Pokemon Go has become an international phenomenon and generated massive amounts of interest under both gamers and non-gamers alike. Despite being out for three years, the Pokemon Go craze hasn’t died down. Plenty of people are still running around their neighborhoods searching for rare Pokemon to catch.
Despite this huge explosion of love for all the creatures in the Pokemon universe, there are some people who just want to ruin everyone’s day. Whenever something gets this big, there’s always a big trail of cybercriminals following along, looking for ways to exploit people’s interest. Unfortunately for Pokemon Go enthusiasts, this has led to a number of Pokemon Go scams and fake apps circling the news lately.
Traversing the real world while playing Pokemon Go is hard enough. Don’t get done in on the internet too. Have a look at the different issues plaguing Pokemon Go right now and how to avoid becoming another victim.
Fake Pokemon Go Apps Found
Criminals have capitalized on the huge demand for this game by creating their own fake apps and releasing them on third-party stores. A lot of people who simply searched for the game on a search engine were caught in this trap. Instead of downloading the actual game, they were now downloading malware that would display adware, spy on them, or steal their data.
However, the official stores aren’t immune to this problem either. One particularly pernicious app, called “Pokemon Go Ultimate” was discovered on the Play store by researchers a while back. It locked people’s screens, forcing them to reboot the phone. When they turned it on again, the app icon had disappeared. But it was still running silently in the background, collecting ad revenue.
Furthermore, while Pokemon Go is huge in a lot of countries, it still hasn’t been released everywhere. Adding to the problem of people unknowingly thinking they’re downloading the real thing. So it’s also essential that people make sure the app is actually available in the countries they live in before clicking that download button.
How to Recognize Fake Apps
Firstly, a word of warning about downloading from unofficial sources. Some games, like Fortnite, aren’t available on Google Play. However, most official games – including Pokemon Go – are only available on official stores. So any similar-looking games on third-party marketplaces are always fake.
That said, the Google Play store isn’t always safe either, despite their security efforts. Malware occasionally still makes it through their defenses. So always follow these steps before downloading any app:
- Make sure it’s the real version: A fake app will have a similar name to the real one, but they can’t have the exact same name on an official store.
- Scan the images: They may have been stolen and look exactly like the real thing. But sometimes there are discrepancies that stand out – like strange design choices or grammar mistakes.
- Look at the developer:Fake apps can’t list themselves under the real developer’s name, so they will usually list a similar or completely different name. Make sure the developer’s name on the app matches the real one (in this case it’s Niantic, Inc.)
- Read carefully through the page description: Fake apps often have strange language or spelling mistakes. Real developers care about presentation and will put in the time to make sure their descriptions are mistake-free.
- Check how many downloads there are: Fake apps generally have fewer downloads than the real ones.
- Scrutinize the app permissions: Any strange permission requests for an app should be a warning sign that something might not be right.
Free PokeCoin Scams Abound
Like many other free games, Pokemon Go makes use of a virtual currency that people can buy with real money. PokeCoins can be used for all sorts of in-game purchases, like items and eggs. But there are always people who think they can cheat the system by finding free PokeCoins online. Criminals are acutely aware of this and lie in wait with various survey and coin generator scams.
This is a common issue whenever a game has virtual currency, but plenty of people still fall for it. Maybe because a lot of these scams are spread via social media and fake YouTube channels claiming they’re real.
Either way, the scam usually gets people to enter their Pokemon Go username and other personal info. Some then have them either download additional apps, watch ads, or sign up for services in exchange for the coins. But there aren’t actually any coins, of course.
Some of these scams just try to make money off affiliate advertising by having people watch ads. Nevertheless, after “participating” in these PokeCoin scams, people are sometimes left with either stolen accounts, stolen identities, or malicious software on their device.
How to Find Out if a Device is Infected
Criminals hide their traces well, but there are a few tell-tale signs that can indicate an infected device:
- There are apps on the device that were installed without the user’s permission
- The battery drains faster than it normally would
- Unexplained data usage
- The device crashes regularly
- There are a lot of pop-up ads or more pop-up ads than usual
Getting rid of malware and malicious apps is hard but not impossible. However, keeping malware, scams, and hackers at bay in the first place is half the battle won. There’s plenty of advice out there on what to do and what not to do, but here’s the gist of it:
Don’t reuse passwords and if remembering a lot of complicated passwords is hard, then use a password manager. Don’t click on links sent by strangers on social media and don’t believe any promises of free stuff – it’s never real. Enable two-factor authentication and install a VPN.
What is a VPN? It’s a service that keeps hackers and troublemakers from intercepting a network connection, preventing them from stealing any info from a device.
Staying Safe is an Ongoing Responsibility
If one of the biggest mobile games out there has problems, then it’s a safe bet that the mobile malware problem is far-reaching. Stay vigilant and keep an eye out for any suspicious behavior. Cybercriminals never stop trying and so people should never stop protecting themselves either.