Google Sues Alleged Crypto Scammers for Fraudulent Apps on Play Store

April 4, 2024
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Google has initiated legal action against two individuals accused of featuring a series of fraudulent cryptocurrency trading apps and investment platforms on its Play Store.

The lawsuit was filed in a New York federal court Thursday.

The tech giant alleges that these apps, purportedly designed for trading cryptocurrencies, were, in fact, instruments of a scam that exploited unsuspecting users, a scheme reminiscent of the notorious “pig butchering” romance scam.

The accused perpetrators, identified as two app developers based in China and Hong Kong, allegedly uploaded 87 fraudulent apps, collectively ensnaring over 100,000 users who fell victim to their deceptive practices.

Google claims that users suffered losses ranging from $100 to tens of thousands of dollars per individual, based on numerous complaints received. These illicit activities have purportedly persisted since at least 2019.

Google asserts that it is the first among its contemporaries to take decisive legal action against such scams. Upon identifying the fraudulent apps, Google promptly removed them from the Play Store.

Halimah DeLaine Prado, Google’s general counsel, emphasized the significance of this litigation in holding wrongdoers accountable and sending a resolute message against the exploitation of users.

The complaint filed by Google explains the modus operandi of the alleged scam. The developers purportedly created counterfeit cryptocurrency exchange and investment apps, deceitfully presenting them as legitimate offerings on the Play Store.

The scammers enticed users to engage with the platforms through a combination of romance scam messages and YouTube videos. Upon downloading the apps and investing money, users found themselves unable to withdraw the funds, despite simulated displays of balances and returns on investments.

Additionally, the developers allegedly encouraged victims to promote the fraudulent apps as affiliates, promising commission earnings. Google contends that the accused violated its terms of service and infringed upon the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

Google is seeking legal remedies to restrain the defendants from further fraudulent activities and requests unspecified damages. The company also highlights the economic cost it incurred in investigating and mitigating the fraud, estimated at over $75,000.

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