If you entered 2023 with a fitness-focused New Year’s resolution, you may be among the millions who downloaded active apps to stay motivated.
But cyber experts are now warning that untrustworthy developers could be exploiting your health boost.
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Three apps that claim to track and encourage healthy habits actually display ads and lies.
Pedometer and health tracking apps have been flagged by antivirus company Doctor Web over claims that users can collect virtual rewards that can then be exchanged for real money and online gift cards.
However, the developers removed the applications’ functional ability to withdraw payments in a later update, which basically means that users who try to monetize the app will find their balance becomes worthless.
In addition to being told that they can earn these “virtual rewards” by completing fitness tasks, users are also continuously presented with advertisements and even encouraged to increase their reward balance by watching them.
The deceptive update was detected in three apps, including Lucky Habit: health tracker, which shares the same command-and-control (C&C) server as two fitness apps: WalkingJoy and Lucky Step-Walking Tracker.
“This could indicate that they are all connected and users of ‘Lucky Habit: health tracker’ and ‘WalkingJoy’ could lose all hope of receiving payments at any time,” reports Dr. Web.
All three applications were previously available for download on the Google Play Store, with average star ratings of over 3.9 stars. However, at the time of writing, only Lucky Habit: health tracker was available for download.
The apps had been cumulatively downloaded more than 20 million times.
The apps users are told to collect two million “coins” to withdraw the cash equivalent of about $35, but once they reach the required balance, they are prompted to watch 30 more ads to withdraw money. take.
But after that, recording is no longer possible, scammed users report.
Some even reported that the videos they got were inappropriate, and others claimed that they had to play for about six months to build up the required withdrawal balance.
“It told me to watch dirty videos and really depend on that $35 I had to shell out because I’ve 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 cash out $1 initially. Then, after hours of accumulating credit, they were unable to withdraw.
“I’m not credited, although I spent hours playing several games,” said Edwards.
“I’m starting to feel that (it) is a scam.”
Another Android user who downloaded the app, Patrick Ortiz, said, “I can’t back out. I reached two million and then the app told me to watch the ads 30 times. I played it for over six months, that’s a lot of ads! Now that I’ve finished the game, I can’t withdraw. It’s a scam! What a waste of time.”
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