Security experts warn of fake apps that appear to be popular brands

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Friday, November 11, 2016

NEW YORK (WABC) -- More and more shoppers are using phones to buy things, but with the holidays approaching, experts are warning of fake apps posing as stores that could steal money and personal information.

Retailers are rapidly rolling out shopping apps for smartphones, and a search of the app store for some of your favorite brands might include one from Uggs. But the problem is that Uggs doesn't have an app, and dummy apps have security researchers on notice.

"ID theft, personal information being leaked, you have credit card theft where your number can be used once you've given it out, and even counterfeit items," security researcher Andrew Blaich said. "So if the sale does go through, you may get an item that is not legitimate."

Also, some apps ask for permission to access other information on your phone.

Branding Brand, a builder of retail apps, looks for the impostors.

"We discovered over a few hundreds apps that are counterfeit," CEO Chris Mason said. "This is between the iOS store for Apple and the Andriod store for Google "

Apps pretending to be from Dillards, Dollar Tree, Zappos and New Balance are all fakes.

"Consumers should be worried because this is a game of Whack-a-Mole," Mason said. "New apps are arriving every day while other ones are being taken down, and the trend seems to be that this will be a problem for this upcoming holiday season."

Both Android and the iPhone are vulnerable, and Apple users in particular typically think of their apps as vetted by the app store. Both companies responded to ABC News.

"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," Apple said.

"We take security seriously, and Google Play automatically scans for potentially malicious apps, as well as spammy accounts, before they are published on the Google Play store," Google said.