faked. Instead, read the reviews and look for signs it may not be authentic. Again, check for excessively poor grammar/spelling, as well as over-the-top gushing about the app. If you are seeing nothing but rave reviews for a unheard of app, chances are that there something is amiss.

Talk to your tech buddies or people at the Genius bar. “Say, ‘Hey, have you ever heard of this app?’” suggests Volkman. “Ask around. For example, if the people in the Coach scam mentioned above had asked around about the Coach app, they might have learned that Coach does not even have a app.”

Look for the logos. Hackers will often mimic logos (such as that of Netflix, Coach, or Uber) and the results will look quite good…until you look a little deeper. Perhaps it is fuzzy, off-center, or otherwise poorly reproduced.

Check the developer’s profile. Who created the app? Look them up online if possible. A reputable developer should have a Google trail.

Then download Fairway Solitaire.

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