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How to spot a scam on the App Store

iOS versions of Halo 4, Far Cry, God of War, and Shinobi are all fakes

Product: App Store | Manufacturer: Apple
App Store iPhone, thumbnail 1
If an app on iTunes looks too good to be true, that's probably because it is.

Sorry, folks, but you can't really get Far Cry 3, Halo 4, God of War, or Shinobi on your iPhone. Nope, these are just the latest in a long line of counterfeit games to surface on the App Store.

Thankfully, there are a few ways to sniff out a scam, and separate truth from fiction. Keep these in mind while you browse those virtual shop selves, okay. Better to be safe than, well, broke.

If you've been suckered by a scam, though, all is not lost. Read our feature on how to request a refund from Apple for a step-by-step guide to getting your money back from the Cupertino-based tech giant.

Check the file size

One surefire way to sniff out a scam is to check the size of the app. Remember that your typical big flashy console-like iOS game requires anywhere from 500MB to 2GB of space on your iOS device.

Scam app

So, if a developer promises to put the whole of Halo 4 on your iPad and only take up 6.6MB of storage space - the equivalent of a few MP3 files - doing so, then you know that something is up.

Check the developer

Believe it or not, 'Hai Dinh Thi Thanh' is not a licensed developer of the God of War franchise. If you look at the developer's or publisher's name, you'll often spot something that sounds a bit off.

Sometimes, though, these cheeky fraudsters will use fake publisher details to throw you off the scent. This God of War fake is apparently published by Sony Computer Entertainment. Even though it definitely isn't.

A good tip, then: don't just assume that a game is legit even if it appears to have been published by the 'right' studio.

Check the customer reviews

If someone's bought a scam app and wasted his pocket money on a piece of crap, you can be darn sure he'll want to tell the world all about it in the game's customer reviews section.

Scam apps

Have a look and hunt for telltale signs like "this is a scam", "give me my money back", and "if I ever find the guy who made this game, I'm going to use his testicles as conkers".

You will probably see some positive (if poorly spelled) comments in there, too. The scammer will have roped in some of his morally dubious pals to leave nice comments and try to trick you, you see.

Check the developer's other games

The Far Cry series is made by Ubisoft, right?

So, why can't I find Ubisoft's mobile games - like Rayman Jungle Run - when I look at the Far Cry Black developer's other games?

Oh, that's right: because it's a great big ball of lies.

Check the screenshots

Those lovely too-good-to-be-true screenshots are likely the only reason you'd even consider buying a fraudulent app. Luckily, there's an easy way to check the validity of these screens.

Open the game's App Store page in your web browser, right-click on a screenshot, choose something like "Copy URL", and then head to Google Images. You'll find a blue camera icon on the search bar. Click this to search by image.

Scam apps

If you pop in the URL, Google will show you where that picture originated.

If you find it's just some promotional screenshot for the real game (or, perhaps, a completely different game), you know it's a bogus app.

Reviewer photo
Mark Brown 21 December 2012
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