Hyderabad: Hyderabad Police said apps offering ‘instant loans’ to clients and allegedly later harassing them for their recovery – believed to be behind the recent suicide of three people – have links to Jakarta (Indonesia ) and with a “Chinese national”.
The city’s three police stations – Hyderabad, Cyberabad and Rachakonda – have received a total of more than 60 online harassment complaints against app-based lenders.
Most of these phone apps have not been approved by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), police say.
As part of the investigation, the Hyderabad police station raided the city’s call centers as well as the Haryana Gurugram, where hundreds of employees were tasked with calling customers. , to harass them for not repaying the amount, to humiliate them online and even threaten them, police said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Some of the apps named by the police include Cash Mama, Loan Zone, Dhana Dhan, Cash Era, Cash Lion, Mastermelon, Lucky Wallet, and Coco Cash.
The RBI on Wednesday warned individuals and small businesses against falling prey to such unauthorized digital lending platforms promising quick and hassle-free loans.
Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar said the Hyderabad and Gurugram call centers are operated on behalf of four companies – Liufang Technologies Pvt Ltd, Hotful Technologies Pvt Ltd, Pinprint Technologies and Nabloom Technologies Pvt. Ltd – registered in Bangalore.
The police did not specify the applications served by these call centers.
“The callers received instructions from their leaders in Indonesia. The whole operation of these loan applications seems to be handled by Chinese nationals at the helm… The raid in Gurugram led us to a copy of the passport of a Chinese national, ”Kumar added.
“According to our information, a Chinese national came to Hyderabad two or three months ago, organized everything and left. This question of foreign ties is a question of inquiry, ”he said.
Hyderabad police took 11 people into custody following the searches, while 700 laptops, servers and computer systems were seized.
More than 50 complaints have been registered with Rachakonda police station, and at least nine under the boundaries of Hyderabad police station. The Cybercrime Police Station is also part of the investigation and registered 16 FIRs.
Cyberabad police recorded seven cases and arrested six people, including directors of two of the companies operating the apps.
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In most cases, these apps or companies were not registered or recognized by the Reserve Bank of India as a non-bank financial corporation (NBFC), police said. Cyberabad Police, in charge of the Hyderabad Data Center, arrested the directors of Onion Credit Pvt Ltd and Credfox Technologies Pvt Ltd, and said the companies had made deals with the NBFCs.
Together, the companies have 1.5 lakh of clients, of which around 70,000 are currently active.
“Businesses have two nodal accounts – one aggregates the amount of NBFCs and pays out 75-80% of the loan amount by deducting various fees such as processing fees, GST, etc. The loan amount paid by customers comes to the other node account. , which in turn pays it to the NBFC, ”Cyberabad commissioner VC Sajjanar said.
According to the police, the interest rate they charge can reach 100 percent in some cases. It was mainly found that payment is made using online wallets, gateways, etc. There are at least 80 of these apps in use and available on the Google Play Store.
Once the loan fell due, borrowers began receiving hundreds of calls a day, threatening that their families and loved ones would be notified of the default, police said, adding that WhatsApp and other groups in the social media had been created in which the borrower’s families were added and then humiliated, and calls were made to family members to inform them of the borrower’s loan. In a few cases, complainants told police they had been threatened with “dire consequences”.
Most of the apps, downloaded from the Google Play Store, have asked users to “allow” access to their contact list, photos, messages, etc., police said. Once a user accepted it, they added, the host got access to all the information on the phone, which is how he got the borrower contacts.
Commissioner Kumar also said the issue would be taken up with tech giant Alphabet Inc. (which owns Google) as part of a further investigation, since the apps are available on the Play Store.
The RBI, for its part, has acknowledged reports that people fall prey to these digital platforms charging excessive interest rates and adopting “unacceptable and authoritarian collection methods” and abusing agreements to access data on debts. mobile phones of borrowers.
“Members of the public are hereby cautioned not to fall prey to such unscrupulous activity and to check the background of the company / business offering loans online or through mobile apps,” the central bank said in a statement. communicated.
He said legitimate public lending activities can be undertaken by banks and NBFCs registered with the RBI and other entities regulated by state governments under statutory provisions.
Case in Hyderabad
The most recent complaint was registered at Saidabad Police Station on Saturday, after a borrower claimed he was publicly humiliated and threatened by an app-based instant loan provider. The man had borrowed a sum of Rs 30,000 from an application called “MY BANK”, and he was asked to pay Rs 55,000 in the week, according to the police.
Inspector K. Srinivas said company management started blackmailing the man, transformed his photos, called him about 400 times in a short period of time and used foul language. The company is said to have created around 10 WhatsApp groups including his family, friends, relatives, etc., and allegedly called him a scammer and shared his transformed photos.
Rachakonda ACP Harinath added that in one of the main complaints registered by this office, the borrower used 122 of these applications to take out loans. “He probably started using more apps to pay off old ones,” the CPA said.
One of three people believed to have committed suicide as a result of mental trauma after being harassed was a 29-year-old technician who used more than 30 of those apps to take out an instant loan, police said.
Police are continuing the investigation for other leads and have called on people not to download apps offering random instant loans without performing proper background checks. They also alerted people against sharing their bank credentials.
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