China’s internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), has moved to shut down thousands of malicious apps found to be impersonating major brands and government agencies and defrauding users.
“Since the beginning of this year, the Anti-Fraud Center of the CAC has investigated and cracked down on 42,000 counterfeit apps,” the organization said in its announcement.
That brings the total number of apps banned to 514,000, while the number of blocked websites now exceeds 3.8 million, The Register reports.
In the majority of instances, the crooks impersonated major brands, such as JD. Sometimes, the apps would entice victims into buying products at a cheaper price than available elsewhere, and sometimes they would advertise amazing investment opportunities. In other cases, they would simply infect victims with malware (opens in new tab).
Every time, though, it would end the same way: with the victims losing their money. The CAC says individuals have lost anywhere between $1,500 and $60,000 as a result of these schemes.
Users are advised to only download apps to their endpoints (opens in new tab) from official sources, and to verify any and all identities before sending out their money, or trying to purchase anything.
As per The Register’s report, the Chinese government has zero-tolerance for crime and corruption, but this hasn’t stopped crooks from engaging in illegal activities. Of all the different types of fraud, those conducted via phone and email are the most prevalent.
In 2019, for example, it was discovered that the popular Chinese Android app VidMate was secretly hijacking people’s smartphones to use additional data, incur unwanted charges, and collect personal information. The app has had more than 500 million downloads.
The software hidden within the app delivered invisible ads, generated fake clicks and purchases, installed suspicious apps without consent and collected user data. Furthermore, it depleted users’ data allowance, bringing additional, unwanted charges.