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In brief: Nothing will come of nothing, wrote Shakespeare, and that's especially true of suspicious Android applications that claim to let users earn money. These activity-tracking applications have been downloaded over 20 million times, yet actually getting any payments from them is nigh-on impossible.
A report by Dr. Web antivirus shines a light on apps that supposedly let users earn money by performing various tasks. They are advertised as pedometers, good habit-builders, and various health applications that reward people if they hit achievements, such as the distance they walked, if they followed a health routine, and so on.
Those who reach these goals receive virtual rewards in the form of tickets or coins, which can be increased by watching ads. But the caveat is that users often need to collect millions of these rewards before being allowed to withdraw anything, and each achievement earns only a small number of tokens—reaching the withdrawal threshold could take well over a year.
Even if someone managed to earn enough tokens to withdraw real money, the apps demand that they watch dozens of ad videos first. They then have the option of viewing several dozen more ads to "speed up" the withdrawal process. It's noted that the apps never verify user payment-related data, so they're unlikely to pay out no matter how much time, effort, and money people pour into them.
One of the apps, Lucky Step-Walking Tracker, lets users convert their tokens into store gift cards for various online companies. But the functionality was removed in the app's last update, leaving users with a load of worthless tokens they've spent hundreds of hours accumulating.
If all that isn't bad enough, Bleeping Computer notes that reviews of the app claim it also has adware elements that show full-screen ads every time a phone is unlocked. They even override the display so other apps cannot be accessed until users interact with the ad.
These sorts scammy apps aren't new, but what makes the ones in Dr. Web's report significant is the vast number of times they've been downloaded. Lucky Step-Walking Tracker has 10 million downloads, WalkingJoy has 5 million, and Lucky Habit: health tracker has 5 million. All three connect to the same command and control server, suggesting they have the same owner/operator.
It appears that the pedometer apps have now been removed, but Lucky Habit is still available alongside many other applications that offer similar "earn a billion coins, and we might pay you something" features.
Dr. Web also warned of several phishing apps on the Play store disguised as investment apps, directories, questionnaires, and games that have been downloaded almost half a million times. They include Golden Hunt, Reflector, and Seven Golden Wolf blackjack, which have each racked up 100,000 downloads.
Masthead: Igal Ness