That new app you just downloaded may be trying to rip you off
FORT MYERS, Fla. — By now, you know all too well the obvious cell phone scams: texts claiming you’ve won a thousand dollars and phone calls warning about your car’s warranty.
But new analysis from the Washington Post reveals you could be in danger even when downloading that popular new app.
The Post found that of the 1,000 highest-grossing apps on Apple’s App Store, “nearly 2% are scams” and have “bilked customers out of an estimated $48 million.”
“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” Cigent cybersecurity expert Evan Lutz said of the findings. “People trying to make money with technology in nefarious ways is a tale as old as time.”
Apple said it stopped $1.5 billion in potential fraud in 2020 alone, but admits it’s “impossible” to prevent all fraud before it happens.
“They’re not going to be able to catch everything,” Lutz explained. “Just because something doesn’t have a virus, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a legitimate program.”
One of the challenges in preventing fraud, experts say, is that many of the apps have fake ratings and reviews that boost their perceived legitimacy.
During a quick search, the NBC2 Investigators found bizarre reviews for a popular QR code scanner in the App Store. “I was in and out in less than ten minutes and with 2 comfortable, stylish shoes,” one review said in part, mentioning Foot Locker by name.
iPhones already have QR code scanners built into the cameras, by the way. Here’s how they work.
“For as long as ratings and reviews have existed online, there have been people and organizations that will go through and create fraudulent reviews,” Lutz explained.
In their analysis, the Washington Post flagged dating and security apps as major problem spots.
And it’s not just issues in the App Store. Bad apps also find their way into the Google Play store as well, Lutz explained.
He says the key to protecting your dollar is to do some digging before downloading any app. A little investigating can go a long way.
“Research is your friend,” he explained.
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