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Scammers Bank on Cryptocurrency with Fake Apps

Scammers are taking advantage of the cryptocurrency craze with a bevy of fake apps designed to fool people out of money.

In the mobile app ecosystem, RiskIQ has detected and blacklisted dozens of fake cryptocurrency apps that exploit the names of well-known exchanges and mixers, as well as hundreds of sites that falsely promise to make users money in other ways.

“With cryptocurrency mania in full swing, investors must now navigate an entirely new, rapidly expanding threat landscape,” said Jordan Herman, RiskIQ researcher, in a blog. “Coins, alt-coins, tokens, exchanges and other cryptocurrency apps – both legitimate and malicious – pop up in the marketplace every day, many of which leverage the massive popularity and 'get-rich-quick' promise of cryptocurrency to attract new users. Some of these apps are stood up to target users, while many become the target of hackers themselves.”

For instance, the site cryptcoins.biz resembles a common advance fee scheme. Users can purchase phony coins marketed as various cryptocurrencies with real money (rubles) via PAYEER, with the goal of being able to exchange them for a return on investment later. They can also earn them through bonuses rewarded for taking actions such as clicking on ads, visiting web pages, and recruiting new users. However, the exchange rates for these coins to rubles are intentionally confusing and absurdly steep.

This is only one of a network of sites that seem to be operated by a single individual or group, all sharing the cryptocurrency theme.

“A single IP address…hosts several domains using cryptocurrency themes and falsely promising their users profits,” explained Herman. “Pivoting in RiskIQ PassiveTotal, we see a handful of domains resolving to this address, ranging from sites masquerading as digital currency exchanges, sites offering ways of earning free cryptocurrency, and ‘economic simulators’ that promise users to renew in-game profits for real-world money.”

Users can, however, protect themselves by being vigilant about spotting typosquatting domains and fraudulent branding (domains or subdomains that appear to belong to major brands) and by carefully evaluating exchange services before placing their money with them. If it seems like a get-rich-quick scheme, then it’s likely a scam.

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