By Joseph Chalfant

Researchers have found that over 170 Android apps engage in cryptocurrency scams.

Lookout Threat Lab discovered that 93,000 people fell victim to fraudulent apps. The security company claimed that victims lost up to $350,000 through fake apps and in-app purchases. 25 of the apps managed to get listed on the Google Play store.

Lookout Threat Lab believes that the scams managed to go unnoticed because the apps didn’t engage in traditional malicious behavior.

“Most malware executes code that performs some clearly malicious activity, such as exfiltrating private information to a command-and-control server, displaying advertisements outside of the app’s context or sending premium text messages,” the company said in a statement.

The apps defrauded users by selling products and services that did not exist. Consumers interested in joining the crypto market would purchase apps that claim to use “cloud mining.” Lookout Threat has labeled these schemes “BitScam” and “CloudScam.”

Scammers took advantage of the emerging market to create rudimentary apps that offered low mining results. The developers would then sell users “virtual hardware” that would allow them to mine at faster rates, ranging from $12.99 to $259.99.

Users were told that they were not allowed to withdraw their coins until they reached a minimum amount. Once that amount was reached, the app would notify miners that their transaction was pending and empty their account without transferring any real funds. Some apps reset user accounts to prevent them from reaching the minimum.

With inflation on the rise and a rocky global economy, cryptocurrencies have exploded in popularity. This has been most apparent in Dogecoin, which rocketed to an all-time high price earlier this year. Lookout Threat is warning consumers to take precautions when entering the crypto market.

“The scammers running this scheme were able to tap into the existing frenzy created by the hot cryptocurrency market. But no matter how high cryptocurrency valuations climb, there is no substitute for appropriate due diligence before purchasing a cryptocurrency mining app,” the company said in their statement.

Lookout Threat offered consumers five tips for protecting themselves when getting into crypto mining:

  1. Conduct background research on the app’s developers.
  2. Only install from an official app store.
  3. Read the terms and conditions thoroughly.
  4. Read user reviews before purchasing.
  5. Understand the permissions that the app requests and avoid buggy and nonsensical products.