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Phony Retail Apps on the Rise in the App Store — Just in Time for the Holidays

The holiday shopping season is upon us and, as usual, scammers are coming out of the woodworks to capitalize on  the use of apps to purchase gifts.

app-storeAccording to the New York Times, hundreds of bogus retail and product apps have been appearing in the App Store in recent weeks, making it necessary for iOS device owners to exercise caution when shopping via apps.

The phony apps are disguised as being from stores  like Dollar Tree, Foot Locker, Dillard’s and Nordstrom as well as from online sites such as Zappos.com and Polyvore. Not even designer brands were immune. Fake versions of apps from Jimmy Choo, Christian Dior and Salvatore Ferragamo have also been spotted.

Branding Brand CEO Chris Mason, whose company tracks new shopping apps, told The Times this has been the worst year for fake iPhone apps — and the fact that so many are already available shows how organized this type of scammer has become.

While some of the fake apps spotted by Mason’s firm were merely annoying — mainly about pop-up ads — others were more sinister, seeking sensitive personal data.

Some of the apps contain malware designed to steal financial information while others are made to lock users out of their phones until they fork over ransom money. Yet others ask users to log in via Facebook, which then exposes all of their information on the social networking site.

Many of the malicious apps come from Chinese developers that managed to make it through Apple’s review process because they so closely resemble apps from legitimate brands.

Apple has removed hundreds of the bogus apps since The New York Times contacted the company about the issue. Before that, the iPhone maker had given a bunch of phonies the boot after a New York Post article also drew attention to the problem.

“We’ve set up ways for customers and developers to flag fraudulent or suspicious apps, which we promptly investigate to ensure the App Store is safe and secure,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told The Times. “We’ve removed these offending apps and will continue to be vigilant about looking for apps that might put our users at risk.”

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