• January 19, 2023
  • Posted by General Electric Credit Union
  • 5 read

Mobile App Scams and Fraud: How to Protect Yourself

As of 2022, over 6 billion people own a smartphone.1 These devices are used to shop online, bank, and more. Unfortunately, criminals have used their popularity as a gateway to illegally solicit your personal information, steal your funds, and more through mobile app fraud. As the name suggests, mobile app fraud is any fraud involving the use of a mobile app. A fraudster may ask you to send them money via a payment app (like Venmo or Zelle). Or they may even design a fake app to look like a legitimate one in the hopes you’ll download it.  

But don’t write off mobile apps just because of a few bad apples. By educating yourself on what to look out for, you can avoid falling victim to one of their traps and continue enjoying the convenience of your device. From mobile banking to food delivery apps, there are a wealth of time-saving, secure options for you to take advantage of. 

Be vigilant 

Part of protecting yourself is knowing what you’re up against. Below are two popular scamming methods you should familiarize yourself with. 

Social engineering 

Sometimes, fraudsters use social engineering as part of their mobile app scam. They may try to manipulate you through social media sites to disclose your personal information or send them money via payment apps. Some common red flags include: 

  • Moving too fast. Whether they’re claiming to want to be your friend or something more, scammers will move quickly to catch you off guard and form a one-sided bond of trust. They may love bomb you or turn conversations serious at a pace that’s not natural.  
  • Promising something too good to be true. Sometimes, a scammer’s approach may not include building a one-sided relationship. Instead, they may claim to have an offer you can’t pass up, like a high paying job that requires a one-time start up fee. 

Fake apps

A common phishing technique is for scammers to create a fake email address that is spelled similar to one you would trust. For example, they might copy your coworker’s email address and change a few letters hoping you won’t notice. They employ a similar tactic for mobile app fraud by creating a fake app to look like a legitimate one you’d trust. Or they may create an app that claims to do one thing but is really just a front to access your device or information.

In fact, one fraudulent Android app was downloaded 100,000 times from the Google Play Store before it was removed.2 In the time it was up, it asked for victims’ Facebook login information then used embedded malware to transmit these credentials to the scammer. From there, the scammer had access to the users’ Facebook accounts and any linked payment information. 

Like phishing emails, these fake apps may have misspelled names, which is a quick way to identify them. But there are a few additional red flags, including:

  • Questionable reviews. Past downloaders may be trying to warn you, so always check the reviews to confirm if an app actually does what it claims to do. But scammers can and do generate fake reviews, so if an app’s reviews are uniformly five star or too good to be true, don’t download it!
  • Off numbers. Popular payment apps have likely been downloaded millions of times. You’ll know an app is copying a popular one if it looks like it but only has a few hundred or thousand downloads. 

Don’t miss out 

Don’t let this information scare you, because retaining it will help shield you from falling victim to fraud. You can feel confident using your mobile device because you’re aware of their tricks. That means peace of mind while enjoying food delivery, mobile banking, and in-app shopping. 

For General Electric Credit Union members, mobile banking puts a wealth of tools, resources, and convenience in reach, such as: 

  • Account access. View account balances, deposit checks, review transaction history, transfer funds, and make loan payments all at your fingertips.
  • Bill Pay.3 Consolidate and pay bills within one dashboard. 
  • eStatements. Keep your account history at your fingertips and secure by nixing paper statements.
  • Money Management. Track budgets and spending with ease through our Money Management tool. 
  • FICO® Score. Access your FICO® Score for free through Online Banking or our mobile app4 when you have a qualifying account. 

Find us on the Apple Store here. Or the Google Play Store here

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