Cyber security is a huge concern for both business owners and customers alike. From compromising your financial accounts to tarnishing the faith your clients have in your business, Internet criminals can cause immeasurable harm to those they target. While we have all heard the news stories about online hackers, fake apps are entering the scene as the next trend in technology-based fraud.
“Apple’s App Store and Google Play have witnessed a recent surge in counterfeit retail apps that impersonate well-known retailers such as Zappos, Dillard’s, Nordstrom, Foot Locker, Dollar Tree, Payless ShoeSource and others,” reports Mahsa Saeidi of KTNV in Nevada. “Counterfeit apps can steal credit card or banking information and can access users’ social media accounts. Some fraudulent apps install malware onto users’ smartphones and can even lock a user’s phone and demand a fee to unlock the device.”
However, there are several things that you can do to protect your customers as you incorporate apps into your management and marketing strategies.
1. Create Impeccable Content and Design Elements
Fake apps are usually made and posted quickly because of their short lifespans; they are usually reported soon after the customer realizes the scam and then taken down by Apple or Android store security. These shady developers repeat this endless process to find the next victims. If you are making your company’s app, review your content for spelling and punctuation errors. Many fake apps are also made in other countries (the largest producer being in China as reported in The New York Times) therefore non-native speakers are creating less than fluent text.
Moreover, fraudulent apps copy and paste logos or products from legitimate websites creating images that are more pixelated than the original version or the colors may be off. This can be a clear indicator that the app is a knock-off, so make sure that your app's branding features have high quality graphics and align with your branding specifications.
2. Provide Company Information
If you are distributing your app to customers, make sure you have your company web address, phone number, and physical address listed so that they can contact you for reassurance that you are a real company. Better yet, if you have a physical storefront you can create a tab like “Find Me!” that links to Google Maps for directions.
3. Post Reviews in the App Store or Google Play Store
Maybe you’ve created an app and want to sell it through Apple or Google’s app stores. Reviews not only help you to better refine your product, but they also bring legitimacy and assurance to your app customers. Moreover, these platforms require publisher information and website links, so create content that builds confidence. Encourage your customers to review your app if they like it; positive reviews can help differentiate your apps from the imposters.
Reporter Vindu Goel of The New York Times explains, “Data from Apptopia show that some of the fake apps have been downloaded thousands of times, although it is unclear how many people have actually used them. Reviews posted on some of the apps indicated that at least some people tried them and became frustrated. ‘Would give zero stars if possible,’ wrote one reviewer of the fake Dollar Tree app. ‘Constantly gets stuck in menus and closes what you were doing and makes you start over.’”
4. Establish Online and Offline Security Options
If you have a brick and mortar store, show pics and links to confirm an app is yours. On your website, you can have pictures of your app and links to it. Customers can compare the app to the information provided to know that their orders are on a secure site. However, if they don’t feel comfortable inputting credit card information on an app, they can easily call your company or refer back to your website to complete the transaction.
5. Open the Lines of Communication
If a breach in security or copycat app does compromise your company, have a plan of action in place. Cybercrime poses a continual threat, but you CAN do something about it like reporting app scams to the Apple store or alerting your customers to the potential threat. Transparency with your audience is key as you rebuild trust and your new online presence.