Fraudulent apps have been a threat to many users who have unknowingly lost money. These are fake apps which are mirrors of legit apps available in the market. Fraudsters and scammers create apps to trick people into using them. These apps might look like popular apps to trick users, who download them on their phones or laptops. It can be a jumble of words that more or less resemble frequently used apps. However, these apps have one thing in common; they are disguised as genuine apps and are well built.
It is common knowledge that many of these scam apps have also been promoted and advertised on Google, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok among others. According to published reports, more than 500,000 Indians have been defrauded of around Rs. 150 crore through Chinese apps. Many of these investment requests have been used to defraud retail investors.
There are too many cash apps that have witnessed a high percentage of fraud. Indeed, they cause direct financial damage. Some of these apps are; Ultima Keyboard space 3D pro, GT Sports Racing Online, Fitness Ultimate 2o21, wifi passcode unlock, video mixer editor pro, RT news, UC browser, Clean It Reface Ultra, live photo animator, ultra camera HD, water drinker reminder, magic shuffle, etc. Researchers have identified more than 151 apps that, once installed on phones, can carry out fraudulent activities.
India has become one of the fastest growing internet and mobile markets, and digital adoption has been at lightning speed due to affordable internet connectivity, widespread smartphone penetration and growing household income. With over a billion mobile subscribers, India is the leading country in terms of app installs. The push of digitization by stakeholders has exasperated the use of networks and applications. The number of mobile apps used in India stands at around 3.48 million apps. Google Play and Apple app stores have the most registered apps. These apps mostly work in areas like credit, investing, cryptocurrency, healthcare, aggregators, agriculture, data monitoring, gaming, stock markets, and more. The risk for users is certainly high, because the use of mobile applications is high, especially in open architecture.
These apps can access phone locations, conduct phishing activities, use phone data, abuse your payment gateway and lead to financial loss. The data can be accessed and used for various illegal purposes. Such requests may have financial and non-financial implications. Internet users must be very vigilant to ensure that they do not become victims of these fraudsters.
The Indian government has taken steps to eradicate cybercrime. The local police regularly arrested fraudsters and also investigated the promoters of such apps. The government has also banned Chinese apps to protect investors. A full list of fake apps has also been released to raise awareness.
App users should be careful before downloading such apps. Users should not take the bait and fall prey to these scammers. User research of apps is a must before using and downloading apps. It is also important to check the reviews before using them. It is also important to look for details such as the developer of the application and the non-symmetrical placement of logos. Users should choose apps that have been developed by branded and well-established companies. Scam apps are developed for short-term use and therefore do not have the same quality as genuine apps.
Password protection is a very basic step that users need to follow. Passwords should be changed frequently and should not be shared. Identity theft prevention is a very important aspect that can be achieved by protecting information. Two-factor authentication would certainly reduce the risk for users. Information tokenization is a way to secure data, especially sensitive data.
Details are stolen by fraudsters and fake accounts are opened which are then misused. Users should verify the URL before clicking on it. There are cases of page hijacking, where clicking on the link may redirect the user to a website. The user can feed the data, which can be misused. Users can protect it by providing data to a secure, OTP-generating website.
Users must also avoid downloading files from unknown sites. These apps may contain malware or spyware that can access phone or PC data. This malware can transmit data, such as calls, messages and advertisements soliciting the use of certain apps, which may be a phishing attempt. It is a mechanism to obtain data and information, and fraudsters can easily misuse this data. It is also important to know that mobile apps are less secure than websites. Mobile phones have far fewer security tools than websites.
Checking Internet and phone data bills is a secure method to cross-check and monitor unauthorized usage. Storing passwords, authentication, and credit and debit card details on phones and tablets poses a security threat. Using a secure network is a way to minimize risk to users, as open networks are vulnerable.
Regularly checking bank account statements is a good mechanism to ensure that your balances are intact. As the threat increases, a large number of tools are available for fraud detection. Artificial intelligence and machine learning technology are available for fraud detection. Tools like Seon, Emailage, etc. can help prevent fraud. Many fraud detection software are available. Google Play also has a built-in mechanism to minimize fraud.
India’s push towards cashless payment has taken the size of the industry to $204 billion. Mobile phones are a hugely popular way to make payments, where $290 billion has been exchanged. Mobile payments have grown faster than credit and debit cards. Mobile payment recharges are an indication of the extent to which mobile phones are used. The UTR system in India has been successful, unlike China, where WeChat has caused bank deposit leaks. India’s IT infrastructure has stood the test of time. Secure phones and networks will play a critical role in minimizing the loss of accounts due to fraud. Many tools can protect and prevent fraud.
But the user will have to follow protocols such as password protection, strong authentication, selection of secure networks and basic file verification before using applications. Finally, digital literacy and the human element will play a major role in preventing fraud, because you have to stick to the basics and be vigilant.
The author is the former president of ESB.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and Outlook Money does not necessarily endorse them. Outlook Money will not be liable for any damages caused to any person/organization directly or indirectly.)