With more and more people using mobile devices for shopping, scammers have turned to apps to target consumers. Fake retail and product apps have been around for some time but are now becoming more widespread.

Some fake apps have appeared for businesses and products that don't have an app. For those that do, the fake apps mimic the real apps. To confuse the consumer, the fake apps also use names that are very similar to real businesses.

Fake apps may bombard you with pop-up adds or steal your financial and personal information at their worst. Malicious code in fake apps has been known to steal your personal or financial information, lock your device until you pay a ransom, or share your social media credentials in order to access personal information.

Even users of iPhones or other Apple devices aren't protected. Recently, hundreds of fake apps have appeared in the Apple App Store. Apple's process of reviewing each app before it is published focuses more on blocking malicious software. In addition, some of these fake apps are taking advantage of search ads by buying search terms to boost their apps in the results. This article from the New York Times (free article limits may apply) provides more detail.

Protect yourself by always checking out an app before downloading it. A quick search can give you some very useful information about the app and the company. For well-known companies, brands or products, their website should provide information about all of their official apps.

For more information about fake apps, read this article from Clark Howard.