Although Google takes action from time to time, there are thousands of bogus apps available on the Google Play Store. While many of them are harmless and make money by showing you annoying ads, some are malicious and can steal your data or even affect your phone. So, how do you check if an app is fake or real on the Play Store? Well here are some easy ways to find out if an app is fake or real before installing it.
Related | How to check for viruses on your Android phone
How to tell if an Android app is fake or real before installing it
While apps on the Google Play Store are generally more secure, there is no full guarantee. For example, folks at Check Point Research recently discovered malware in a bogus app called FlixOnline on the Play Store, which is capable of stealing private data and spreading through WhatsApp messages.
So you always have to be careful about what to install and what not to do. Rogue apps are often malware in disguise and can download your private data such as contacts and location in the background. Below are some key points that can help you check and identify fake Android apps on Google Play Store.
1. Find bogus apps through search results
When you search for the name of the app on Google Play Store, carefully examine the search results. Usually you will only see one version of the app. However, if there are multiple apps with similar names and icons, most of them are probably bogus.
Fake apps usually try to imitate the original app by copying the name and icon. So, pay attention to this while checking the search results.
2. Check the name of the app and developer
You can most of the time tell if an app is fake or real by looking at the app and the developer’s name. Even though the app’s name and icons are the same, the developer will likely be different.
Usually, it is quite easy to spot a fake developer. However, if you can’t find which one is real, tap on the developer’s name and it will show you all the apps published by the developer alongside user reviews.
3. Description and screenshots
The next thing to check out on the Play Store listing is the app description and the screenshots uploaded by the developer. Real developers usually write informative descriptions with high quality screenshots of their app’s interface.
If you find any discrepancies like unprofessionally written descriptions with too many errors or weird screenshots, you are probably looking for a bogus app.
4. Check downloads, reviews and release date
If an app is popular enough, downloads will be very high. For example, WhatsApp Messenger has over 5 billion installs on Play Store. The number would be much lower for a fake or counterfeit application, probably in the hundreds or thousands.
You should also check the reviews given by users. If an app is not what it claims to be, it will display negative reviews from people who realized it was bogus after installation. Next comes the release date. To see when the app was released, click About this app and scroll down to “Release Date.”
Fake apps usually don’t last long on the Play Store. Therefore, they are bound to have a very recent release date. They will also likely have fewer downloads and fewer reviews (may have multiple exceptions). In comparison, genuine apps will have an older release date.
5. Check the permissions
Take a close look at what permissions the app requests. If they are not related to the function of the app or what it claims to do, it could indicate that the app is bogus or malicious.
For example, if a video player or online streaming app asks for overlay, accessibility, camera, or microphone permission, then that’s a red flag. You can check the permissions of the app by clicking the “App permissions” option on the about this app page.
6. Search the web
Popular apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Truecaller, etc. have their official websites to get the links to download the original app. So if you are unable to find the app or tell it apart from the fakes, go to its official site and check the download links.
But again, make sure you don’t download the app from a bogus or unknown source. If you download APK files from third party websites, prefer trusted files like APKMirror, APKPure, etc.
7. Scan before installation
If you want to load an APK but are concerned about its legitimacy or if it is malware, we recommend that you scan it with a reliable anti-malware application before installing it.
Usually, Google Play Protect automatically alerts you to potential security issues with the app. Yet, you can also use mobile security apps like Malwarebytes, Bitdefender, QuickHeal, etc. You can also scan it online from the VirusTotal website. Once the file is downloaded, VirusTotal will scan it in various databases and check if it is safe.
If you are installing an app that you don’t trust anyway, consider blocking the app’s internet access to reduce the risk of your data being stolen and uploaded to the cloud over the internet.
What to do if you spot a fake app on the Google Play Store?
Suppose you find an app that fails the above checks and is likely bogus or counterfeit. What to do in this case? First, don’t install the app (obviously) and second, report the app to Google to take the necessary action.
To report an app, go to the app’s page on the Google Play Store. Click on the three dots in the upper right corner, then click “Flag as inappropriate.” Select an appropriate reason (for bogus apps you can choose “copier or impersonation”) and submit.
Google will then review your report and take action if the app is bogus. You can further inform your relatives or friends not to install the app. Some apps can not only steal personal information, but can also lead to financial loss, so beware.
Recap – (Solved) Identify Fake Apps on Play Store
Here are some quick tips on how to find out if an Android app is fake or real before installing it from the Google Play Store. Hope this makes you more informed about which apps to install and which to avoid. Share this article with your friends and family to let them know. Please feel free to comment if you know of any other ways to find fake apps on Google Play Store. Stay tuned for more articles like this.
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