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There’s an app for that (but it might be fake)

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As more and more consumers are shopping with mobile apps, fraudsters are following the money. There are fake phone apps popping up that impersonate well-known retailers in order to steal your personal information. Their names are similar to well-known brands, and their descriptions promise enticing deals or features.

But these fraudulent apps can take your credit card or bank information. Some fake apps may even install malware onto your phone and demand money from you to unlock it.

Here are some tips to avoid downloading fraudulent apps:

  • Not sure if a shopping app is legit? Go directly to the retailer’s website and see if they promote it. If they do have an app, they will direct you to the app store where you can download it.
  • On the web, you can search a brand name, plus “fake app” to see if the company has reported its brand being spoofed.
  • Look for reviews of the app before you download – both in the app stores and on the web. If the app has no reviews, it was likely created recently, and could be a fake. Real apps for big retailers often have thousands of reviews.
  • Don’t download apps with misspelled words in their description. Many fake apps were created in a hurry. On the other hand, some fake apps look almost like the real thing.

If you’re using apps for shopping, keep records of your transactions. Screenshot or save the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the seller.

Monitor your credit card statements frequently; be on the lookout for charges that you don’t recognize.

For more tips on safely using apps on your phone, check out our “Understanding Mobile Apps” article.

Tagged with: app, mobile, scam, shopping


This is one of your best scam alerts I've read so far. I've been a regular subscriber for a couple years and consider myself pretty scam savvy, but this one is unusually devious. I'm also new to smart phones; it's still smarter than I am, ha ha ha.

I've forwarded this article to all my relatives, thanks FTC.

Thanks for the heads up.

Thanks for the warning about mobile shopping. Two weeks ago I was pulled into a scam alleging to be a Verizon customer survey. It said I was eligible for a free gift for completing it. I fell for it and provided my credit card number to pay for the postage (ha ha). The result was that I was charged $189 for two products, one of which was supposed to be the free gift. My credit card company alerted me to the charges and it took a three-way charge between the credit card company, the billing party, and me to get the charges voided. Shoppers must be on their guard!

For future reference, I am a Verizon customer, and I recently bought a phone case for my daughter through my account. They actually did not charge me, but billed to my account directly, which I presume they do every time. Just a thought to keep in mind. Also, I believe it's a good rule of thumb that if you are told you're getting a free gift, they will not charge you postage to send it. If they do, it's a scam. You may have already come to this realization, so I apologize for any redundancy, but it's always good to have in the back of your mind. Sorry that you had to go through that hassle.

I saw a post on Facebook saying I could get a free gift during my birthday month, I clicked on the link and they wanted to charge postage, I canceled right away. I am not sure if it was a scam or not, but better safe than sorry. Either way, they didn't get my credit card information.

Actually I have received many free gifts and you only had to pay postage. That doesn't make an offer illegitimate. :-)

This alert is very useful. I'm going to share. Thank you and appreciate your continue service to us, consumers.

i agree

Thank you for your helpful consumer warning, Mr. Lazarus and Federal Trade Commission. Sharing on my website and on social media.

For me, if I'm not sure what a particular app is or will do, I just don't download it to begin with.

1:23 A.M. EST    Dec. 23, 2016    Good policy to follow, however, sometimes you may need that app. Read the reviews at that website to be certain.

However, I don't download apps that I don't use on a regular basis, not to mention some of them might cost money, and I don't feel like having something that I had to pay for that I don't use much.

Thank you for the warning. Most people would believe that all apps posted on the App Store are inspected and screened by Apple to be safe. But as you noted, apps can be fake and their use can result in the theft of your identity and money. Thanks again for raising this issue.

12:17 A.M. EST
Nice easy to understand info for non techies. Some sites have these flashing green "download now" and if you are a novice, you could get hacked with an app you do not want. I have been working with personal computers since 1985 and keep up to date with techie newsletters.

Thanks for your keeping the bad ones out of everyone's hair.

Thank you for this precious information

Very helpful for young and old alike. Sent to all my family with smart phones. Good info here. Scary world of www.

Thank you for writing an easy to understand article, I just shared on my LinkedIn network with due credits given to you. Thank you for making us aware.

Good Info and verification tools for genuine apps.

I would like to know more information because my daughter is searching for a college and we have gotten bad emails and links to fake schools. Always appreciate your information. Thank you.

Great info! Recent news story about this and fake department store apps. With apps being so abundant, and most ppl download without verifying if it is legitimate company.

any tips on how to stop robo calls that are listed anonymous/ private caller or out of your area with only your area code on the caller ID? no 10 digits to report them

Perfect. An alert that isn't vague and actually provides consumers with tips they can take action on.

Recommend adding to the article a discussion about App permissions. If an App is requesting unexpected permissions (e.g. access to your contacts when it is a flashlight app), then it is likely doing something malicious. Recent Android OS and iOS allow finer grain setting of App permissions, so you can remove/restrict permissions. I recommend going through all your Apps and tuning their permissions.

Truly informative.Thanks.

This information has been valuable.


Yes, this information really valuable, thank you for sharing info.

There is are some scam Jigsaw Puzzle apps in the app store that charges $49.99 per week subscription through iTunes. One was Jigsaw Master and another was Jigsaw Club.

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