There seems to be a mobile app for just about anything you could possibly want to do and scammers are quite aware of this which is why scammers have turned to malware infected apps frequently in recent years. Recently the mobile security firm Zimperium uncovered a massive app scam affecting more than ten million people around the world who downloaded any of 200 infected apps. The scammers managed to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from their victims through this scam.
The infected apps when downloaded would cause pop-up ads and notifications of special offers and prizes to appear on the victim’s phone. If the victim responded to these notifications and pop ups by providing their cell phone number as requested, they would unknowingly be signing up for a premium text message service that charged $35 or more monthly.
Perhaps most troubling about this scam was that the malware infected apps were available through the Google Play store. While Google tries to monitor the Google Play store to keep scammers out, they certainly aren’t perfect. Upon discovering the scam, Zimperium notified Google who promptly removed the infected apps from the Google Play store, however, this scam is a warning to all of us not to blindly trust that all of the apps found in legitimate app stores are safe.
If you have an Android phone you should check to see if you downloaded any of the infected apps. Here is a link to the Zimperium memorandum that lists all of the 200 infected apps
It is important to limit your downloading of apps to legitimate sources such as the Apple App Store and Google Play to avoid malware infected apps. Before downloading any app, read the reviews carefully. While scammers will write glowing phony reviews about their apps, their reviews are usually cursory and do not provide much information. You can also go directly to a legitimate retailers website for information about any apps they may have for their products. Also, you can do a search on Google or other search engines using the words “fake app” along with the name of the company whose app you are interested in to see if there have been reports of problems. Finally, make sure that you have installed security software on your phone and that it is updated with the latest security patches.
For many years I have been warning you about the dangers of cramming. Cramming is the name for putting unauthorized third party charges on to a consumer’s telephone bill without the knowledge or approval of the consumer. There are many ways that these unauthorized charges make their way to a victim’s phone, sometimes, consumers unknowingly sign up for premium texting services that may be for things such as flirting tips, horoscopes or celebrity gossip. Whatever the source of the charges, they are fraudulent and typically cost about $9.99 per month, but can be as high as 24.95 and continue to appear for months without end.
In order to protect yourself from cramming you should carefully review your phone bill each month to identify if cramming charges appeared anywhere on your bill. These charges often appear with vague descriptions so if you don’t recognize any charge, you should contact your provider to explain the charges to you. Sometimes the charges appear in sections of your bill labeled “miscellaneous” or “third party charges.” Receiving unsolicited text messages is often an indication that you are a victim of cramming so if you do receive such messages, check your phone bill carefully to see if these are related to unauthorized charges. Most cell phone carriers will allow you to block charges from third parties for free, which is a good way to avoid cramming.
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