CryptoRom: How Scammers Use Tinder and Bumble to Steal $ 1.4 Million in Bitcoin

NEW DELHI: In massive global scam, hackers are now targeting dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, Facebook Dating and Bumble on victims of social engineers by installing fake cryptocurrency apps on iPhone and Android. Interpol has also issued a notice to its 194 member countries outlining the specific modus operandi of how these scammers operate on dating apps.
Researchers at cybersecurity firm Sophos Labs have discovered that victims were cheated of at least $ 1.4 million by this crypto romance (CryptoRom). In most cases, the crooks have asked the victims to transfer money by purchasing cryptocurrency through the Binance app and then to a bogus trading app. This is done to avoid the traceability of funds to their destination and recovery.
These scam apps aim to exploit the increased interest in trading apps driven by the recent surge in the value of cryptocurrencies and the interest in low cost trading driven by stories like that of GameStock.
How does this work?
As part of the CryptoRom scam, hackers are targeting vulnerable people, especially those who search for potential romantic partners through fake profiles on dating apps and social media platforms.
Victims are first contacted through their dating app account. Once the scammer gains his trust, he persuades the victim to move the conversation to messaging services like Whatsapp. They are avoiding requests for face-to-face meetings, citing the pandemic. Once the victim gets acquainted, she asks them to install bogus trading apps with legitimate looking domains and customer support. They shift the conversation to investing and ask them to invest a small amount, and even let them withdraw that money with profit as a bait. After that, they will be asked to buy various financial products or invest in high profit investment opportunity.
The hacker even lends money to the bogus app to build trust and make the victim believe that they are real and caring. When the victim wants their money back or becomes suspicious, their account is blocked and the hacker withdraws all of their money from the account.
Since these bogus apps masquerade as well-known apps around the world, the fraud is all the more credible. “As is often the case with such fraud schemes, everything is done to appear legitimate. Screenshots are provided, the domain names look suspiciously like real websites, and customer service agents claim to help them. victims to choose the right products. One day, however, all contacts stop and the victims are excluded from the account. They are confused, hurt and worried that they will never see their money again, “warned Interpol.
In some cases, victims are drawn to websites designed to look like those of legitimate businesses. These websites redirected victims to third party sites that provided iOS mobile apps through configuration management schemas, iOS mobile device management payloads with ‘web clips’ or Android apps depending on the ‘device used,’ the researchers said.
How much money have people lost?
One of these victims lost $ 87,000, while another lost $ 45,000 to a scammer who contacted them via Facebook, and another lost $ 25,000 after being scammed by someone who contacted him through Grindr. In the latter case, the victim made an initial deposit, transferred money to a Binance app from their bank, and then to scammers; they were then asked to deposit more funds in order to withdraw their money. None of these victims got their money back. In another case, a victim had sent over $ 1.39 million to the bogus Bitcoin site.
They also have access to your phone:
In addition to stealing money, attackers also gain access to victims’ iPhones, where cybercriminals exploit “Enterprise Signature,” a system that allows software developers to pre-test new iOS apps with selected iPhone users. before they are submitted to the official Apple. App Store for review and approval.
With the Enterprise Signature system, attackers gain access to larger groups of iPhone users with their bogus crypto-trading apps and gain remote management control over their devices. So, in addition to stealing money from victims, they can also collect personal data and install malicious apps.
“When an iOS device user visits one of the sites used by these scams, a new profile is downloaded to their device. Instead of a normal ad hoc profile, an MDM provisioning profile signed with a company certificate is uploaded. The user is prompted to trust the profile and after that the crooks can manage their device based on the content of the profile, ”writes Jagadeesh Chandraiah, Senior Threat Researcher at Sophos.
Where are these victims?
The Sophos team discovered that most of the victims of the scam are iPhone users based in the United States, Asia and Europe.
When Sophos first published its report in May, they discovered that most of the victims were in Asia only, and its authors were using Apple’s Super Signature ad hoc distribution system to target iOS device users. .
“As we broadened our research based on user-submitted data and hunting for additional threats, we have also witnessed malicious applications related to these scams on iOS taking advantage of configuration profiles that abuse the schema of Apple’s Signature Enterprise distribution to target victims … Until recently, criminal operators mainly distributed bogus crypto apps through bogus websites that look like a trusted bank or Apple’s App Store. Adding the iOS enterprise development system introduces additional risk for victims, as they could give attackers rights to their device and the ability to steal their personal data, ”said Chandraiah.
How can I avoid falling prey to such scams?
1.To avoid falling prey to such malicious apps, users should only install apps from trusted sources like Google Play and Apple App Store.
2. Users should also check if the app was developed by its real developer.
3. It is also necessary to install an antivirus application on the mobile device, which can then protect the phone from such threats.
4. Be Skeptical: Online Investments With Promises Of Fast And Amazing Returns Are Often Too Good To Be True
5. Do your due diligence: check reviews, check app, domain name, email address
6. Do not disclose personal / confidential information at any cost
“In order to mitigate the risk of these scams targeting less sophisticated users of iOS devices, Apple should warn users who install apps through ad hoc distribution or through corporate provisioning systems that these apps do not have. not been reviewed by Apple, ”added Zinran Wu, another analyst. at Sophos.

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