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Look Out for Fake Apps

As if you needed one more thing to worry about on the internet.

Hundreds of fake retail and product apps have popped up in Apple’s App Store over the last few weeks, just in time for the holiday season.

Some are essentially harmless serving up annoying pop-up ads with no real use or service. Others give you the option of submitting your credit card information, subjecting users to potential fraud.

Some apps contain malware designed to steal information from your smartphone or even lock the user out of the phone until they pay a ransom.

Apple is working to remove hundreds of fake apps. Despite their efforts, new fakes appear every day—many slipping through Apple’s process for review. China is by far the biggest source of fake apps, according to security experts, with many companies providing back-end technology services without investigating its clients.

“The retailers who are most exposed are the ones with no app at all,” said Chris Mason, chief executive of Branding Brand, a Pittsburgh company that helps retailers build and maintain apps.

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“The criminals are going to take advantage of whatever is hot,” said Jon Clay, director of global threat communications for Trend Micro.

It’s probably best to avoid in-app shopping this season.

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