Google cracks down on scammers behind counterfeit crypto apps

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Google has taken legal action against a group of individuals it accuses of defrauding over 100,000 people globally by distributing counterfeit crypto apps through its Google Play store, CNBC reported.

The lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York on April 4. The move represents Google’s effort to combat crypto scams and aims to set a legal precedent for user protection.

Civil claims lawsuit

The defendants, identified in the lawsuit as Yunfeng Sun, also known as Alphonse Sun, and Hongnam Cheung, alias Zhang Hongnim or Stanford Fischer, allegedly orchestrated a fraudulent operation by posting at least 87 fake investment and crypto exchange apps on Google Play.

Google’s complaint states that these individuals provided false information regarding their identities, locations, and the nature of their apps.

Google’s general counsel Halimah DeLaine Prado highlighted the significance of the lawsuit in addressing crypto fraud, which has resulted in substantial losses in the US. She emphasized the company’s commitment to leveraging its resources for protecting users and deterring fraudulent activities.

The legal action employs civil claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and breach of contract claims. The suit details the methods used by the accused to attract users to their apps, including text messaging campaigns, online videos, and affiliate marketing strategies.

Scam apps

Despite the apps’ appearance of legitimacy, including the display of investment balances and returns, users were reportedly unable to withdraw their funds. Some were even misled into paying additional fees to access their earnings.

The complaint also describes how the alleged scammers attempted to legitimize their apps, like TionRT, by facilitating small initial withdrawals and publishing news releases. However, when users sought to retrieve their larger investments, they received no response.

Google has responded to these deceptive practices by enhancing its cybersecurity measures, including forming partnerships with law enforcement and establishing a team dedicated to identifying fraud.

The company claims to have incurred damages over $75,000 due to investigative and safety enhancement costs. Through this lawsuit, Google seeks damages and a permanent injunction to bar the defendants and their affiliates from accessing Google services or creating accounts.

The lawsuit is part of Google’s broader strategy to protect its users and ensure the integrity of its platform amid increasing online scams and cybersecurity threats.

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