March 08, 2023

Emergence and growth of app scams

App Scam Growth Header

We have noticed a considerable growth in fraudulent investment apps which attract unwary investors into parting with their savings in the false hope of securing high returns on their investment in a short space of time.


Fraudulent investment scams otherwise known as “pig butchering” scams have been in existence for a few years. Typically, they use fake websites, malicious advertising on social media and old-fashioned social engineering to groom potential victims.


However, the perpetrators are now targeting victims (usually with limited income) through fraudulent apps that misuse the Intellectual Property Rights (including trade marks and copyright works) of well-known brand owners. “Pig butchering” apps are extremely convincing and may even contain real-time commercial information and branding relating to the targeted brand owner. Once the victim has opened their “account” and made an initial deposit, they will start see their investment grow in line with the high returns the perpetrators promised. In order to reassure the victims further, they may even be allowed to withdraw some of their investment. 


The perpetrators then convince victims to invest substantially more money, potentially all the target’s savings. Once the increased sums are received, the fraudsters then shut down the app and/or bogus website and steal the invested funds. By adding fraudulent apps to official platforms such as Google Play and the Apple App Store, the perpetrators attempt to add further legitimacy to their activities.  This is yet another new twist on a traditional investment scam. 


In order to try and mitigate the harm caused, there are several simple steps to follow both for investors and for targeted brand owners. 

Tips for Investors

  1. Do not click on ”Investment App” download links you receive via email, website SMS message, WhatsApp  or Telegram.
  2. Do not download apps  directly through .APK files
  3. Do not blindly trust videos recently posted on Youtube, Instagram or other social media services.
  4. Do check for online reviews before installing any App on your Smartphone.
  5. Do check the creation date of the app, details of the developer including email and email address. Fraudulent apps are often recently created with little information about them on the internet.

Tips for the targeted brand owners

Do monitor for potentially infringing websites and apps. It is not always necessary to rely on expensive third party wholly automated monitoring solutions. The perpetrators attempt to lure victims through direct messages on social media channels and invite them to download apps through this channel so they may be harder to detect through wholly automated services.


Once a suspicious website or app is detected, take swift enforcement action. Lexsynergy has a strong track record of assisting brand owners remove these infringements on a cost-effective fixed fee basis. A robust enforcement strategy can and does make a brand owner  harder to target and may encourage the perpetrators to focus their efforts on other brand owners instead, who are possibly less proactive.


Finally, once a scam is discovered, consider placing a warning message on your official website in an attempt to warn investors who become suspicious as it may prevent them from falling prey to the scam.


If your brand is having issues with infringing websites or apps, please reach out to our brand protection team who will be able to provide specialist support to help combat these issues: [email protected]