Google sues individuals in China and Hong Kong for deploying 87 fake apps, scamming more than 100,000 users. The lawsuit constitutes a first in the technology sector, as it concerns damages worth more than $75,000 and violations of digital trust. Scammers used romance scams, manipulating users into stealing them through fake crypto apps and YouTube narrations.

Google, one of the world’s biggest tech giants, has filed a lawsuit against a group of cryptocurrency scammers for allegedly defrauding more than 100,000 people in its app store.

The lawsuit, filed in the United States Southern District Court in New York, claimed that the defendants uploaded fake cryptocurrency trading apps and other investment opportunities on the Google Play Store to attract investors into the scheme.

Google Fights Crypto Scammers in Lawsuit

The move makes Google the first technology company to take legal action against online scammers, aiming to set a precedent to protect users. The alleged scammers were identified simply as Yunfeng Sun, who also goes by the alias Alphonse Sun, and Hongnam Cheung, also known as Zhang Hongnim or Stanford Fischer. Both are based in China and Hong Kong, respectively.

Google claimed in the lawsuit that Sun and Fischer provided false information, including misrepresentations about their identity, location, and the nature of the apps, to obtain permission to publish the apps on its Play Store.

Sun and Fischer started the operation in 2019 and successfully created and published at least 87 fraudulent apps to trick users on the app store. They allegedly lured victims to download the app through text message campaigns, online promotional videos, and affiliate marketing campaigns.

According to Google, “the text messages purported to come from the wrong numbers, but then the sender engaged in conversations with the victims, developing ‘friendship’ and ‘romantic ties,'” the complaint says.

Victims Ask Google for Help

One of the scam apps, designed to look legitimate, was revealed to be TionRT. The app served as a crypto exchange, showing users that they earned returns on their investments. However, users were unable to withdraw their investments or profits.

Google said the app would allow users to withdraw small amounts initially, or would require fees or minimum balances for withdrawals, ultimately tricking victims into getting more money. Google was alerted to the fake apps by victims who contacted the company after failed attempts to withdraw their funds. The company claimed in the lawsuit that users lost hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars each in the scheme.

The lawsuit was filed against the scammers under the U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and was based on violations of contractual claims against the scammers. The company is seeking a permanent injunction against the defendants and their employees and general damages to prevent them from creating Google accounts and accessing Google services in the future.

The Growth of “Romantic” Cryptocurrency Scams

Recent statistics from Chainalysis reveal a worrying upward trend in romance scams, which have increased eighty-five-fold since 2020. This increase highlights a worrying trend in the cryptocurrency ecosystem, where personal and financial vulnerabilities are being exploited.

Incidents like KK Park in Myanmar exemplify the serious consequences of these scams, where cryptocurrency transactions have facilitated extortion and financial devastation.

Personal stories, like that of an Indian software engineer who lost more than $120,500 to a matrimonial site scam, illustrate the harsh reality of digital fraud. These stories are not mere anecdotes, but reflect a broader pattern of digital vulnerability and exploitation.

By Audy Castaneda


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