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Google sues crypto scammers for tricking users via fake apps



Google has initiated a lawsuit against a group of individuals accused of orchestrating a vast cryptocurrency scam that impacted over 100,000 users globally.

The lawsuit, filed today, targets the alleged fraudulent distribution of investment and crypto exchange applications through the Google Play Store.

Google says it’s the first tech company to take action against crypto scammers, aiming to establish legal precedents to safeguard its users. The suit accuses the defendants of deceiving Google with false representations about their identity, location, and the nature of the applications uploaded to Google Play.

Google is leveraging the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law and breach of contract claims against the scammers. The accused reportedly published at least 87 counterfeit apps, misleading users about the legitimacy of their investments.

“This is a unique opportunity for us to use our resources to actually combat bad actors,” said Halimah DeLaine Prado, Google’s general counsel, in a discussion with CNBC Crypto World.

In 2023, the U.S. witnessed crypto fraud losses totaling over $1 billion. Google’s lawsuit seeks to protect users but also aims to deter future fraudulent activities. The defendants, identified as Yunfeng Sun and Hongnam Cheung, allegedly engaged victims through various methods, including text messages via Google Voice, promotional videos on YouTube, and affiliate marketing, since at least 2019.

Applications such as TionRT, a purported crypto exchange, were designed to appear authentic, even allowing initial minor withdrawals to earn users’ trust. However, victims were eventually unable to access their funds, often misled by additional payment requests or minimum balance withdrawal requirements.

The lawsuit highlights that when these fraudulent activities were identified, Google took steps to remove the apps, though the scammers persistently created new ones to circumvent detection.

Google asserts that it has incurred damages exceeding $75,000 due to investigation and safety measures taken against these breaches. The tech giant seeks a permanent injunction to prevent the accused and their associates from accessing Google services and creating accounts.



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