The investigation claims to have uncovered a network of fraudulent apps designed to lure unsuspecting users into investing in natural gas and purported quantum investment algorithms. These apps have been distributed through various Android app stores, including GetApps on Xiaomi devices and Palm Store on Tecno devices. Some of these fraudulent apps have even made it to the recommended list in one app store, falsely implying endorsement and misleading users into installing them.
The researchers have discovered Android adware used to promote fraudulent “gas” and “quantum” investment schemes, mirroring deceptive websites that lure users with promises of effortless wealth through “investments” in natural resources and advanced algorithms.
Beyond the deceptive apps and websites, they have identified a substantial number of videos promoting various “investment platforms.” These videos feature well-known figures deepfakes, including politicians, actors, and business leaders, endorsing fraudulent investment schemes. The videos are meticulously crafted, incorporating genuine footage of official events and public appearances, lending an air of authenticity to the scams.
In one video targeting the Russian-speaking audience, an investment platform named “Tesla X” is promoted, claiming that it is a side project by “Elon Musk” to develop self-driving car technology. Another video, in Turkish, features “Recep Tayyip Erdogan” endorses an investment platform that supposedly allows users to earn substantial profits by investing a mere 5000 Turkish lira (about US$17.00) in shares of BOTAŞ, the Turkish state-owned oil and gas pipeline company.
Similar videos were identified in Spanish, where alleged Mexican billionaire “Carlos Slim” recommends investing in oil through the “Oil Profit” platform.
The investigation found hundreds of similar videos tailored for different countries and regions, exploiting local familiarity to maximize the impact of the scams. These fraudulent endorsements target citizens with promises of guaranteed returns, ranging from Moldova’s Moldindconbank to Kazakhstan’s KazMunayGas, Romania’s Romgaz, and even global giants like Samsung.
The investigation extended to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, where researchers identified several applications with the term “Oil Profit” in their names. These apps have been reported to the platforms and consequently deleted from the app stores.