Apple just removed hundreds of fake shopping apps from the App Store

Counterfeit apps masquerading as huge brands like Zappos and Nordstrom are sneaking into the iOS App Store.

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Just in time for the holiday shopping season, the iOS App Store is seeing a deluge of fake shopping apps branding themselves with designer names in hopes of trapping gullible buyers. Apple is now stepping in to remove the counterfeit apps, which are sneaking in by changing the content after Apple’s approval or by resubmitting apps under different names and credentials after being outed as fraudulent.

After reports of apps using reputable companies’ names to shill their fake wares in the App Store surfaced in the New York Times and New York Post, Apple removed hundreds of offenders. But hucksters keep coming back: The Times found that an app called Overstock Inc. was trying to convince shoppers that it was by selling clothes and Ugg boots. Apple killed the app, only to see it return the next day, because sketchy developers are finding new ways to bypass the company’s traditionally tough app review process.

But the company is doing its best to crack down on developers who use existing brands’ names to submit fake apps, an Apple spokesperson told the Times.

“We strive to offer customers the best experience possible, and we take their security very seriously,” said Apple’s Tom Neumayr. ”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. We’ve removed these offending apps and will continue to be vigilant about looking for apps that might put our users at risk.”

Shopper beware

So what’s the harm of installing a fake app? If you try to buy a product, at best you’ll be frustrated by app crashes or annoying pop-up ads. At worst, you’ll hand over your credit card info to a sketchy company and never receive the item you ordered.

How to tell if a retail app is legit: How many reviews does it have? How many previous versions have been released? Does the language sound like it was written by an adult professional with a good grasp of English? If any of the above seem suspect, go to the store’s website and see if you can find an App Store link directly from the source.

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