Online Shopping Apps: NAUGHTY or Nice?

On December 8th, 2016, posted in: Personal Tech Tips by Comments Off on Online Shopping Apps: NAUGHTY or Nice?

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Well, the holiday season is in full swing. By now, you’ve probably heard Cyber Monday this year went down as the biggest online sales day in U.S. history – up 10.2% from 2015.

Everyone wants a good deal and with the convenience of online shopping, you’re likely to do more shopping online this year.

See if this sounds familiar…After scouring the internet for that perfect gift, you arrive at the shopping cart only to see the blank “coupon code” field staring you in the face.

Naturally, you can’t resist. You love a good deal and open up a new browser to search “website + coupon code”. After trying 3 different coupon codes, nothing works. Reluctantly, you pay full price for the item. Fortunately, there’s now an easy way to save money when shopping online!

Meet HONEY….your new best friend.

Honey is a Chrome extension that automatically searches for coupons and applies the maximum discount to your order when you shop online.

Watch the video below to see how it works.

Cool, right?

In this day and age, there are even more great ways to save money on your next online purchase. For example, the Amazon app for iOS and Android has a barcode scanner you can use in a store to find an item immediately on Amazon and check the price.

If you have kids to shop for this year, rather than braving the madness of toy stores during the holiday rush, use the app Shop for Kids by TTPM for Android and iOS that lets you compare prices across stores and watch video reviews to find the right gift.

While online shopping apps are great, they do have some drawbacks. For example, at times you might encounter technical issues when scanning barcodes. Stock quantities are another issue if you’re shopping locally. Some apps might not display accurate inventory and you run the risk of driving to the store only to encounter, “sorry, we’re out of stock”.

But there’s a darker side to online shopping.

The Rise of Fake Apps this Holiday Season

In November, the New York Times published an article about a barrage of fake retail and product apps that have been popping up in Apple’s App store – just in time for the holiday season.

appsCounterfeit apps falsify their identity by masquerading as large retail chains like Nordstrom, Zappos and even luxury brands like Jimmy Choo and Christian Dior.

The goal of these fake apps is to collect credit card data, personal information and to serve up irritating popup ads. Apple has already made efforts to remove hundreds of fake apps, but it’s the equivalent of the game whack-a-mole: Apple removes the apps as quickly as new fake apps are added to the network.

According to security experts, the vast majority of fake apps appear to be from China. For this reason, fake apps can be relatively easy to spot if you pay close attention and navigate the app before actually using it.

Why is Apple Allowing Fake Apps in their App Network?

The problem is not that cyber criminals are getting apps thorough Apple’s vetting system. What’s happening is developers of these fake apps are changing the content of the app AFTER Apple has approved it.

Play it Safe

It’s important to mention, phony apps aren’t exclusive to Apple. Google Play has also been exploited by cyber criminals. If you’re looking for deals this holiday season, you might want to stay on the safe side and use Honey, the Google Chrome extension. But if you still plan to install new shopping apps, here are some red flags to watch out for:

  • Nonsensical menus written in poor English
  • No history of previous app revisions
  • No reviews

Ultimately, the people at greatest risk are those searching for businesses who do not have an online app, which makes it easier for fake apps to lure unsuspecting customers in.

Jon Clay, director of global threat communications for Trend Micro said that Apple’s tight control over the iPhone previously kept malicious apps out of the App store. Fake apps were more often seen on Google’s Android platform, but since the release of the Pokémon Go game, fake iPhone apps related to the game suddenly appeared in countries where the game was not available.

Cyber criminals are always going to take advantage of what’s hot, so use extra caution when searching online apps for the latest, greatest product trends this season.

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