Are there crypto scam apps in the App Store?

Apple is coming under scrutiny for how its App Store review process handles submissions of cryptocurrency trading and wallet apps. In a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook today, the chair of the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs questioned what “measures your company is taking to prevent fraudulent activity in your app store.”

App Store cryptocurrency scams

As first spotted by The Verge, the letter from Senator Sherrod Brown comes as the FBI and other agencies have issued warnings around the proliferation of crypto scams. Apple plays a role in these scams, Brown said, by offering a number of mobile apps for trading cryptocurrencies.

In recent years, crypto trading platforms and exchanges have experienced a surge in popularity with millions of investors downloading mobile apps to trade and invest in digital assets. Millions of Americans use mobile apps to invest in unregulated digital assets, including cryptocurrencies. Crypto mobile apps are available to the public through app stores, including Apple’s App Store. While crypto apps have offered investors easy and convenient ways to trade cryptocurrency, reports have emerged of fake crypto apps that have scammed hundreds of investors.

As such, Brown is asking Cook to explain in depth to explain what measures Apple takes when reviewing App Store submissions for crypto apps. The democratic senator explained that it is “imperative that app stores have the proper safeguards in place to prevent against fraudulent mobile application activity.”

Brown specifically wants answers to the following questions and sent a similar set of questions to Google CEO Sundar Pichai:

  • Describe the review process your company takes before approving crypto apps to operate in your app store. In your response, please provide the following information:
    • The factors or criteria used by your company to determine whether to grant approval to an app, including the steps your company takes to confirm the app seeking approval is a trusted and secure app.
  • Describe the steps your app store takes to prevent cryptocurrency apps operating in your app store from circumventing app store policies by transforming into phishing apps. In your response, please describe in detail the frequency to which your app store monitors apps to safeguard against fraudulent activity as well as the steps it takes to remove apps determined to be fraudulent.
  • Describe all the systems and processes your company has in place for people to report fraudulent apps.
  • Describe all actions your app store has taken to alert people about actual or potential fraudulent activity associated with cryptocurrency investment apps.
  • Since January 2020, has your app store coordinated or shared any actions or activities with other app stores related to the suspension or removal of fraudulent cryptocurrency apps? If so, please explain.

Brown is requesting that Apple and Google respond to these questions by August 10, 2022.

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