JAPAN - Bogus smartphone apps that claim to be for existing stores have become increasingly common, exposing app users to theft of personal information.
The fake apps are for such businesses as the Matsumotokiyoshi drugstore and Pizza-La pizza delivery chains but are not authorised by the companies involved. The apps are designed to jump to the companies' official websites.
According to experts, however, the apps can be updated to steal personal information and allow criminal activities without the knowledge of users. In South Korea, perpetrators have users download apps to steal personal information in a scheme called smishing.
In January, "e! Matsumotokiyoshi," an app using the logo of the major drugstore chain, was offered at the iPhone app store. According to explanations in the app, its installation would allow users to order goods from the store by phone. The app links the user with the official Matsumotokiyoshi e-commerce website.
But a Matsumotokiyoshi spokesperson said angrily, "It [the app] was made without our consent, and it has nothing to do with our company."
The app, whose creator is described as "Rui Guo," uses unnatural Japanese in some parts.
Pizza-La and another major drugstore chain, Tsuruha Drug, similarly have found that their logos were being used without their permission. The apps were designed to allow users to jump to the official smartphone sites of the companies.
Although they apparently did not lead users to sites with ill intentions, the applications were deleted after the app store received complaints from the firms.
According to the Internet security company Trend Micro Inc., about 73,000 mobile sites are fraudulent, exposing visitors to theft of personal information through a scheme known as phishing. January saw a 14-fold increase in such scams compared with the same period two years ago.
In addition to such websites, there are fake apps whose intentions are not clear. A Trend Micro official cautioned people to confirm the creator and provider of apps before installing them.