A Trend Micro report claims that over 120 fake crypto-focused apps are still operational in the Play Store, some exceeding over 100,000 downloads.
Google has delisted eight allegedly fraudulent mobile apps from its Play Store that were duping crypto enthusiasts by charging fees for an illegitimate cloud mining service.
Fraudulent mobile applications have now become a popular method to mislead unwary users with high success rates. Trend Micro’s latest research discovered eight Android applications that were exploiting crypto users by charging a monthly fee under the false pretext of running a legitimate cloud mining service.
Further analysis into the matter uncovered that the malicious apps hosted by Google — posing as crypto mining applications — were deceiving users into watching paid ads and paying for a cloud mining service that does not exist.
According to the report, users were not only being charged a monthly fee of approximately $15 but were also subject to more payments for enabling “increased mining capabilities.” In addition, some of the apps required an upfront payment from the user.
The reportedly fraudulent crypto apps included mining services, such as BitFunds, Bitcoin Miner, Daily Bitcoin Rewards, Crypto Holic, MineBit Pro, Bitcoin 2021, and Ethereum — Pool Mining Cloud. The list also includes a crypto wallet service named Bitcoin — Pool Mining Cloud Wallet.
While the above findings were reported to Google Play and have been reportedly removed from the Play Store, Trend Micro claims to have spotted numerous other fraudulent apps that have been downloaded over 100,000 times. The company’s data suggests that over 120 fake apps still exist in the Play Store:
“These apps, which do not have cryptocurrency mining capabilities and deceive users into watching in-app ads, have affected more than 4,500 users globally from July 2020 to July 2021.”
On Aug. 3, Google revised its ad policy, which allows crypto exchanges and wallet services to market their products to Google users. As a part of this drive, advertisers need to be registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network as a “money services business and with at least one state as a money transmitter, or a federal or state-chartered bank entity.”
However, the established policy prevents initial coin offerings, businesses and celebrities from shilling cryptocurrencies. On the other end of the spectrum, social media giant TikTok has resorted to completely banning crypto ads on its platform, a move similar to Google’s previous policy back in 2018.