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How to spot fake Android apps in the Play Store

We often trust official app sources to protect us from malicious and fake apps. Google Play and the Apple App Store have thorough vetting systems meant to protect us. They work hard to stop unscrupulous developers from tricking users like us into installing shady apps.

Sadly, many sneaky developers slip through the cracks. Tap or click here to find out how thousands of counterfeit apps slipped into the Google Play Store. Most of the time, they disguise their malicious apps as legitimate services like WhatsApp or popular games like Pokemon Go.

In the fake WhatsApp app’s case, the fraudsters tweaked their developer ID to resemble the real developer’s name. They posed as “WhatsApp Inc.,” by adding an almost invisible Unicode character space after their ID. Their ruse worked so well that people downloaded the fake app over a million times!

But it’s not just Android users who are at risk

Fake apps can also infiltrate Apple’s App Store. For instance, security researchers discovered fake department store apps from Dillard’s and Nordstrom last year. Scammers also posed as retail chains like Foot Locker and Dollar Tree.

Like malicious apps from third-party sources, fake apps from official app stores can do all sorts of shady stuff in the background. From nasty ad-clicking malware to ransomware to stealing your financial details, you can count on the bad guys to devise new ways of generating profit at your expense.

How to spot fake apps

Although fake apps that look legitimate can sneak into the official app stores, there are typical warning signs to watch out for before you download and install.

1. Check for typos

Before you click “get” or “install” on that app, better double-check the title and developer name for typos, as small as they can be. Remember the sneaky developers of the fake WhatsApp app tweaked their developer ID ever so slightly to resemble the real developer’s name.

2. Check for bad grammar

Another blatant red flag is bad grammar. Why? A good number of these fake apps appear to come from non-English speaking Asian or Russian developers. Broken English in the app’s description is a typical indicator that it’s fake.

3. Check the numbers

Always check the download stats. If an app of a popular service like Facebook or WhatsApp has an unusually low download figure, then it’s most likely a fake app.

4. Check reviews

To some extent, you can read the user reviews on an app too. Although fake reviews (both positive and negative) can skew the rating of an app, user comments can still provide vital information about it.

5. Superfluous permissions

Before you install an app, ANY app, please check all the permissions it’s asking for first. Fake apps will bombard you with a long list of permission requests so they can trick you into granting them more than what’s required. For example, if a simple camera app or a GIF creator starts asking for administrator permissions, delete it immediately!

6. Verify apps with Google Play Protect

Google Play Protect is a security program that was rolled out to Android gadgets last year. it scans and verifies any app that is available in the Google Play Store. It will then continue scanning installed apps for any changes in behavior and warn you about any security dangers they might pose.

Even better, Google Play Protect will not only safeguard you from malicious Google Play apps, but it will also monitor and scan apps downloaded from third-party sources. Click here to learn more about Google Play Protect.

How to delete fake apps in Android

To review and remove questionable apps on Android, go to Settings >> then Apps or Application Manager. Look through the list and keep an eye out for anything that’s odd or unfamiliar.

Tap the questionable app you want to get rid of and this will open up the App Info screen. First, remove the app’s data cache by hitting “Clear Cache.” Next, delete the app’s data by tapping “Clear Data.”

Once these steps are done, click on the “Uninstall” button to remove the app.

Sometimes, sneaky app developers hide their fake apps by making their title and icons invisible

If that’s the case, look for blank spaces in your Application Manager and uninstall them as usual.

For stubborn apps that have hijacked your gadget’s administrator permissions, try removing them in Safe Mode. Unfortunately, if that doesn’t work, your only other option is to wipe your data, factory reset your device, and start over.

This is why it is so critical to have a reliable backup service. All it would take is one nasty fake app or mobile malware and you could lose it all. To back up all your gadgets, including Android, iOS, Mac and PC devices under one account, we recommend our sponsor IDrive. Check out IDrive today and save 50% thanks to Kim!

How bad guys put malware inside your smartphone

Aside from fake apps, cybercriminals have tons of other tricks to fool you into downloading mobile malware. Don’t be their next victim. Read this article.

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