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Hundreds of fraudulent trading apps pulled from Google Play, Apple App Store

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The App Store and Google Play Store both just got a little safer thanks to an investigation conducted by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) that exposed hundreds of unlicensed trading apps and resulted in them being removed from the online app stores. The probe found many of the apps were scamming people out of their money.

According to a report by ASIC, the investigation specifically focused on so-called binary options trading, which basically encourages investors to bet on whether a share will rise or fall over a certain period of time. There are some licensed and legitimate binary trading platform, but there were also 330 non-licensed ones on the App Store and Google Play Store.

The investigation didn’t just result in many apps being pulled — Apple even went so far as to change its developer guidelines, and directly banned binary trading apps from the App Store, the report said. Binary trading apps were pulled around the world — not just in Australia.

Many of the apps had somewhat grand claims as to how much money users could make. One app, for example, claimed that users could make “up to 90 percent in less than an hour,” while another said users could make “around 85 percent profitable signals from the top traders to guarantee the safe trading.”

Though Apple and Google reacted quickly to the scams by removing the apps, it’s unlikely that many of the victims will ever get their money back because the majority of the companies behind the apps are located in countries that put them out of reach of regulators in the U.S., Australia, or the U.K.

“We were encouraged with the speed both entities removed the relevant apps identified by ASIC from their respective app stores. We also note that Apple recently changed its review guidelines to state that apps that facilitate binary options trading will not be permitted in its app store,” ASIC said in its report.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Apple pull apps from the App Store in recent weeks. Just last week, the company removed a host of VPN apps from the Chinese App Store in an attempt to comply with local cyber laws. It’s expected that similar moves will happen in Russia on or before November 1, when stricter cybersecurity laws are set to go into effect.

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