5 Red Flags You Shouldn’t Trust an App

Proceed with caution when heading to the app store.

Exploring new apps can be a lot of fun, especially if their purpose is to make your life easier. But oftentimes, most of us are not paying attention to the red flags that make an app untrustworthy. As the guidelines and oversight for apps have become a bit more relaxed due to their abundance, there are more scam apps every day. They get reported quickly and disappear, but a new one always comes right along to take its place. At first glance, the app may seem pretty legit, but that isn’t always the case. Staying vigilant about your cybersecurity can be a bit confusing to those who aren’t technophiles, so we asked some experts what the main warning signs are to look out for when it comes down to trusting an app.

There are very few or nonexistent reviews

“If an app is not brand new, it is a red flag to see that it has no reviews. It is also concerning to see an app that has only a few reviews that all sound like they were written by the same person,” says Justin Kraft, CEO of Renew Social.

Make sure to scour the review section thoroughly for any app that you consider downloading. If multiple reviews address the same issue, then you should take those reviews seriously. Even if the app is legit, reading reviews can tell you if the software may cause some issues to your device. See which phone is the most secure before you go shopping for a new cell phone.

You can’t find the developer’s website

“If you try to find out more information about the app’s developer and cannot find a reputable website that tells you about the app, the team that’s working on it, and other information, the app is probably not trustworthy,” explains Kraft.

Who is the maker of the app? This takes a little more research to find out, but it’s an element to consider when it comes to your cybersecurity. Some companies have track records for keeping data private and secure, while others may have a poor record and may even be known to make deceitful apps. It may also be helpful to see what other apps the developer has created. If their other apps have some odd reviews and don’t seem up-to-par, this is something that should set off alarms in your head. If a developer is reliable, they should be feeding you as much information as possible about themselves in order to earn your trust and convince you to use their product. Don’t miss these top security threats for smartphone users so you can be on the lookout.

It’s missing from a popular app store

Download apps from reputable marketplaces only. “The best ones are those offered by your smartphone’s brand,” claims Jeff Walker, CEO of VPN Canada. “For example, if you have an iPhone, download only from the Apple App Store. If you’re into Android phones, Google Play Store is there for you. For Samsung users, it’s Galaxy App Store is ideal.”

The apps that are available on these marketplaces are more likely to have been screened and are required to follow the guidelines of the provider. If you’re not following these rules, you may be an easy target for scammers.

It asks for personal details

If the app itself prompts you to enter things like banking information or other personal details right away, don’t do it. Unless an app has your bank’s logo on it and is certified as being from that company, it’s not safe to do your banking through a third-party app. If any other app ever asks for this information you should report them, remove the app from your phone, and find a new one. “For instance, you may download a photo app that will ask to access your contacts or other information that has nothing to do with taking photographs,” explains Nick Chernets, CEO of Data for SEO. “These apps are usually not trustworthy and may contain viruses or other malware.“ Make sure you aren’t storing these 8 things on your smartphone.

The screenshots look fake

Fake apps will use stock photos, have poorly edited graphics, and will appear a bit off in general. Developers of untrustworthy apps will steal screenshots or images from other apps making giving a poor-quality appearance. Be mindful of the text on the images as well. Do the words make sense? Is the grammar correct? Are phrases blurred out? A legit app will show you as many images as possible of what the app looks like and how it works once downloaded. Remember, they should be showing off in order to get you to choose them. They should be trying to impress you. If something looks a little off, that’s probably because it is. Don’t miss these clear signs that you’re about to be hacked.

What should you look for before downloading?

All apps that we download to our phones come with a terms of service page, which many of us don’t read. That is definitely a mistake. Everyday users unknowingly agree to terms and conditions such as giving the app access to your phone or giving them the right to disclose your personal information to third parties. You can find the permissions on the apps page in the app store. If the permissions match the features of the app, it is most likely trustworthy. Does the app ask for control over your microphone, camera, and personal files? If the app wants permissions to multiple items and they don’t seem to be related to what the app is supposed to do, you should probably avoid downloading the app. Figure out why they need access to each phone feature. For example, it does not add up for a game to have access to the contacts list and messages. This should raise a major red flag that the app has ulterior motives.

The easiest thing you could do is to perform a quick Google search. This is a simple way to see if there have been any public reviews of the app. You should get a good understanding of the app’s credibility after seeing what you find. Next, check out these 20 cybersecurity secrets hackers don’t want you to know.


Emma Taubenfeld
Emma Taubenfeld is a former assistant editor for Reader’s Digest who writes about digital lifestyle topics such as memes, social media captions, pickup lines and cute pets. When she’s not working, you can find Emma reading corny young adult novels, creating carefully curated playlists and figuring out how to spice up boxed mac and cheese.