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Seven tips to help you avoid counterfeit apps in the App Store

There are several recent examples of unsavory titles slipping through the cracks of Apple's approval process. Apps like counterfeit Pokemon apps and a cloned beer timer app have made it into the walled garden of the iOS App Store.

Instead of relying on Apple to be a safety gate, iOS owners need to be more vigilant when purchasing apps. Before you hit that "Buy App" button, you should follow these handy tips to help you steer clear of counterfeit and knockoff apps. If you have any tips of your own, please share them in the comments.

Read the description

The quality of the description is one sign that an iOS app is counterfeit. If the description reads like it's written by a six-year-old, then you should probably walk away from the app. Either the developer doesn't care enough to write a decent description or the description is a mass-produced, poorly-translated piece of prose from an overseas scam factory.

Look at the comments on an app

Customers who buy an app and then discover it's a scam are vocal. They will leave scathing comments that make it clear the app is a fraud. This will work to your benefit as you can learn a lot about the developer and the app from even as little as five to ten comments. If there are no comments, then you'll need to use some of our other tips to dig a little deeper into the developer's history and the reputation of the app.

Scan the App Store

Be sure to search the App Store before you buy an app to make sure it is the correct one. As we pointed out last week, some copycat apps are so brazen they will steal the underlying code, the name and the icon of the original app with minimal changes. Misspellings of popular titles or closely worded app titles like "Angry Birdy" are also red flags. Spend a few minutes comparing the app icons, looking at the product images, and carefully reading the description. If you're not sure which version is the right one, then you'll have to do some detective work to identify the legitimate developer.

Does the developer have a history?

If you find an app you want to buy, then look at the developer's history to make sure he or she is legitimate. Experienced developers will have multiple apps in the app store and each will have comments. You can see a list of the developer's apps on the left hand side of the iTunes window underneath the app requirements.

Some scammers will release one app they hope will fly under Apple's radar and grab a thousand downloads before it disappears. At 99 cents a pop, all it takes is a couple hundred downloads for the developer to make his or her money back on the developer's fee. If someone can easily recoup the developer's fee, there's not much stopping them from signing up for another account and doing it all again when their app gets the boot.

Another warning sign is a developer who has dozens and dozens of apps. Quality apps take a long time to write, and an indie developer with many apps could be a scam factory producing garbage or counterfeit apps.

This isn't a hard and fast rule as some apps, like wallpaper collections or simple games, lend itself to multiple versions. Likewise, there are new developers who only have one app. Because this tip may penalize reputable developers, you should use it along with the other tips. If the developer has a poorly written description, a title whose name is a misspelling of a popular title and 175 published apps, then you may want to think twice about your purchase.

When was the app updated?

Once an app is approved, most scammers won't take the time to update a title. They are in the App Store only to make money and aren't interested in the process of developing and improving their title. You can find the date of the last update and the app version number underneath the "Buy App" button. You can also search a site like App Shopper which will list all the version and price changes made to the app.

Is there a face behind the name?

If a developer has a support link in iTunes, then click on it and see if they have a website. A serious developer will have a support page to connect with their users and make it easy for people to contact them. They will also likely be on Twitter, Google+ or Facebook. If there's no contact information or a broken link, then you should think hard about clicking that purchase button.

Crowdsource and search, search, search

If you're still not sure, then search the Internet, ask on forums and send out a call on Twitter or Facebook. Find out if anyone has experience with the app or the developer. Chances are someone, somewhere will have an opinion about either the app of the person behind it.

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iOS

There are several recent examples of unsavory titles slipping through the cracks of Apple's approval process. Apps like counterfeit...