Happy New Year to everyone from the Department of Consumer Protection – we hope you have a safe and secure 2017.
To help you do that, we’d like to remind you of a few common scams and frauds that keep popping up every year. You don’t have to be a victim if you learn to recognize the warning signs that accompany most scams.
In this issue, we will look at fake cell phone apps and the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Investigation scam. And in the next issue, we’ll review how to deal with debt collectors.
Fake Cell Phone Apps
Over 91 percent of all residents of the United States have cell phones. That’s 285 million people of all ages using mobile technology for a broad variety of reasons.
Increasingly, we are shopping with mobile apps (applications), and as we do, we become more vulnerable to scammers who follow the flow of money in order to take advantage of our trust in technology.
Fake cell phone apps pretend to be well-known retailers in order to steal your personal information. Their names are similar to well-known brands, and they often promise incredible deals. These fake apps can steal your credit card or bank information. Some fake apps may even install malware onto your phone and demand money from you to unlock it.
Here are some tips to avoid downloading fake apps:
- Go directly to the retailer’s website and see if they promote it. If they do have an app, they will direct you to the app store where you can download it.
- On the web, search a brand name, plus “fake app” to see if the company has reported its brand being faked.
- Look for reviews of the app before you download – both in the app stores and on the web. If the app has no reviews, it could be a fake. Real apps for big retailers often have thousands of reviews.
- Read closely. Don’t download apps with misspelled words in their description. Many fake apps were created in a hurry. Some fake apps look almost like the real thing.
If you do shop online, keep all your receipts and monitor your credit card statements.
These apps can also be used to steal your personal information – when you sign up, they may ask you for permission to access information on your phone. These fake apps can then steal your:
- phone and email contacts
- internet data
- calendar data
- data about your device’s location
- phone’s particular identifications
- and information about how you use the app itself
Most apps access only the data they need to function, location data that allows maps, coupons or information about resources nearby. However, scammers will use that data to steal information that enables them to access your personal and financial information.
Once an app has your permission to access your location data, it can do so until you change the settings on your phone. If you don’t want to share your location, you can turn off location services in your phone’s settings. But if you do that, apps won’t be able to give you information based on your location unless you enter it yourself.
It’s a hard choice – technology is often convenient, but we have to be smart and aware of how to
protect our personal and financial information while we enjoy the convenience.
Fake FTC Investigation Scam
If you get an email from the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) telling you that you are under investigation and to click on a link for more information, do not click the link. The government doesn’t tell people they are under investigation by email. The emails are designed to collect your information, often by installing malware on your computer that can crash your computer, give the scammer access to your online activity, send spam and steal your personal and financial information.
You can forward the phony email to email@example.com. This database helps the FTC bring cases involving scams promoted via email. But, most importantly, delete the email.
Remember, a smart consumer is an informed consumer. Get smart, and pass it on!
This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.