Warning signs to help you find fraudulent apps

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Don’t be vigilant, even if you’ve made contact, Nofziger warns, with, for example, someone you contacted who was promoting the sale of cute puppies. App fraud doesn’t necessarily start in an app. An exchange can begin over the phone, through a fake phishing email, text message, or instant message before the person asks you to download an app.

If the scammer does this, your suspicions should be heightened. The app can stealthily release malware or spyware, or effectively give the person the keys to your data. Nofziger has heard of victims who allow scammers to remotely control their phones through apps like Team Viewer and AnyDesk.

“If you have banking information, contact information, Facebook, or whatever on your device, you literally have access to it,” she says.

Don’t send money

Nofziger is equally wary of peer-to-peer apps, including Cash App, Venmo, and Cell, which you can use to pay for a babysitter or the kid who mows your lawn. They are convenient and legitimate. However, they lack the protection you get with a credit card, which in turn comes down to the trust of the recipient. For example, Cell, owned by seven major banks, advises on their website that you may not get your money back because you authorized a payment that turned out to be a fraud.

“There’s no problem with the app itself,” says Budd. “What is happening here is that you have been tricked or forced to use this app as a channel to facilitate the transfer of funds to the scammers.”

Avoid the pressure to switch to another app

Criminals can ask people to download Google Hangouts, Telegram, WhatsApp, or other communication apps to “get the person off the platform they met on and put them on a channel that is not monitored,” says Noffs. Match.com, for example, advises singles to keep exchanges on the app until they get to know their potential dating partner better.

Don’t share location and contacts unless necessary

“Your phone is always with you and many applications ask for location information,” says Hancock. “I would say this is probably the most leaky piece of information for any app.”

Do not reveal any other personal information in apps, including your contacts. This can help in creating profiles around you and used to target you with advertisements or, worse, scams.

Run security software

As a last line of defense, especially with Android, make sure your device has up-to-date security software. This includes anti-virus programs or a VPN (Virtual Private Network) app from verified providers.

“I never say anything completely protects you, but these layers of security can help you be more careful,” says Hancock. She also recommends checking your phone’s security and privacy settings, which are enabled by default. If you’re not sure what they’re doing, ask a tech-savvy friend.

“Knowledge is power in this case,” says Hancock, and it can help you avoid fraud.

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