North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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Just in Time for the Holidays: Fake Retail Store Apps

Friday, November 18, 2016

Many retailers now have an app to help customers search their merchandise, find sales, and place orders.  But customers need to take care when selecting and downloading these apps, because an increasing number of them are fakes. While some fake apps are relatively harmless, others are set up to harvest your credit card information and send it straight to the crooks. Some fraudulent apps can lock down your device and keep it locked until you pay a ransom.

Department stores like Dillard’s and Nordstrom have been plagued by fake apps, as have retailers like Foot Locker, Dollar Tree, and many more. Both Apple and Google report they are deleting phony apps as fast as they can find them, but many consumers are unaware of the threat.

To avoid downloading a fake shopping app:    
  • Think before you download that app. If you see more than one potential app for a retailer, slow down. It is easy to download a fake app that is mixed in with the real ones if you aren’t paying close attention. Many larger stores have multiple legitimate apps, making it even easier for a fake to blend in.
  • Look closely at the reviews. If there are no reviews, only a few reviews, or mostly bad reviews, there’s a good chance you’re looking at a fake app.
  • Watch for knockoffs. Fake apps are usually designed to mimic the store’s real app, or use the store’s logo or font.
  • Typos are tipoffs. Like phishing emails, fake app makers often write in mangled English, or allow typos to slip through.
  • Go straight to the source. The best way to make sure you aren’t downloading a fraudulent retail store app is to go to the store’s website. They usually provide links that go directly to their real app in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Apps can make life easier, but they also provide a door for crooks to sneak into your phone, finances and life. Report phony apps you spot to the app store and the real retailer. You can also report them to the Attorney General’s Office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or online at