City police warn about street view app fraud

Chen Huizhi
Pay 98 yuan and you can enjoy lifelong updates of street views of any place in the world? Think twice before falling for such ploys, Shanghai police have warned.
Chen Huizhi
City police warn about street view app fraud

A screenshot of an online video advertisement of an app said to offer high-definition street views of any place in the world.

More than 30 suspects have been nabbed for allegedly defrauding people with online advertisements of suspicious mobile apps on video websites, Shanghai police said on Tuesday.

The suspects allegedly advertised the apps through online short video platforms.

Police in Minhang District started their investigation last December after a man surnamed Wang complained about a bogus street view app.

Wang said he downloaded the app, called "Global Street Views in High Definition," after seeing an advertisement about the app when browsing a video website.

The advertisement claimed that users of the app will be able to get real-time street views of any place in the world in high definition with imbedded virtual reality functions.

Users pay 38 yuan (US$6), 68 yuan ad 98 yuan for three-month, one-year and lifelong plans, respectively, and Wang paid 98 yuan.

However, to his disappointment, when he entered the address of his home in a small town and expected to see clear street views of the requested spot, no result was returned, and even the map of the county where his home is located was in very low definition, police said.

Wang was among the more than 200 people who had complained on the video website about the app since November last year, and the app was one of the few with similar names that were advertised on video platforms at the time.

Many users like Wang who paid to use such apps were denied reimbursement after filing complaints with customer service about the apps' bad quality, police said.

During their investigation, police found that all of the companies that allegedly developed the apps had ties to a Shanghai-based tech firm called "Tuboshu."

In fact, there were more than 50 such companies, with some running other suspicious apps with positioning and shopping functions, according to police.

From "Tuboshu," four major suspects in the case were caught by police in Shanghai late last month.

With the bogus apps, the suspects had allegedly defrauded more than 100 million yuan from people over the Internet.

Dai Jiawei, a criminal police officer from Minhang, said people should beware of fraudsters that lurk in the explosive mobile app market nowadays and advertise their dubious products and services via popular video platforms.

"We advise that people think twice when downloading mobile apps and take into consideration feedback and comments of other users," he said.

After the case was solved, the police also urged the video platforms where the bogus commercials appeared to scrutinize the contents of advertisements of similar products and services, Dai added.

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