NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Two North Texas cities are warning people about a new app making the rounds.
It started in Southlake, when a postcard began appearing in mailboxes.
It advertised the Simplicity app and contained a QR code and the city’s logo.
Southlake’s Department of Public Safety tweeted a warning saying the city “HAS NOT approved this postcard & hast not partnered with any organization to produce the app or the postcard.”
Days later, the City of Fort Worth posted a similar warning.
City spokesperson Michelle Gutt says officials are concerned that residents may confuse the app with the city’s official MyFW app.
“[Simplicity is] actually pulling our news stories, so it’s another thing that makes it look legitimate,” said Gutt. “Someone could very easily think that this is partnering with the City of Fort Worth.”
There are dozens of North Texas cities listed within Simplicity.
The company’s website markets itself as a “solution for municipalities,” helping improve communication between citizens and cities.
The site features several glowing reviews from city mayors, but all are located in Slovakia, a small European country near Ukraine and Poland.
John Breyault works for fraud.org, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.
“I don’t think somebody that has downloaded this app to their phone is going to be immediately a victim of identity fraud,” said Breyault. “But it does add to the risk.”
He says Simplicity’s terms and conditions require users to give up a lot of privacy.
“They’re asking for things like access to your calendar, to your contacts, to your location history, to your microphone.”
He told CBS 11 it’s unclear why Simplicity would need all that data to deliver routine city updates.
“I think that consumers should be very wary any time an app asks them for permission to access data that doesn’t really seem like it’s related to the purpose of the app,” added Breyault.
Also unclear: why Simplicity is targeting North Texas in search of new users.
The company hasn’t responded to emails from CBS 11 or the City of Fort Worth.
“Nobody has had any conversations with this company that we’ve been able to figure out,” said Gutt. “So.. it’s very strange.”
Breyault says this is a good reminder for everyone to evaluate the information they’re sharing with apps.
You can check the apps on your phone to see what permissions they require and delete those that seem unnecessary.
You can also check your settings to see who is using your location services.
If you are a victim of fraud you can file a complaint through fraud.org which will help route your case to the appropriate authority.