Senate committee chair grills Apple, Google over protection against crypto app scams

Brown wants to know if app stores are doing enough to fight fraud.

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WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) speaks during a news conference about the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act on Capitol Hill July 28, 2022 in Washington, DC.  A procedural vote to advance the bill, which would expand health care access for military veterans who became ill after being exposed to toxic burn pits, failed to pass in the Senate on Wednesday. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Crypto scams remain a serious problem, and a key senator wants to make sure app store operators are cracking down. Senate banking committee chair Sen. Sherrod Brown has sent letters to the CEOs of Apple and Google requesting answers on their protections against cryptocurrency app fraud. The politician wanted details of their app approval and reporting processes, user alerts for fraudulent activity, coordination with rival stores and monitoring for apps that transform into phishing scams.

We've asked Apple and Google for comment. Brown gave the executives until August 10th to provide responses to the letters.

Both tech firms provide at least some screening for bogus crypto apps. Apple's App Store review guidelines forbid scam apps, including bait-and-switch tactics. Google is less targeted with its Play Store policies, but bars apps that enable illegal activity or "dishonest behavior." Both companies let you report suspicious apps. They haven't historically sent direct scam alerts, however, and aren't known to actively monitor apps in case they launch phishing scams.

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Whatever the stances, Brown saw effective safeguards as important. The FBI recently warned that app-based cryptocurrency fraud has already led to losses of $42.7 million. It was "imperative" that shops protect investors against this damage, the senator said.

There's no certainty that the requests will translate to legislation requiring stricter anti-fraud systems. The committee request could clarify the stances of Apple and Google on the subject, though, and might increase the pressure to take further action. At the least, it's a reminder that an app's presence on the App Store or Google Play isn't a guarantee it will be trustworthy.

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