Just ahead of the hectic holiday shopping season, the App Store is being hit with hundreds of fake shopping apps, which make use of familiar brands and logos, in an attempt to confuse App Store users into downloading counterfeit apps instead of the genuine deal.
The counterfeiters have masqueraded as retail chains like Dollar Tree and Foot Locker, big department stores like Dillard’s and Nordstrom, online product bazaars like Zappos.com and Polyvore, and luxury-goods makers like Jimmy Choo, Christian Dior and Salvatore Ferragamo.
“We’re seeing a barrage of fake apps,” said Chris Mason, chief executive of Branding Brand, a Pittsburgh company that helps retailers build and maintain apps. He said his company constantly tracks new shopping apps, and this was the first time it had seen so many counterfeit iPhone apps emerge in a short period of time.
While Apple’s App review process does a good job of preventing malicious apps that contain malware or viruses from getting into the store, it doesn’t do such a good job when it comes to apps that use established and respected companies’ logos and trademarked material.
The creators of the fake apps, most of which hail from China, hope to capitalize on the craziness of the holiday shopping season, gleaning credit card information from the apps, as shoppers use them to purchase gifts during the holiday season.
While “clones” of apps is not an unusual thing in the App Store, with hundreds of clones appearing of such popular games as “Flappy Bird,” the cloned shopping apps are true criminal activity, attempting to steal credit card information from unsuspecting shoppers.
Apple removed hundreds of fake apps on Thursday night after The New York Times inquired about the specific app vendors that created many of them. Other apps were removed after a New York Post article last week drew attention to some of the counterfeits.
“We strive to offer customers the best experience possible, and we take their security very seriously,” said an Apple spokesman, Tom Neumayr. “We’ve set up ways for customers and developers to flag fraudulent or suspicious apps, which we promptly investigate to ensure the App Store is safe and secure. We’ve removed these offending apps and will continue to be vigilant about looking for apps that might put our users at risk.”
Before downloading shopping apps, look closely at the reviews of the app, real apps from big name brands will have a long review history, with hundreds of comments and thousands of ratings.