Spot fake apps on app stores, phones, and computers

Anton P. | August 26, 2020

Fake apps are applications that do not work as advertised or pose security and privacy risks. Other fake tools can also pretend to be legitimate apps like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Netflix. 

Many users might check the number of downloads before installing applications. However, history shows that fake apps can attract millions of users from Google Play Store. 

Learn to spot fake apps and red flags if malicious apps have found their way into your device.

What are fake apps? 

Fake apps are suspicious or dangerous applications on popular app stores like Google Play or anywhere online. Usually, unreliable tools fall into these types of fake apps: 

  • Applications imitate legitimate and popular apps that have millions of users (like TikTok). They also copy apps’ interfaces to trick users into downloading them. 
  • Software that advertises itself in a certain way and does not fulfill its promises
  • A malicious application that secretly steals data, mines crypto, or endangers users in other ways. 
  • Fake apps to hide things belong to a different category. A known example is a fake calculator that opens a gallery after users enter the correct PIN. 

Dangers of fraudulent apps

Fake apps can read and steal your private information, like contacts, messages, storage, and camera. 

Others could secretly make payments via Google or Apple payment options. You might also notice higher phone bills.

After the release of ChatGPT, many criminals began spreading clone chatbot apps

More invasive apps can even harvest your financial logins or divert your transactions toward illegitimate accounts. Others lure users with fake Android apps offering rewards or gifts, only to leave them watching annoying ads. 

What fake apps can be

Thus, fake apps can pretend to be any app: 

  • Banking apps;
  • Social media apps;
  • Streaming services;
  • Android or iOS games;
  • Calculators;
  • Photo editors;
  • AI or face swap tools;
  • Proxies;
  • Virtual Private Networks;
  • QR scanners;
  • Audio players.

Example list of fake apps on Google Play

Thousands of fake apps get detected and removed from official stores. However, a fake VPN or a game app on your phone could reside for a long time. Thus, while security teams clean up stores eventually, it is crucial to be on your guard.

Here are some fraudulent and fake apps that Google Play Store has removed:

  1. BusanBus
  2. Joycode
  3. Currency Converter
  4. High-Speed Camera
  5. Smart Task Manager
  6. Flashlight+
  7. 8K-Dictionary
  8. Quick Note
  9. EzDica
  10. Instagram Profile Downloader
  11. Ez Notes
  12. Psychology Facts
  13. Ads Manager Helper
  14. Ad Optimization Meta
  15. Ads & Page
  16. Agent John FPS Game
  17. Unblocked Website
  18. Best Fun Cam
  19. ZodiHoroscope – Fortune Finder
  20. Cool Photo Editor
  21. Cool Filter Editor
  22. Ad Manager For Social
  23. BeautyCam
  24. YouToon – AI Cartoon Effect
  25. Play Phoot Editor & Collage
  26. Color Call
  27. Photo PIP Camera
  28. Craftsart Cartoon Photo Tools
  29. Creatoon Face Editor
  30. Photo Video Editor:Lena Editor

Fake apps to hide things

A fake app or a decoy app is a different type of software. Its purpose is to hide images or texts under a seemingly harmless app. 

For instance, you could download an app called Hide My Stuff. However, it can turn into an audio manager, calculator, or game application on your phone. 

It can be a way to conceal personal information and photos if your phone gets stolen. However, parents should look at their children’s smartphones to find decoy apps.

How fake apps reach your device

Users likely install fake apps willingly, believing they are secure and legitimate. Many criminals use social media, websites, and messaging platforms to lure victims. Thus, it is crucial to think twice before installing new apps.

Fake apps tempt users through various strategies:

  • Hackers create fake apps for famous brands that don’t have applications of their own. 
  • Clones of authentic apps that contain malicious codes. Threat actors take advantage of apps’ vulnerabilities to reverse-engineer them. 
  • Scammers offer fake apps that allegedly provide particular premium services for free. 
  • Criminals plagiarize legitimate apps’ images to invite users and trick them. 
  • Some fake apps could be advertised as helpful to cheat or boost gameplay for free.

How to spot fake apps

You can tell if an app is real or fake by looking at several details. Follow these tips to protect yourself from fake apps on your phone.

Download apps from official stores only 

The security of Google, Apple, and other authorized stores is not 100% foolproof. 

However, imagine unknown third-party sources where apps don’t have to go through vetting check-ups. Third-party platforms are the real open ground for hackers to compromise your devices with fake apps.

Check the app’s description

If the app’s description contains spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, it’s likely a fake tool. You should sense if the description sounds unnaturally robotic rather than professionally clear.

Check the developer

If you wish to download a popular legitimate app, check its developers. Avoid it if developers are a completely different company or person.

Check the app’s reviews

Thoroughly check all the comments or complaints about apps. It is a red flag if someone complains about ads and annoying pop-ups. If there aren’t any user reviews, chances are, it belongs to the fake apps category.

Check the number of installments

Apps from a popular service, like Facebook or WhatsApp, should not have unusually low download stats. However, remember that many fake apps have managed to stack up high download numbers. 

Use reputable antivirus software

In case you unknowingly download malicious software, an antivirus will inform you about the threat right at the time.

Use a Virtual Private Network

Even if you install fake apps, they cannot monitor or track you as much with an active VPN. Atlas VPN has a Shield feature which helps to protect users from accessing malicious websites. So, you are less likely to enter a fake website.

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Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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