NORTH OF TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Two cities in North Texas are warning people about new app that is doing the rounds.
It all started in Southlake, when a postcard started popping up in mailboxes.
It was promoting the Simplicity app and contained a QR code and the city logo.
The Southlake Department of Public Safety tweeted a warning saying the city “has NOT approved this postcard and has not partnered with any organization to produce the app or the postcard.”
A few days later, the city of Fort Worth issued a similar warning.
City spokeswoman Michelle Gutt said officials are concerned residents are confusing the app with the city’s official MyFW app.
“[Simplicity is] actually pulling our news, so that’s another thing that makes it look legitimate, ”Gutt said. “Someone could very easily think of this as a partnership with the City of Fort Worth.”
Dozens of cities in North Texas are listed in Simplicity.
The company’s website promotes itself as a “solution for municipalities”, helping to improve communication between citizens and cities.
The site features several glowing reviews of city mayors, but all of them are located in Slovakia, a small European country close to Ukraine and Poland.
John Breyault works for fraud.org, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.
“I don’t think anyone who has downloaded this app to their phone will immediately fall victim to identity fraud,” Breyault said. “But that adds to the risk.”
He says Simplicity’s terms and conditions require users to give up much of their privacy.
“They ask for things like access to your calendar, your contacts, your location history, your microphone.”
He told CBS 11 it was not clear why Simplicity would need all of this data to provide routine city updates.
“I think consumers should be very careful any time an app asks for permission to access data that doesn’t seem really related to the app’s purpose,” Breyault added.
Also not clear: why Simplicity is targeting North Texas for new users.
The company did not respond to emails from CBS 11 or the City of Fort Worth.
“No one has had any conversations with this company that we could understand,” Gutt said. “So … this is very strange.”
Breyault says it’s a good reminder for everyone to assess the information they share with apps.
You can check the apps on your phone to see which permissions they require and remove the ones that seem unnecessary.
You can also check your settings to see who is using your location services.
If you are the victim of fraud, you can file a complaint on fraud.org, which will help you refer your case to the appropriate authority.