As the rise in fake Chat GPT apps shines attention to the dangers of fake apps, the Uswitch mobile experts have provided their expert advice on how to spot fake apps and how to get rid of them from your device.
Fake apps are apps designed to resemble legitimate apps but used to cause harm to users and devices. For example, they can be used by fraudsters to monitor users’ activity, install malware, steal personal information, take money from the user’s bank account or display inappropriate content.
Fake apps are usually either imposter apps, which are designed to mimic popular apps, or apps which do what they promise, such as a step counter or calorie counter, but behind the scenes carry out malicious activity.
Uswitch mobile expert, Ray Ali, also provides his top tips on how to spot fake apps:
Check the reviews – Your device’s official app store will display reviews for every app available on the store. Before downloading any applications, make sure to check the reviews before doing so. Any app with low ratings or a very small number of reviews is a red flag. Be careful to check reviews thoroughly as fake reviews on such apps are also common. Typos, extremely short comments or duplicate reviews can suggest the reviews could be fake.
Look for spelling and grammar errors – Legitimate app creators will put lots of time and effort into ensuring their apps are marketed well on the app store, meaning that all app names, descriptions and information should be free of spelling and grammar errors. Before downloading any apps, take a look through the app’s description and information to make sure it is free from any mistakes. If there are mistakes present, this could indicate a fake app.
Assess the quality of images and icons –
Once you have checked for spelling and grammar errors, you should also assess the quality of any designs shown on the app on the app store. Legitimate apps will show high-quality imagery, so if you spot an app with low-resolution logos and graphics, steer clear of these. Counterfeit apps are also likely to use logos which don’t match the original app’s branding, so it is also important to check that the logo matches the official branding of the app you want to download.
Research the developers – When downloading an app from your device’s app store you will be able to see who the developers of the app are. With a quick Google of the app developer’s name, you will be able to tell if the developer is legitimate or not.
Review permissions – Terms and conditions are usually left unread, however, if you are unsure of whether an app is fake or not they are important to read. Be mindful of the permissions the app asks you to give and watch out for apps that ask for more permissions than they need to function.
Check release date – Popular apps usually gain popularity over time and therefore are usually released months, if not years ago. Therefore, if you see a popular app that has only just been released, it is likely to be a counterfeit app. A recent release date but a high number of downloads also suggest that the app could be fake, as downloads can be made by bots.
Only use official app stores – Official app stores, such as Google Play Store or Apple App Store, have processes to help prevent fake apps from being featured on the store. Although fake apps do slip through onto official stores, you are more likely to be protected using official app stores than unofficial ones.
Don’t click suspicious pop-ups or links – If you download an app that begins to show suspicious pop-ups or links, do not click them and delete the app immediately.
So how do you get rid of fake apps from your device?
f you believe you have downloaded a fake app, uninstall it immediately. Remember, on some phones “removing” the app may just take it off your home screen rather than uninstalling it – this means you need to make sure you are uninstalling the app completely if you are worried it is fake.
On Apple iPhones, you can do this by tapping and holding the app and then pressing the delete button to fully uninstall it. For Android, go to the Play Store, find the app under your installed apps in My apps & games, and uninstall it from there. It is important to make sure the app is off your phone completely by checking your device settings. Head to App Management inside your phone settings and check your installed apps list to make sure the fake app is gone.
You can also check for deleted apps in both the Play Store and App Store by searching for the app on these stores. Once you have found the app on the store, it will tell you if the app is installed or not.
Once you are satisfied the app has been fully removed, you should then restart your phone and run an antivirus as soon as you turn it back on. This will ensure none of the fake app’s malicious software is left behind and your device hasn’t been infected by malware. To be on the safe side, you can also conduct a factory reset on your phone, as this can remove any malicious programs from your device.
If you think you have been hacked, you can check using online tools such as Aura, to see if your passwords have been compromised. You should also monitor your credit closely to catch any abnormal activity or fraudulent payments. If your phone was infected by the virus or your antivirus software was unsuccessful, there will be a few symptoms you can look out for. It may start running slower, be less responsive, or generally act in unexpected ways, like spiking data usage, poor battery power, frequent pop-up ads, or app crashes.
If this is the case, you will need to run further antivirus software and re-check whether you deleted the suspicious app following the tips above. If you have one, you can restore one of your phone’s old backups (Go to Settings, followed by General, Reset, and Erase All Content and Settings) or reset your phone back to its factory settings.
Once the app is removed from your device, make sure to report the suspicious app on the app store. On iOS you can do this by visiting www.reportaproblem.apple.com and on Android you can do this on the app’s listing on Google Play Store. Tap the three dots on the top-right and click “Flag As Inappropriate” and then “Harmful to Device or Data”. Doing so can help flag suspicious apps and get them removed from app stores before other people fall victim to them as well.