Fake gaming app ads have become rampant in recent years. They may feature videos that have little (or nothing) to do with the actual gameplay. Or make misleading claims like, “If you score 400, you can go to Disneyland.” Game manufacturers run these ads because that’s what gets clicks and downloads. But the practice has resulted in many frustrated gamers, who don’t realize they were misled until after they download the app, set up an account, and start playing.
Until we have rules against these misleading ads, it’s up to consumers themselves to evaluate whether they should trust an ad and download the promoted game. Here’s how you can spot fake gaming ads and avoid downloading these apps.
How to evaluate mobile gaming ads
That new mobile game may look fun, but do your homework before downloading it. Here’s how to determine whether a game lives up to the advertisements.
- Check the reviews. If a game has a high number of bad reviews or if players report that the app is nothing like the ads promoting it, think twice before you download it. Reviews can be fake, so check out these tips and read carefully.
- Do research online. Besides reading reviews on the app store, look up the game and the game developer online. You’ll likely find complaints if a developer has a reputation for creating games that don’t live up to their promises. You may also come across news articles or consumer reports calling out specific games that target consumers with misleading ads.
- Look out for grammar mistakes. It’s unlikely that you’ll find grammar or spelling mistakes in an ad for a legitimate game. If the ad copy has errors, you’re probably looking at an app created for dishonest purposes.
- Watch out for ads that tease too-good-to-be-true offers. If an app makes a promise that sounds outrageous, use your best judgment. You probably aren’t going to receive tickets to Disneyland just because you reached level 15. Promises like these are little more than bait for unsuspecting gamers.
- Review app permissions. This step is critical. Fake apps, especially those designed to mine your information, often ask for additional authorizations that aren’t really necessary. Fake app developers can then sell your information to third parties without your knowledge. Read the app permissions carefully. Never click “allow” without understanding what kind of information you’ll be sharing with an app developer.
- Watch out for impostor apps. When downloading popular games, double-check game logos and review the game description page carefully before you download. Make sure the game name is spelled right, and if it is a very popular app (like Candy Crush), check to ensure it has millions or billions of downloads, not just a few thousand. Many scammers create apps that look similar to well-known and trusted apps to try to trick consumers.
- Only download apps from official app stores. Don’t click on links outside an app store to download an app. They could be malware disguised as a link to the game. Instead, go to official app stores and look up the app there.
- Install an antivirus program on your mobile device. It’s always a good idea to install up-to-date antivirus software on all your devices. It can alert you to unsafe websites and links and may even detect malware and remove it before any damage happens.
- Report fake apps. Report fake apps to the Google Play Store or Apple Support. You can also report your experience with a fake app at BBB.org/ScamTracker to help build consumer awareness of this issue.
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