Pokémon Go scamPhishing scams are nothing new, but those who use this type of scam to try and lure unsuspecting new victims are constantly revamping it to fit with current events and trends. The most recent trend that scammers have hopped onto is Pokémon Go. Of course, there is a seemingly never-ending supply of risks that this augmented reality app presents, but the BBB posted a special warning on July 29 about a specific phishing scam making the rounds, which should be noted by adult players as well as the parents of children who play the game. Find out the nature of this scam and others like it, as well as how to avoid phishing scams that target the users of trendy apps like Pokémon Go.

What does this Pokémon Go scam look like?

An email addressed to the players of Pokémon Go says that as a result of the app’s overwhelming popularity and the increased server cost, there is now a monthly account charge. In order to continue playing the game, players must click a link to log into the app store and purchase “full access” for the cost of $12.99/month. The link, of course, does not take you to the real app store — instead, it directs you to a fake page that allows the scammers to steal your Google Play, Apple App Store or another app store’s login information. There have been other variations of this scam noted, such as the promise of a new or improved version of the app that you can download from the app store to enhance your game. One such scam variation promised special items to help players catch “legendary” Pokemon if they shared a scam link which led to a survey to collect people’s personal information.

How can people avoid phishing scams for popular apps?

Pokémon Go is a type of gaming app that is known as “freemium.” Essentially, it is free to download and play the game, but there are options for in-app purchases to buy items or perks that can enhance the game — similar to Facebook games. Although some aspects of the game do cost real money, there is no requirement that players pay to play. However, that and the overwhelming popularity of the game make it a winning target for scammers hoping to cash in on the hysteria around the game. Another app that fell victim to scams in recent weeks was Prisma, a new photo editing app that was initially only available for Apple users. The Google Play store was flooded with fake Prisma apps, many of which tried charging users money or installed malware on the user’s device.

It’s important to follow some basic ground rules when it comes to using popular apps. First, if an app is free to download and play from the start, assume that it will stay that way since the freemium app model is a tried-and-true standard these days. If that does change, you will likely be notified when you attempt to use the app — not through a mass email. Second, if you are contacted by what appears to be an app’s developer, use caution and be suspicious. If you’re instructed to log into your account or click a link to purchase something or make changes, don’t. Instead, open the app on its own or navigate to the website or app store by yourself to check for updates or make necessary changes. Finally, be on the lookout for fakes. You can double check the app’s developer when you are viewing one in the app store. Always make sure you are downloading the official app released by the real developer — and remember, some attempts at duplication can be hard to spot, so be on your guard. Parents should oversee what apps their kids download and change any account settings to prevent them from making purchases without your knowledge.

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