Apple Removes A Trading App Linked To Crypto Scams From The App Store

Apple Removes A Trading App Linked To Crypto Scams From The App Store

A popular smartphone app used to conduct foreign exchange transactions known as MetaTrader (or MT4 or MT5, depending on the version), was quietly removed from Apple’s App Store last Friday. As of this writing, the app remains available on the Google Play store.

The app, which is made by a Cypriot-based company called MetaQuotes, has been used to perpetrate a new type of cryptocurrency scam, known as pig butchering, where a scammer builds a longer term relationship with their victim before convincing them to invest money over time. A key element of the scam is the use of bogus cryptocurrency apps and websites, which purport to show the victim that they’re making money off their investment, when in fact the scammer has taken everything.

Apple’s ban of MetaTrader comes two weeks after Forbes profiled one California-based scam victim, who lost over $1 million last year. This victim, known as Cy, made all of his purported trades on the MetaTrader app, which showed him fictitious returns. At the time, Apple spokesperson Adam Dema said the company was investigating MetaTrade and was looking into additional action to protect App Store users if necessary.

MetaQuotes did not respond to Forbes’ request for comment. Daniel Delnero, an Atlanta-based attorney with Squire Patton Boggs, who informed Forbes late Sunday evening that his firm is now representing MetaQuotes, did not respond to Forbes’ request for comment by press time. The company had not previously responded at all to multiple emails sent to company email addresses. No phone numbers are listed on its Contacts page for any of the company’s multiple offices around the world.

Neither Apple nor Google responded to requests for comment.

Existing installs of MetaTrader on iOS devices continue to function. However, there are some reports on Twitter of users claiming to sell iPhones with the app pre-installed for $15,000 in one case, or a “starting price” of 5,000 British pounds, or “$10k OBO,” an abbreviation for “or best offer.”

As Forbes previously reported, MetaTrader, which offers licenses for its software, does enable legitimate trade by actual brokerages. It is an agnostic trading platform, one that is used by mainstream foreign exchange traders like Oanda. But according to the Global Anti-Scam Organization (GASO), a scam victims’ advocacy group, MetaTrader also allows licensees to use a particular plug-in, known as Virtual Dealer, which can be used by scammers to “manipulate those market prices, and simulate account balances, profits or losses. Everything looks and feels real, but it’s all a fabrication,” according to a report from GASO.

MetaTrader has provided no explanation as to how unscrupulous actors can use the software to illustrate fake trades, nor what actions, if any, it has taken to mitigate this behavior.

In July, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Sherrod Brown, wrote letters to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai about how the companies are evaluating and ultimately allowing the proliferation of fake crypto apps in their app stores.

News of the app’s removal was first reported by FX News Group and Finance Magnates on Saturday.

In a WhatsApp text message sent late Sunday evening, Cy, the victim who has still been unable to recoup any of his losses, said he was pleased that Apple had removed the trading app. He had previously told Forbes that a large part of why he was convinced to download it was that it had positive reviews and could be found on Apple’s App Store.

“It’s about time,” he wrote. “How many other victims occured before our voices were heard! [It’s] the right thing to do. But [it] doesn’t make me feel any good as the damage has been done.”

Jan Santiago, GASO’s deputy director, said the organization was “glad” for the app’s removal.

“If MetaTrader won’t do anything on the grave issues raised by users who trusted them, then the responsibility falls on platforms like Apple and Google Play store that list MetaTrader,” he wrote in an email.

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