Scareware has gone mobile: Users of Android devices are starting to see sleazy ads warning that they need to upgrade their device’s battery. The supposed battery-saver apps that those ads prod you to download, however, could endanger your privacy or siphon money from your wallet–and generally they’ll do nothing to improve your gadget’s battery life, security experts say.

battery-ad-5227090In some cases you don’t even need to agree to download the apps. For example, PCWorld spotted one ad on an Android phone for a battery utility called Battery Upgrade. Tapping the ad–even by accident–launches the phone’s Web browser, which automatically initiates the download of the app’s installer file on the Android device.

“These ads cross a line,” says Andrew Brandt, director of threat research for Solera Networks. It’s one thing to market a worthless battery app, he says, but another to scare or trick people into installing a program they don’t need.

The ads are similar to scareware marketing tactics that have appeared on PCs: Such ads pop up on desktops or laptops, warning that your computer is infected and advising you to download a program to fix the problem. In many cases those rogue system utilities and antivirus products are merely disguises for software that spies on users.

Why use battery ads as a ploy? They tap into a common anxiety, Brandt says. Phone users aren’t yet concerned about viruses on their phones, but they are worried about their battery being sucked dry.

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