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China finds and kills 42,000 counterfeit apps – many of them investment scams

Constant crackdowns on bad online behavior don't seem to deter crims

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) announced a crackdown on investment fraud platforms on Friday in conjunction with the country's Ministry of Public Security.

"Since the beginning of this year, the Anti-Fraud Center of the CAC has investigated and cracked down on 42,000 counterfeit apps," declared the internet regulator.

The CAC said those apps have been added to a database that currently includes around 3.8 million fraud-related websites and 514,000 apps, which have collectively seen it issue over two billion alerts.

Many of the fraudsters operate by spoofing platforms like Chinese tech giant's fintech arm JD Finance, launch a large number of apps with similar logos and products, then entice victims with small rebates before stealing their money. Some platforms even falsely claim to be state-owned to gain trust and attract users.

The CAC documented seven case studies in which victims lost between $1500 and $60,000. One victim was tricked into paying non-existent account verification fees, another was unable to withdraw money as he watched his "investment" tank before the fake app eventually became inaccessible.

The regulator pointed out that such apps pose risks to users' data, as well as their bank accounts.

The CAC advises users to download apps through official channels and verify identities before transferring any money. The org also warns app stores should strengthen security audits to prevent fake apps from operating.

Despite Beijing's many crackdowns on the local internet, and general intolerance of crime and corruption, fraud is prevalent in the Middle Kingdom.

In May, China's Ministry of Public Security revealed the top five most prevalent types of fraud carried out online or via phone.

The most common was an e-commerce scam known as "brushing," where victims are lured into paying for goods that may never actually show up or are delivered after a buyer is asked to perform several tasks like downloading dodgy apps or establishing profiles. Brushing accounted for a third of all internet fraud activity.

Next on the list was false investment and money managers, followed by malicious loan schemes.

The CAC has been on a mission to make the internet more wholesome, and in January shared a list of behaviors it wanted removed from China's web during its Spring Festival – a time in Chinese culture used for "Spring cleaning." Those behaviors included violent content, toxic online fandom, and excessive gaming.

But the regulator's efforts have gone deeper than surface level. Recent laws protect personal data, spell out requirements for critical information infrastructure operators to hold annual security reviews, and more. ®

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