Mobile games: how to spot misleading ads before downloading the app

by: Better Business Bureau

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Misleading advertisements for gaming apps have become commonplace in recent years. They may feature videos that have little (or nothing) to do with actual gameplay. Or make misleading claims like “If you score 400, you can go to Disneyland”. Some game makers run these ads because that’s what drives clicks and downloads. But this practice has left many players frustrated, who only realize they have been misled after downloading the app, creating an account and starting to play.

This new mobile game might look fun, but do your homework before downloading it. Until we have rules against such misleading advertisements, it is up to consumers themselves to assess whether they should trust an advertisement and download the promoted game. Here’s how you can spot fake game ads and avoid downloading these apps.

  • Check reviews. If a game has a high number of bad reviews or players report that the app has nothing to do with the ads promoting it, think twice before downloading it. Reviews can be fake, so check out these tips and read them carefully.
  • Do some research online. In addition to reading reviews on the App Store, search for the game and the game’s developer online. You’ll likely find complaints if a developer has a reputation for making 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 advertisements.
  • Watch out for grammar mistakes. You are unlikely to find grammatical or spelling errors in an advertisement for a legitimate game. If the ad text contains errors, it is probably an application created for dishonest purposes.
  • Beware of advertisements that tease deals that are too good to be true. If an app makes a promise that seems outrageous, use your best judgment. You probably aren’t going to receive Disneyland tickets just for hitting level 15. Promises like these are little more than bait for unsuspecting players.
  • Check app permissions. This step is critical. Fake apps, especially those designed to exploit your information, often ask for extra permissions 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 will be sharing with an app developer.
  • Beware of impostor apps. When downloading popular games, check the game logos and carefully review the game description page before downloading. Make sure the name of the game is spelled correctly, and if it’s a very popular app (like Candy Crush), check that it has millions or billions of downloads, not just a few thousand. Many scammers create apps that look like well-known and trusted apps in an attempt to trick consumers.
  • Only download apps from official app stores. Don’t click on links outside of an app store to download an app. It may be malware disguised as a link to the game. Instead, go to the official app stores and search for the app there.
  • Install an antivirus program on your mobile device. It’s always a good idea to install up-to-date anti-virus software on all your devices. It can alert you to dangerous websites and links and can even detect malware and remove it before any damage occurs.
  • Report fake apps. Report fake apps to Google Play Store or Apple Support. You can also report your experience with a bogus app at BBB.org/ScamTracker to help educate consumers about this issue.

Source: BBB.org

For more information

Check out BBB’s tips to protect yourself (and your family) from overspending on a mobile game and learn more about mobile app scams. Check out the BBB data privacy tip for more ways to protect yourself when using the internet. Review BBB Scam Tips to recognize common scam tactics before you fall victim to them.


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