Shoppers beware: Fake store apps are on the rise

This is a fake app download for Big Lots. This retail chain does not even have an app. (Source: LinkedIn)
This is a fake app download for Big Lots. This retail chain does not even have an app. (Source: LinkedIn)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Identity theft experts are warning holiday shoppers that fake store apps are on the rise and look like the real deal.

Heather Wagenhals, a Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist, says fake store apps started to pop up last year and are back again this year.

"Fake shopping apps are a big problem because last year many consumers were defrauded by look-a-like apps," said Wagenhals.

Almost every retailer has a website and the majority of online shopping happens directly through the webpage, or are redirected to a mobile friendly website.

But apps for retailers are relatively rare.

"Only one in three retailers, major retailers or brands, actually have apps.They have websites but they don't have native shopping apps," Wagenhals said.

Last years biggest scams were surrounding some big names like Nike, Coach and Dillard all of whom did not have shopping apps.

"Coach had a spoof app offering a 20 percent discount to consumers. So people were shopping on these apps, thinking they were on the regular retailers,"  Wagenhals said.

Hackers and ID thieves jumped on the opportunity and started creating fake apps that looked legitimate, complete with cataloged items for sale, and when you checked out you've handed over your credit card number and all of the personal information they need.

How to avoid it?

According to Wagenhals the only real way to avoid being scammed by a fake app is to only shop through store websites.

If you insist on having their app on your phone to make shopping even easier, make sure you find the link to the app on the company's website, and not by just looking it up in your app store or catalog.

If it's on the store's website, you can click it and it will redirect you to the official app in the app store.

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