We have combined helpful tips that users can utilize to identify fake apps on the Google Play Store and avoid installing them. Fake Android apps in the Play Store are a real problem. People create listings designed to look exactly like popular apps, often using the same icon and name, to trick users into downloading them — after which, they then bombard the device with ads (or worse, malware).This issue has been especially prominent lately. A fake version of WhatsApp was downloaded by more than one million people last year, and just this week Reddit’s /r/android community found a fake version of the popular SwiftKey keyboard and an ad-riddled version of VLC on the Play Store. To avoid these, you can use our guidelines ahead.
While Google was initially reluctant to remove the faux-VLC app, it was finally taken down recently after being at the top of the Android subreddit all day. That fake version of WhatsApp — arguably one of the most successful fake apps yet — was nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. Even the developer name was visually identical. The fraudulent company placed a special hidden character at the end of the developer name, which made look like “WhatsApp Inc.”, but it was technically different thanks to the hidden white-space at the end of the name which you can find through inspect element option from the browser.
Those fake apps were downloaded over a million times before Google removed them from the Play Store. It was so successful because it was so similar to the real WhatsApp listing—the icon, verbiage, and developer name were all similar enough that many users didn’t even raise an eyebrow.
How to Identify Fake Apps on Google Playstore
So here’s the big thing: making sure your device and your data are safe is, well, kind of on you. Google can only do so much, and regardless of how good Play Protect actually gets, there’s always going to be a certain percentage of malicious apps that find their way into the Store.
Take a Close Look at the Search Results
If you search the Play Store for the app you want to install, take a few seconds to glance at all the entries—especially if you see the same icon more than once.
Fake apps will almost always use the icon from the app they’re trying to mimic, so it should immediately cause suspicion if you see the same icon more than once (assuming the second one isn’t a pro version of the app, of course). This is the first way fake apps trick people into installing them.
Check the App Name and Developer
Take a close look at the app name and the developer. In the case of the fake WhatsApp, the developer name was visually identical, but the name of the app should’ve raised a red flag—I can’t think of a single time a legitimate app added the word “Update” to its name.
The fake SwiftKey app that recently landed was called “Swift Keyboard”—something that users unfamiliar with SwiftKey could easily mistake for the real application. But the developer name was “Designer Superman”—a clear indicator that something isn’t right since SwiftKey is developed by a company of the same name (and owned by Microsoft).
Check the Download Count
If you’re downloading a popular app, always take a quick look at the download number. Let’s say you’re installing the Facebook app—one of the most downloaded apps in Google Play with over a billion installs at the time of writing.
Read the Description and Look at the Screenshots
This is an important step. If everything else looks close enough, the description can often be the thing that gives it away. If the wording seems off (think bot-like) or is written in broken English, that should raise the red flag. Most legitimate developers do a good job of providing clear communication as to what their apps do. Most use good, clean formatting in the listing. Again, if something feels weird here, it probably is.
This also applies to the images as the fake screenshots will differ from the original ones.
Finally, Read the Reviews
After you’ve looked at all the details, spend some time reading a few of the reviews. Fake apps will often have fake reviews, but there are also likely to be some legitimate reviews from users who realized the app was bogus after installing it. A quick skim will generally be all it takes—look for the negative reviews and see what the issues are. If it’s fake, hopefully someone has called it out in the reviews.
Now you know how you can identify fake application from Google PlayStore. If you find any, don’t forget to report it. Drop a comment if have any questions.