More than 20 million Android users urged to delete three apps right now
If you entered 2023 with a fitness-focused New Year’s resolution, you may be among the millions who have downloaded active apps to keep you motivated.
But cyber experts are now warning that dodgy developers could exploit your health kick.
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Three apps that claim to track and encourage healthy habits are actually serving up advertising and lies.
Pedometer and health tracking apps have been flagged by anti-virus company Doctor Web for claims that users can earn virtual rewards that can then be exchanged for real money and online gift cards.
However, the developers have removed the applications functional ability to withdraw payment in a later update, effectively meaning that users trying to earn money using the app will find their balances become worthless.
Apart from being told that they can earn these “virtual rewards” by completing exercise tasks, users are also constantly served advertisements and actually encouraged to increase their reward balance by viewing them.
The deceptive update was discovered in three apps, including Lucky Habit: health tracking, which shares the same command-and-control (C&C) server as two fitness apps: WalkingJoy and Lucky Step-Walking Tracker.
“This may indicate that they are all connected, and that ‘Lucky Habit: health tracker’ and ‘WalkingJoy’ users may also lose all hope of receiving payments,” says Dr Web.
All three applications were previously available for download on the Google Play Store and have an average star rating of over 3.9 stars. However, at the time of writing, only Lucky Habit: Health Tracker was available for download.
The apps had been downloaded over 20 million times cumulatively.
The apps’ users are told they need to collect two million “coins” to withdraw the cash equivalent of about $35, but once they’ve reached the required balance, they’re prompted to view 30 more ads to make a withdrawal.
But after that, no withdrawal is possible, scam users report.
Some even reported that the videos they were served were inappropriate, and others claimed that they needed to play for around six months to achieve the required withdrawal balance.
“It told me I had to watch dirty videos and I was really addicted to the $35 that I was going to pay because I had been playing this for a long time,” reported Android user Monica Marks.
An Android user who downloaded Lucky Habit, Clint Edwards, said they tested the withdrawal feature and were able to withdraw $1 at first. After spending hours building a credit balance, they were no longer able to withdraw.
“I haven’t been credited even though I’ve played several hours in several games,” Edwards said.
“I’m starting to feel (it) is a scam.”
Another Android user who downloaded the app, Patrick Ortiz said, “I can’t withdraw. I reached two million and then the app said I had to see the ads 30 times. I played it for more than six months, there are a lot of ads! Now that I’m done with the game, I can’t quit. It’s a scam! What a waste of time.”