Google has sued two developers for allegedly using its Android-based Play Store to flog dodgy apps to con would-be cryptocurrency investors—and claimed that members of the scheme posed as potential "romantic partners" to encourage users to buy their way into such scams.

In a lawsuit filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Google alleged that Yunfeng Sun and Hongnam Cheung—both from China—got over 100,000 people in total to download 87 such malicious apps since 2019.

The "seemingly legitimate apps" promised high returns to those wanting to invest in cryptocurrency, the lawsuit reads, including a coin called "SkypeCoin."

But the gains promised were a scam, Google claims—and when users tried to cash out their balances, the developers would "double down on the scheme" and demand more fees, the lawsuit alleged.


"Since at least in or about 2019 through the present, defendants have conducted their version of the fraud scheme by socially engineering and conning victims into 'investing' in apps, available on Google Play and through other means, that purported to be cryptocurrency exchanges and other investment platforms," the lawsuit said.

It added that the defendants allegedly promoted their apps via YouTube videos and tried to build "romantic relationships" with investors via Google's telephone service, Google Voice. "The 'friend' or 'romantic partner' would frequently guide the victim through the process, offering reassuring explanations of the financial and technical aspects of investing," the suit claims.

Google further alleged that "financial losses appear to range from one hundred to tens of thousands of dollars per individual victim."

Google would not confirm to Decrypt details of the cryptocurrencies offered through the apps but Halimah DeLaine Prado, Google General Counsel, said in a prepared statement: "Keeping people safe online is core to our business and we will not tolerate the misuse of our platforms to facilitate cryptocurrency scams."


Edited by Andrew Hayward

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