Temu, the e-commerce platform celebrated for its cut-rate prices, has launched a legal offensive against fraudsters who masquerade as the company. These imposters lure customers into downloading bogus apps that infest devices with malware and pilfer personal data, according to lawsuits filed in the US in the past two weeks.

Boston-based Temu, operating under its legal name Whaleco, has filed suit against seven websites accused of deceptively prompting visitors to download a counterfeit app. The aim, the lawsuit claims, is to snatch personal details from Whaleco’s clients, slip malware onto their devices, or hack into them. This legal move, initiated on November 7 in a U.S. court, comes on the heels of Temu’s earlier legal action against twenty websites for trademark violation and orchestrating internet phishing scams to defraud consumers.

“Fraudsters are posing as Temu on fake apps and websites to scam consumers. This not only damages our reputation but also hurts consumers who were deceived into believing they were engaging with genuine Temu platforms,” said a Temu spokesman.” We will take swift legal action to defend our rights and shield our customers from such malicious and unlawful activities.” 

In the year since Temu launched in the US, it has soared in popularity, propelled in part by its “Shop Like A Billionaire” Super Bowl commercial. Now, the e-commerce contender has broadened its reach, serving customers in 48 countries, from the UK to Malaysia.

Sensor Tower data reveals that Temu broke into the global top 10 most downloaded apps list in the second quarter of 2023, surpassing both its rival Shein and the American titan Amazon in downloads. Further, a data.ai analysis reported by CNBC shows that Temu has outstripped Shein in Japan and South Korea, clinching the top spot in shopping app rankings over an extended stretch.

Wendy Chen, a GAM Investments senior investment analyst, points to Temu’s innovative “fully entrusted business model” as the engine of its meteoric rise. This model blends direct retail sales with a marketplace for third-party vendors, drawing on the strengths of both. Temu streamlines its operations by sourcing directly from manufacturers, who are tasked merely with shipping to Temu’s global warehouses. The company then takes the reins, overseeing customer acquisition, pricing, logistics, and customer service.

This strategy affords Temu the quality control, timely delivery, and customer satisfaction of a first-party model, while it still benefits from the extensive selection and scalability of a third-party model. By connecting factories directly with consumers, Temu not only slashes middlemen expenses but also sidesteps the hazards of overstocking, Chen explains.

According to a recent report by Chinese tech media outlet 36 Kr, the US market, the first destination Temu entered, currently contributes 60% of the platform’s overall sales. The same report stated that the platform’s third quarter sales surpassed $5 billion, and the extraordinary pace of growth may allow Temu to exceed its annual GMV target of $15 billion this year.

“We are in a cost-of-living crisis and people are looking for anything to save a bit of money,” Miya Knights, the publisher of Retail Technology magazine, told the Guardian. “Everyone likes a bargain and Temu ticks those boxes.”

To be sure, Temu’s popularity has come at a price, with a small group of scammers capitalizing on the company’s reputation to launch phishing schemes and install malware, according to its lawsuit. Critics have also accused Temu of intrusive data practices, allegations that Temu has sought to dispel by prominently listing the permissions that it seeks from users. 

In its latest lawsuit, Temu accuses websites such as Dltemuapp.com and temudl.net of mimicking Temu’s domain name and describes them as primarily designed to lure consumers into making purchases or to mislead unsuspecting consumers.

“Bogus websites like these serve as a platform for various cybercrimes. They could be used to extract sensitive and financial information from duped consumers. They could be used to install malware on people’s sites (and/or those of their employers) to steal information or install viruses and serve as leverage for large ransoms,” Temu said in its lawsuit.

“In any of these scenarios, the results would be devastating—and the harm irreparable–to (Temu) and the public alike,” according to the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Temu has intensified efforts to warn consumers about fake Temu promotions and scams. The company has also advised users of the importance of downloading the official Temu app from the Apple Store and Google Play Store, which have stringent vetting controls.

Cafe Fan is a business writer and consultant. She specializes in corporate innovation, business cooperation, and market entry. MBA graduate from Shenandoah University, she provides consulting and scouting...