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© Kyryrlo Shevtsov |

Phony investment apps that are waiting to steal your hard-earned money

Who couldn’t use a little extra money in their pockets nowadays? The pandemic has caused financial problems across the globe, and people are hurting.

Have you thought about selling some of your old stuff? Now is the perfect time to declutter your life and create a comfort zone of cash. You probably have bits of electronics lying around, such as printers, smartphones, monitors, tablets and more. Tap or click here for tips on selling your old tech.

Smart investments can help secure your future, and the economic impact of COVID-19 has more people looking for ways to put some money back in their pockets. Though it’s a good idea to put your money to work, you must take precautions against scammers. Thieves have created fake investment apps to rip you off.

If it’s too good to be true…

Crooks have been promising easy money since before the internet existed. The digital age has increased their reach, as they can target countless people with each plot. Tap or click here to read about a recent scam that threatens victims with utility cutoffs.

Scammers are all too aware of the investment boom and are coming on strong. Following a tip, researchers at security firm Sophos discovered hundreds of malicious iOS and Android apps stealing money. These apps spoof popular cryptocurrency trading, stock trading and banking apps, complete with logos.

Among the fake apps found were those imitating Barclays, Gemini, Bitwala, Kraken, Binance, BitcoinHK, Bittrex, BitFlyer and TDBank. They even have fake websites that help complete the illusion.

Gone phishing

Sophos was tipped off by someone who fell victim to one of these scams. They were friended through a dating site and the conversation moved to text. After establishing some trust, the scammer sent a link for a cryptocurrency trading app. The app imitated a Hong Kong trading and investment company called Goldenway Group.

The scammer showed the victim how to buy crypto and transfer it to their wallet. When the buyer wanted to withdraw the currency, the scammer made excuses then blocked them. The victim lost everything they purchased.

While this newly discovered series of scams seems to be affecting mostly people in Asia, it could soon spread to other parts of the world.

The recent rise of meme-based stock market fluctuation has also grown to include cryptocurrency. More people than ever see the highs and lows of investment via social media and viral memes. Tap or click here for a refresher on this phenomenon and other latest tech news.

Not even official channels are safe

Official app stores screen applications regularly and remove ones they deem malicious and fraudulent. Scammers found ways around this by abusing a process intended to help small app developers test their wares before submitting them to the app store. These services are run by third-party companies who disavow themselves of responsibility.

Scammers can link victims to a website that looks like an official app store, complete with buttons for download.

Victims using Android devices are asked to install an app, create an account and trade. The apps mimicked features such as trading updates, wallets and price tracking. Any transactions made by the victims were sent directly to the scammers.

What you can do

Though scammers have found ways to infiltrate legitimate app stores, they are still your best sources for downloads. Even apps that make it to the store can have malicious intent, however. Tap or click here to learn about fleeceware apps and how to avoid them.

When downloading an app, check what permissions they ask for. Why would an investment app want to access your microphone? Keep an eye out for red flags such as this.

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