New Delhi: A global fraud effort was discovered that used 151 malicious Android apps with 10.5 million downloads to trick consumers into paying for premium subscription services without their knowledge or consent.
The “UltimaSMS” premium SMS scam is thought to have started in May 2021 and involved apps in a variety of categories, including keyboards, QR code scanners, video and photo editors, spam call blockers, camera filters, and games, with the majority of the fraudulent apps being downloaded by users in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, the United States, and Poland.
Despite the fact that a large number of the apps in question have subsequently been deleted from the Google Play Store, 82 apps were still available as of October 19, 2021.
It all starts with the apps asking users for their phone numbers and email addresses in order to obtain access to the offered capabilities, only to have the victims pay to premium SMS services that can cost upwards of $40 per month depending on the country and cell carrier.
“Instead of unlocking the apps’ advertised features, which users might assume should happen, the apps will either display further SMS subscriptions options or stop working altogether,” Avast researcher Jakub Vávra said.
The UltimaSMS adware fraud is especially unique for being spread through advertising channels on popular social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, luring unwary users with “catchy video commercials,” according to the researchers.
Users are advised to stop the premium SMS option with the carriers, in addition to deleting the aforementioned apps, to prevent subscription abuse. “Based on some of the user accounts that left negative reviews, it looks like children are among the victims, making this step especially important on children’s phones, as they may be more susceptible to this type of scam,” Vávra said.
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Source: Zee News