25 October 2023

HSBC UK issues urgent fraud warning against dummy apps

The warning comes as the bank has seen a spike in the number of cases, with dozens of customers downloading a dummy app within the last couple of weeks. One of these fake apps is called ‘PDF AI’ which impersonates a genuine app with a similar name.

The dummy apps ask for personal information like usernames or credit card details which could then be used by criminals to try and steal your money. These apps may also block, redirect or impersonate legitimate apps including legitimate banking app or may be designed to trick users into thinking they are logging on to their banking app.

HSBC UK has placed the warning on the ‘Latest Scams’ page on its website in addition to a push notification on its Fraud and CyberAwareness App (available on iOS and Android). Downloading fake or fraudulent apps exposes devices to malware, adware, phishing, social engineering and fake promotions, ultimately opening consumers up to becoming victims of scams and losing significant amounts of money.

David Callington, HSBC UK’s Head of Fraud, said: “Scammers are devious criminals who use every trick in the book to get hold of your hard-earned money, without any regard for your financial or mental wellbeing. Cybercriminals develop apps which encourage the user to share personal information, which can then be harvested and used for criminal purposes, potentially leading to your bank account being cleaned out.

“Our own teams are alive to dummy apps and report them when we come across them, getting them taken down, but criminals make new ones or change the names or designs. It is a constant battle. Customers can help protect themselves by being vigilant and cautious, which are the best defences against this, ensuring you only download apps from trusted sources and do what you can to verify the authenticity of the app before exposing your device.”

Impersonation: Scammers create apps that mimic popular brands or services, making it hard to distinguish them from the real ones.

Phishing: Fake apps may request sensitive information such as login credentials, credit card details, or personal data, which can be exploited for fraudulent activities.

Malware: Some fake apps contain malicious software that can infect your device, leading to data breaches, identity theft, or financial losses.

Adware: Fraudulent apps may bombard you with invasive ads or even redirect you to phishing websites, potentially compromising your security.

Social Engineering: Scammers may manipulate users into taking actions like making in-app purchases, sharing referrals, or inviting friends, profiting from these actions.

Fake Promotions: Fraudulent apps often lure users with fake promotions, contests, or prizes to steal personal information or money.

How to spot fake apps:

  • you might be asked to download them from somewhere other than your phone’s official app store
  • spelling mistakes on logon pages
  • you might be asked to do something different to how you usually log on

Protect yourself by:

  • not clicking on unexpected or suspicious-looking links
  • updating to the latest version of your phone’s operating system
  • keeping apps up to date
  • only downloading apps from reputable sources like official app stores, and read reviews before installing. Avoid sharing personal or financial information within suspicious apps.
  • familiarising yourself with HSBC UK’s Fraud Guide and keep an eye on the latest scams.

Where to get help

  • Your phone company’s product support team can help you if you’re worried you might have installed malware through a fake app.
  • If you think you are the victim of fraud or think you’ve been scammed, call the number on the back of your HSBC UK card straight away.

Media enquiries:

Steve Gracey - steve.gracey@hsbc.com / 020 7991 4118
Email: UKPressOffice@hsbc.co.uk

Notes to editors:

Online application and terms and conditions, including eligibility and how the Fixed Rate Saver can be managed and serviced can be found here.

HSBC UK serves over 14.75 million customers across the UK, supported by 24,000 colleagues. HSBC UK offers a complete range of retail banking and wealth management to personal and private banking customers, as well as commercial banking for small to medium businesses and large corporates. HSBC UK is a ring fenced bank and wholly owned subsidiary of HSBC Holdings plc.

HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of HSBC, is headquartered in London. HSBC serves customers worldwide from offices in 62 countries and territories. With assets of US$3,041bn at 30 June 2023, HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations.