Australian consumers lose $400,000 to smartphone app Ponzi scheme

The ‘Big 4’ banks in Australia are now dealing with the aftermath of a Ponzi scheme that saw Australian consumers scammed out of around $400,000. It has been reported that consumers unwittingly downloaded a hoax app referred to as both ‘The Hope Business App’ and the ‘Hope Group Earning App’, under the pretence that it would create wealth as it spread on a viral level throughout May.

In reality, victims found that the app was, in fact, a Ponzi scheme that generated so-called ‘returns’ for unknowing investors by luring them in and encouraging them to part with their cash. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reported that its dedicated Scamwatch team received a total of 84 reports from 8th May and 3rd June of this year concerning the app in question.

Following overall losses from consumers of around $400,000, the regulator worked to alert both Google and Apple in May 2021. The combination of reports from app users and the concern from the regulators then lead to the removal of the app from all app stores.


An ACCC spokesperson stated:

The ‘Hope Business’ app is a scam. Victims were encouraged to transfer funds in a Ponzi scheme. They were initially able to withdraw funds which encouraged them to recommend the application to family and friends, but they were subsequently unable to access their money.

The same spokesperson then stressed that anyone who still had the app installed on their phone should remove it immediately to value their own safety. The Commonwealth Bank also put out a warning to customers just last week to alert mobile users of the dangers surrounding the hoax app, urging them to stay cautious if similar apps appeared.

One anonymous victim revealed a loss on the app of around $75,000, and another reported a loss of $1500. With victims in mind, CBA reassured consumers that they should contact the bank as soon as possible if they thought they had fallen victim to the scam.

NAB has now updated its customer alert page, advising that an upfront payment of 10% is a necessary requirement when recovering investments. At the same time, ANZ assured customers that it is working hard alongside other key establishments to both combat the hoax and inform any outstanding victims.

The ACCC recently published its 2020 report on scam activity in Australia. According to its findings, last year 444,164 scams were reported to different government agencies. The ACC found that Australians lost over $850 million to scams, of which a total of $328 million were lost to investment scams.

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