With 100 billion mobile apps now downloaded, Tim McKeever explains how to spot some common app scams that can damage brand reputation.

By Tim McKeever

A simple spilling mistake may be all it takes to identify the fraudsters who are exploiting your brand in the hope of making an easy buck.

You may have spotted the error in that opening line, or the poor spelling may have passed you by. If you overlooked the deliberate mistake, take it as evidence that sometimes the mobile app fraudsters are often hidden in full view.

MobileApps_200wIt can be relatively easy to stop mobile app malpractice if you know where too look, have endless amounts of time and understand your app portfolio in depth. But most organizations don’t, and it’s a big risk to reputation.

If you’re going to tackle the burgeoning risks in the mobile apps space, it helps to think like a criminal. Their intent is to make as much money as quickly as possible without – or before – getting caught. The easiest way to do that is to grow a vast installed base and get gullible consumers to send their cash to you, not to the genuine brand with which consumers believe they’re interacting.

These are ‘copycat apps’ and the clues to identifying them are often simple to find. Scammers don’t pay attention to quality, service and consistency like the brands they’re trying to emulate. And because they’re not always the brightest people, they make spelling and grammar mistakes. When taking logos from online sources, they may take insufficient care to reproduce them correctly on their app marketplace listing. If you look at the app store with a critical eye, you can identify these illegitimate apps. Happily for the scammers, not all buyers make these checks – so they make a bit of cash, sell a bit of counterfeit product, or simply enjoy a bit of mischief. All at your expense.

While their aim may be to make money quickly, the people behind these apps have also learned that patience pays. Because they need a big installed base to make large amounts of money from small individual payments, they may wait before starting to take payments, sell dodgy goods, steal personal data or activate malware. But they are there, waiting. The apps are being downloaded by unsuspecting customers. This is your opportunity to step in before any lasting damage is done.

Spotting some of the scams may be easy when you know what you’re looking for, but monitoring in a systematic way is much more problematic. As a brand owner, if you’re going to keep on top of these risks as mobile devices and apps proliferate, you need to monitor multiple app marketplaces, in every market in which you operate, for every possible misuse of all your brands – all the time.

And it gets worse. You also need to monitor what you are doing internally. If you’re an organization of any size, but lack formal protocols for who can publish apps and in what circumstances, you’re introducing complexity into the monitoring process from the start. In our experience, at best not all brands have a complete record of the apps their teams are publishing legitimately. At worst, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Seemingly anyone can launch an app. They usually have good intentions, wanting to promote products or services, or help customers in some way. And here the danger lies. Only with a complete picture – week in, week out – of what’s legitimate and what isn’t can you take action against the copycat apps you wish to take action against.

When you have such clarity, you come from a position of strength. The app marketplaces are receptive to genuine disputes, because their reputations rely on an honest marketplace too. But right now, arguably too many scammers are getting away with it. Criminals will always work hard to exploit systems and brands, which is why it’s critical to keep on top of your app monitoring too. And with the number of apps growing by the minute, it will continue to be a massive logistical task.

More information: Please visit our website for more details on our Mobile App Monitoring services.

The tell-tale signs that mobile apps are damaging your brand
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