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We Went Hunting For Crypto Scams In App Stores. Here’s What We Found

As ever, fraudulent crypto wallets are finding their way onto app stores and scamming users out of funds. We Went Hunting For Crypto Scams In App Stores. Here’s What We Found

* Some apps are repackaged after being taken down and sneak past Apple and Google vetting processes.
* Before using any cryptocurrency wallet, it’s imperative to verify its authenticity and reputation.

On Feb. 24, an app called “Trezor” was quietly uploaded to the Apple App Store. It appeared to be a crypto app for the popular bitcoin (BTC, +2.81%) hardware wallet, and it linked to the legitimate trezor.io website and privacy policy.

The developers labelled it “Data Not Collected” with Apple’s “nutrition labels,” which are meant to let users of the app store easily identify what information apps will gather about them and make decisions accordingly.

There’s just one problem: Trezor doesn’t have an app.

This app was leveraging the Trezor brand to execute one goal – steal users’ Trezor passphrases and private keys via phishing, according to analysis conducted by Sean O’Brien, principal researcher at ExpressVPN Digital Security Lab.

The app was small and simple, consisting of three screens, but did nothing other than steal your Trezor passphrase or seed phrase.

CoinDesk learned of the existence of this scam app and sent it to O’Brien to investigate.

“The app will send any data the user enters into the ‘Key’ field to a server that is not Trezor.io when you click ‘Create My Vault’,” O’Brien reported to CoinDesk.

The fake crypto app has since been removed from the app store by Apple, but it was up for days. During that time it garnered multiple one-star reviews, with users explicitly calling it a scam. Still, it seemingly managed to avoid Apple’s app-checking process.

Over the years, a pattern has emerged: When there are booms in crypto, an increase in fraudulent apps isn’t far behind.

It’s not just an Apple problem. CoinDesk also identified multiple fake wallet apps that were stealing users’ data and keys in the Google Play store.

“There will absolutely be more scam apps (and fraud in general) during boom times,” said Richard Sanders, lead investigator and principal at CipherBlade, a blockchain investigation firm.

“The reason for this is that the boom times usher in a new wave of people that want to ride the hype train and make some money. The issue with that, as is the fundamental issue that results in the overwhelming majority of scams/hacks, is these people fail to do research on what they’re investing in.”

In following the traffic of the fake Trezor app, O’Brien saw the text entered into the “Key” field by the app user being sent to the domain https://www.data-bcvault.com – a scam website hosted by Wix.com that is pretending to be “BC Vault,” another hardware wallet product.

CoinDesk has alerted Trezor, Apple, Wix and the scam site’s cloud computing provider of our findings. Wix has since disabled the site.

App Store Crypto Scams Galore

Beyond the Trezor clone, other fraudulent cryptocurrency wallets have taken up space on popular app stores. The constant re-packaging of these crypto scam apps into different forms, imitating different companies, means they sometimes make it past the eyes of gatekeepers.

Some of these scams, embedded like financial landmines in the app stores, are better disguised than others.

Jayden (a pseudonym) told CoinDesk he lost ADA (-2.09%) to a fake Cardano wallet at the end of February. At the time, it had a 4.3 rating because “there were bots that were driving up the ratings, but I didn’t realize that at the time,” Jayden told CoinDesk.

Updated: 3-31-2021

iPhone User Blames Apple For $600K Bitcoin Theft Via Fake App

Apple removed the fake Trezor app several times, but it kept appearing on the App Store days later.

A scam cryptocurrency app on Apple’s app distribution service App Store has reportedly stolen $600,000 Bitcoin (BTC) from one iOS user.

Cryptocurrency holder Phillipe Christodoulou fell victim to a scam app on the App Store, losing nearly all his life savings to a fake crypto wallet application, The Washington Post reports Tuesday.

Christodoulou went on the App Store last month to search for a mobile Trezor app to check his Bitcoin balance via phone. Unaware that Trezor does not currently provide an iOS app, Christodoulou downloaded a doppelgänger Trezor application that boasted close to five stars, giving the impression that it was indeed an official app. After entering his seed phrase, Christodoulou said that his savings of 17.1 BTC were stolen.

Christodoulou said that Apple, which collects 15% to 30% commissions on sales, should be held responsible for this situation. “They betrayed the trust that I had in them. Apple doesn’t deserve to get away with this,” he stated.

According to the Washington Post, Christodoulou filed a report with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Following notification from Trezor, Apple removed the fake Trezor app several times, but it kept appearing on the App Store days later.

The crypto community is somewhat divided on whether Apple should be blamed for the accident. “This is a f*cking nightmare. Scammed by a fake Trezor app in the ‘curated and safe’ Apple App Store,” crypto investor Scott Melker said on Twitter.

Jameson Lopp, co-founder of crypto custody platform Casa said, “Stop entering seed phrases into software. Only enter seeds into dedicated Bitcoin hardware devices.”

Fake cryptocurrency wallet and trading apps have appeared on the App Store before. United Kingdom-based crypto intelligence company Coinfirm said that five people have reported having their crypto stolen by a fake Trezor app on iOS, with total losses estimated at $1.6 million.

Trezor spokesperson Kristyna Mazankova told Cointelegraph that the firm has been fighting against fraudulent apps for years now. “We have had an internal process on reporting phishing sites and apps since mid-2019,” she said, stating that Trezor has already reported three doppelgänger Trezor apps to Apple in 2021.

“It takes days before the apps are removed and we never get any response from either Apple or Google, so it is difficult for us to know, for how long exactly are these apps on and how many people get tricked,” Mazankova stated. Trezor is planning to introduce a mobile app for iOS in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Apple did not immediately respond to Cointelegraph’s request for comment.

 

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