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Google Sues Crypto Scammers Over Fake Play Store Apps

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Google has sued crypto scammers who tricked over 100,000 people worldwide through fake investment and crypto exchange apps on the Play Store. 

This marks Google as the first tech entity to confront crypto scammers legally, aiming to forge legal safeguards for its user base.

Google claims the lawsuit targets the people who provided false information about their identities, locations, and the nature of the apps they submitted to Google Play. 

The company accuses the scammers of operating under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act as well as breach of contract, identifying at least 87 sham apps intended to deceive users.

Google’s general counsel, Halimah DeLaine Prado, said: “This is a unique opportunity for us to use our resources to actually combat bad actors who were running an extensive crypto scheme to defraud some of our users.

“In 2023 alone we saw over a billion dollars within the U.S. of cryptocurrency fraud and scams and this [lawsuit] allows us to not only use our resources to protect users, but to also serve as sort of a precedent to future bad actors that we don’t tolerate this behavior.”

The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, has named Yunfeng Sun and Hongnam Cheung as the alleged masterminds behind this scam that has been running since at least 2019.

The accused used various strategies to entice victims, including text message campaigns via Google Voice, promotional videos on YouTube, and affiliate marketing tactics. 

Their apps feigned legitimacy, promising returns on investments however the users could not withdraw their investments or any profits. 

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To create an illusion of credibility, the scammers occasionally allowed small withdrawals, while other victims were tricked into paying additional fees under false pretenses, so further exploiting them.

A specific app mentioned in the lawsuit, TionRT, purported to be a crypto exchange app and was promoted through social media and text messages.

However, users were unable to access their funds later. 

Victims' complaints led Google to uncover the fraudulent operations.

The complaint said the same scammers created new fraudulent apps to replace previous apps by providing false information and obscuring their identities.

Google seeks over $75,000 in damages and a permanent injunction to prevent these scammers and their affiliates from accessing or creating Google services and accounts.

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