Mobile app fraud

Just a few years ago most of the activity on the internet happened from computers, but today that’s in the past as people continuously switch to doing most of their browsing on their smartphones. People are switching to smartphones and scammers are not falling behind – the amount of fraudulent transactions on smartphone apps has increased threefold in the past four years, and yet most people are unaware of mobile app fraud.

What are fraudulent applications?

Fraud or fake app is an app that’s created to mirror a legitimate app available in the App Store or Play Market. The scammers’ goal is to create an app that people will mistake for the actual popular app and download to their phones. Once the app is downloaded to the user’s phone, there are a few things that can happen.

How do fake apps work?

The simplest version of the scam is where the customer pays to download the app only to find that it does absolutely nothing. In this case, the victim loses only a few dollars spent on the app.

Another type of fake apps flood the user’s phone with hundreds of ads and the scammer collects money from ad revenue. Some of the trickier adware fake apps actually hide their shortcut from the home screen, making it difficult to remove them from the phone for users who are not proficient in technology.

Finally, the most dangerous type of fake apps is apps that contain malware. These apps can infect your smartphone with viruses and other malware that will work to get access to your personal information, account data, passwords and more.

Where do fake mobile apps come from?

Luckily, most fraud apps are downloaded from third-party websites, but some of them pop up even on Google Play or the App Store. These platforms have measures in place to protect fraudulent apps from being offered through them, but some fake apps still make their way onto these platforms. One reason for this is that Google Play, for instance, gave up their manual review of apps that apply to the platform for automated review, which means that it is now easier for fake apps to make their way to the platform. Therefore, it is always important to be thorough about each app you download: check the number of downloads, review score and read some of the reviews to check the legitimacy of an app.

How can I protect my business from fake apps?

It is important to protect your phone from malicious programs when downloading mobile apps. But what about protecting your business? Your brand reputation is extremely important to your success, so if your company has an app, it is crucial to monitor third-party websites and application platforms on Android and Apple devices for copies of your apps. If a fake app is discovered, it needs to be reported immediately and help from cybersecurity professionals is necessary, as fake apps can quickly damage your company’s reputation even if you have nothing to do with them.

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    Vitaly is a principal consultant at Hackcontrol as wall as aa business and IT thought leader. He has over 15 years of experience in consulting, account management and is a specialist in cybersecurity.