Scammers compromise mobile app security ahead of holiday shopping season

By Jonathan Crowl

There is a new threat for consumers to face alongside the threat of mobile hacking and mobile app security breaches. As the holiday shopping season approaches, some scammers are making the bold move of creating their own fake mobile retail apps in an attempt to defraud consumers who think they’re doing business with reputable companies.

As NBC Nightly News reported, these fake apps appear in mobile app stores and are creating a huge problem for mobile security. The goal of those scammers is to steal credit cards and other personal information by causing people to think they are submitting it as part of a retail transaction.

The report claimed that retailers may be using the fake retail apps to impersonate Dillard’s, Pandora, Payless and Puma, which have all already had to deal with scammers using their brand names to defraud consumers. This risk isn’t going away as online shopping activity ramps up.

NBC Nightly News offered some tips to help consumers tell the difference between fraudulent retail apps and legitimate ones. The first step is to look at app store reviews. If the app has no reviews under its profile, it’s very likely to be fraudulent, since an established retail app will have a much longer history and more reviews behind it.

Other red flags include poor grammar and links away from the app to other mobile web pages or online destinations. Many of these fraudulent apps originate from countries where the developers may not be English speakers, which can make it easier for savvy shoppers to detect suspicious activity. If any of these warning signs are present, consumers are encouraged to avoid downloading the app and contact the retail brands directly to confirm the app’s authenticity.

Alternatively, consumers can go to retailer websites and click on links to download their mobile retail apps directly. At a time when consumer activity will be near its annual peak, shoppers have to take mobile app security seriously.