Technology has changed the way people make day-to-day financial transactions. Whether it’s sending or receiving money, making online purchases or opening an FD account, it can all be done using smartphones or other electronic gadgets. The downside of such a widespread use of technology, however, is the rising number of fraudulent activities.
From fraudulent emails to phishing attempts and SMS spoofing, fraudsters continue to find new and innovative ways of duping people of their hard-earned money. The latest addition to these is the use of mobile applications to target innocent users. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has, in fact, issued a warning to bank customers, asking them not to use third-party mobile applications for financial transactions.
If you are one of those people who instal applications on your mobile phone by the dozen, hold on, as you could be at a higher risk of being conned by some of these fake apps.
Some apps — which appear to be trustworthy and offer easy services — once installed, read the personal data and secured information stored in the phone. Any financial transaction conducted over the phone can also be leaked to a third party through such applications. Cyber security experts feel that most of such applications belong to the ‘Fakeist’ and ‘Opfake’ families of viruses that are known to imitate popular apps to attract users.
Hackers often disguise their apps as popular gaming applications. Such applications are actually fakes, which offset the permission modules of a smartphone, which can then be accessed by hackers. These mobile apps can also transmit to a hacker’s phone or computer all personalised information, such as user name and passwords.
How to avoid fake apps
As the adage goes, prevention is better than cure. The best way to guard against such fraud applications is to not download any app from outside the formal Android, Windows or Apple marketplace.
A lot of smartphone users download apps without intending to use them. The larger the downloaded pool of apps, the higher the chances of falling prey to fake apps. Download only those apps that you are going to use actively.
Recently, a large number of third-party applications have cropped up, which lure users by offering to help them file their income-tax returns. The RBI and the income-tax department have both alerted people to stay away from such third-party apps as they are not designated to do transactions on behalf of the I-T department.
I-T department guidelines
The I-T department has issued warnings to the general public about using third-party apps. Most fake mobile apps use the name of the income-tax department to conceal
their identity and require taxpayers to share personal details. The income-tax department has issued a stern warning that any person using such apps to file his or her income-tax returns would be doing so at his or her own risk. Cyber security sleuths and anti-hacking agencies are also working overtime to ensure that such frauds are nipped in the bud, but the widespread use of smartphones means that users themselves need to take preventive steps.
The writer is CEO, BankBazaar.com