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Is Your Mobile Crypto Wallet Legit? How to Spot Fake Wallet Apps

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empty wallet
Image Credit: iphemant/DepositPhotos

After the recent news about fake crypto wallet apps lurking on the Google Play Store, we thought it was wise to take a look at how to spot fake crypto wallets online, then run through the various official options that are available.

Fake Crypto Wallets? What Happened?

According to a report from the prominent online security company ESET, the renewed interest in Bitcoin in early 2019 has led to several fake crypto wallet apps appearing on the Google Play app store.

As a slew of positive headlines saw Bitcoin breach $8,000 for the first time in almost a year, ESET found that the malicious apps became more prevalent.

The most concerning example was that of an app called “Trezor Mobile Wallet.”

Trezor Mobile Wallet was the second listing on the store when searching for Trezor and had all the correct categories and metadata. The publisher was Trezor Inc.

Although the funds in official Trezor wallets were safe, even if the user downloaded the app, a novice could easily fall into the trap of adding funds to the fake wallet.

ESET discovered that the fake app was connected to a bogus crypto exchange—Coin Wallet. The Coin Wallet exchange is capable of scamming people out of their tokens.

Worryingly, the app doesn’t even appear to be particularly advanced. On closer inspection, ESET found that the app had been created using templates that are available online.

It is estimated that at least 1,000 people downloaded and used the fake app.

Google clearly has some serious questions to answer; how was a fake financial app allowed onto the store so easily? But that’s a discussion for another day.

Here are some tell-tale signs to help you spot a fake crypto app in the future:

How to Spot a Fake Crypto App

Given the nature of blockchain technology, it’s essential to be 100 percent certain that the app your using is safe and legitimate.

If you’re not sure whether the app you’re about to download is the official version, there are a few things you can do to ensure you’re not caught out.

1. Check the Reviews

Fake apps are never going to be as popular as their official counterparts.

Before you commit to downloading, check to see what people are saying about the app. There will always be some negative reviews, but if the average is hovering around one or two stars, give it a wide berth.

2. Check the Description

Have a read of the description. Does it sound like a professional company has written it? Is it well-formatted, free of spelling errors, and open about its features?

Again, fake apps tend to light on information.

3. Check the Developer

The name of the app developer is displayed at the top of an app’s store listing.

Something odd will immediately set off alarm bells, but—as we saw in the case of the fake Trezor apps—sometimes the hackers are sneakier.

Instead, run the developer’s name through Google. Does it lead to official webpages and verified social media accounts, or is it hard to find any information?

4. Check the Downloads

Official apps have been downloaded thousands—and in some cases, millions—of times. Fake apps will have considerably lower download numbers.

So, check the other search results in the store to see if an alternative option has more downloads than the app you’re looking at.

And remember, in addition to wallet apps, all the advice above applies to crypto news apps, exchange trackers, and even our very own CoinWave app (available on Android and iOS).

Which Official Crypto Apps Are Available?

To finish, let’s run through some of the official crypto apps on Android and iOS. We’ll leave links too; hopefully, it’ll help you not to get caught out.

Trezor Manager

The official Trezor app lets you manage your Trezor wallet directly from your mobile, thus eliminating the need to use your desktop if you want to send, receive, or otherwise control your device.

There is no iOS version.

Download: Trezor Manager (Free)

Ledger Live

The Ledger Live app arrived on Android later than on iOS, but now the same features are available on both platforms.

You can use the app to configure your device, import your accounts, check the authenticity of your device, and install new wallets for different coins.

Download: Ledger Live for Android | iOS (Free)

Coinomi Wallet

Coinomi Wallet is probably the most popular crypto wallet app on Android. It’s been installed more than 500,000 times compared to Trezor Manager’s 10,000.

The wallet supports all the major cryptos, hundreds of altcoins and ERC 20 tokens, and many of the new breed of stablecoins.

Download: Coinomi Wallet for Android | iOS (Free)

Coinbase

Coinbase—one of the most popular crypto on-ramps for people in the U.S.—, also has an official smartphone app.

It doesn’t offer the same number of tokens as the large exchanges, but if you’re only interested in holding the most significant coins, it’s perfect.

Download: Coinbase for Android | iOS (Free)

Mycelium Bitcoin Wallet

Mycelium Bitcoin Wallet is another of the popular crypto wallets. The wallet is open source, so you can be confident there’s nothing suspicious is the code or the community would have found it.

You can only use Mycelium to store Bitcoin; other coins are not supported.

Download: Mycelium Bitcoin Wallet for Android | iOS (Free)

Learn More About the Best Crypto Wallets

If you would like to learn more about crypto wallets, make sure you check out some of our other articles.

We’ve also written about the pros and cons of paper wallets and hardware wallets, and things to know about a Trezor wallet before you buy.

Dan Price
Dan has a background in both finance and technology. Previously, he worked for more than five years as a private financial consultant, advising clients on single investments, fund portfolios, long-term savings, and more. Dan holds professional qualifications from the UK's Chartered Insurance Institute, including a Certificate in Discretionary Investment Management and a Diploma in Financial Planning. Dan also writes for Blocks Decoded's sister publication, MakeUseOf. He started at the company in 2014 and has gone on to hold several key positions in the organization. In mid-2017, Dan finally started to invest in crypto. He is a firm advocate of index tracking funds and automated portfolio balancing. He's currently using the Crypto20 token and Hodlbot for exposure to the top 50 coins.
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