Safeguarding Your Brand from Mobile App Scams

The mobile app industry is flourishing, providing more users than ever before (over 6.8B smartphone users worldwide) with more apps that cover more of their activities and needs. Mobile app scams and impersonations play a critical role in the overall landscape of Digital Risk Protection. As digital interactions continue to expand across various platforms, including websites, social media, e-commerce sites, paid ads, and mobile apps, bad actors seek to exploit these attack surfaces. Mobile apps, in particular, are susceptible to various scams due to their widespread usage and the level of trust users place in them. Much like Paid ad scams, users trust the platforms that promote mobile apps (such as Apple App Store and Google Play), unaware that these platforms may open the door to digital scams, phishing, and malware.

Mobile app scams involve deceptive activities carried out through mobile applications, aiming to defraud users, collect sensitive data, sell counterfeit products, or harm a brand's reputation. Impersonations occur when bad actors masquerade as genuine brands to deceive users and gain their trust.

Bad actors employ various techniques to impersonate legitimate brands on mobile apps, such as copying app designs, stealing brand assets, or utilizing similar app names. Through these impersonations, they trick users into disclosing personal information or making purchases of counterfeit products.

The estimated financial value of mobile app fraud reached over $2.64B in 2022 globally, with the Finance industry responsible for more than 50% of this amount.

Apple alone terminated 428,000 developer accounts for potentially fraudulent activity in 2022, plus 105,000 fraudulent developer account creations were blocked.

This growth can be attributed to the expanding mobile app market, increased reliance on mobile devices, and the rising sophistication of scamming techniques. Any way we look at it, brands today must consider their mobile app protection program.

There is a variety of mobile app scams, some targeting the brands (or app developers) and some targeting the brand’s customers, thus damaging the brand’s reputation and revenue stream. Downloading and using a scam application endanger user phones with a different kind of malware, phishing, tracking, or purchase scams (buying counterfeit goods or even providing personal and payment details to cyber criminals).

The main damages and risks of mobile app scams to most brands include:

  1. Loss of Revenue: Mobile app scams divert potential customers away from genuine apps or from genuine sales, resulting in reduced revenue, market share erosion, and missed business opportunities.
  2. Data Breach and Privacy Concerns: Mobile app scams often involve the collection of personal and financial information. If scammers gain access to this data, it can result in significant data breaches, identity theft, and legal liabilities for brands.
  3. Reputational Damage: When users encounter fraudulent apps impersonating trusted brands, their confidence in those brands is shattered. This loss of trust can lead to reputational damage, decreased customer loyalty, and negative online sentiment.
  4. Legal Liability: Brands may face legal actions and regulatory penalties if they fail to adequately protect their users from mobile app scams or properly address security vulnerabilities. Non-compliance with data protection regulations can result in severe consequences.

Strategies to Combat Mobile App Scams

Monitoring and detection: Employing advanced monitoring tools, AI-based algorithms, and threat intelligence can enable brands to identify and flag fraudulent mobile apps promptly. Continuous monitoring ensures quick detection and response to protect users and brand reputation.

Rapid takedown and enforcement: Brands should establish efficient processes to report fraudulent apps to app stores and collaborate with enforcement professionals to ensure swift takedowns. This proactive approach mitigates the risk of users falling victim to scams.

Best practices and education: Prioritizing best practices internally and educating both employees and users by providing information about app verification processes, official app download channels, and warning signs of fraudulent apps. Engaging with customers through social media campaigns, email newsletters, or in-app notifications can further enhance awareness. 

What should app developers do to avoid being scammed?

  1. Implementing App Verification Measures: Brands should employ robust verification measures, such as two-factor authentication, digital certificates, or app signing, to enhance the trustworthiness and integrity of their mobile apps.
  2. Regular Security Audits: Regular security audits help brands identify and rectify security flaws within their mobile apps. This includes vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, and code reviews to ensure adherence to secure coding practices.
  3. Secure Development Practices: Brands should prioritize secure development practices, such as secure coding techniques, input validation, and encryption, to create resilient mobile apps that are resistant to exploitation.
  4. Use an expert 3rd party digital risk protection solution provider. A good digital risk protection program that covers mobile apps (as well as additional digital attack surfaces) will help you detect and remove scam mobile apps before any real damage is done to you or your users.

In the dynamic landscape of digital risk protection, brands must remain vigilant in safeguarding their mobile apps from scams and impersonations. By understanding the nature of mobile app scams, implementing robust monitoring and detection strategies, educating users, and adhering to best practices for mobile app security, brands can mitigate the risks of financial losses, data breaches, reputational damage, and legal liabilities. Prioritizing mobile app security is essential for maintaining customer trust, safeguarding brand reputation, and ensuring a secure digital experience. Don’t hesitate to contact BrandShield and schedule a meeting to discuss your digital brand landscape and to find out if someone is scamming you on mobile apps.

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