Two arrested for operating predatory loan apps in Bangalore: Hyderabad police
The Hyderabad City Police Cyber ââCrime Division has arrested two Bengaluru residents for allegedly operating six predatory instant loan apps under the supervision of a Chinese national named Chen Chaoping.
According to a press release, defendants Shabbir Alam and Umakanth Yadav were employees of Koramangala-based Sky Links Technology Pvt Ltd, a company that allegedly operated the lending apps â Ocean Ruppee, Life Wallet, Maloo Wallet, Elephant Cash, Box Cash, and Dutta Rupee. Once installed, the apps got gallery, contact list and location access permissions to provide the short term loans.
“When the victims are unable to repay the loan amounts, the defendants post their photos on social media platforms by transforming their photos, and threatening calls are also made,” the statement said.
In the past, many people ended their lives because of harassment representatives of unauthorized digital lending apps, many of whom were found to have ties to Chinese nationals. Agents of these unregulated apps also allegedly threatened to start contacting people on the victims’ contact lists.
In 2020, the accused worked at another lending application call center
The statement said that in 2020, Chaoping would have operated a lending application call center named Golden Bag Technologies Pvt. Ltd in Bangalore. Then Alam worked as a supervisor and Yadav worked as the company’s IT manager.
However, when police began cracking down on predatory loan apps in 2020, the statement said the Chaoping had left for China. “After 2 months, the Chinese national again contacted defendants Shabbir Alam and Umakanth Yadav and asked them to manage the call center by introducing new loan applications.” The apps were reportedly developed by Chaoping.
The statement said that, based on Chaoping’s instructions, the defendant hired approximately 100 telecallers and opened Sky Links Technology Pvt Ltd.
The victim, his colleagues and his relatives were harassed for the repayment of the loan
Hyderabad City Police said in the statement that they received a complaint from a 30-year-old resident of Rethibowli in Hyderabad stating that she had taken loans from these apps. Cops and the victim say the apps were then available on the Google Play Store. However, MediaNama has not been able to focus on these apps on the Play Store at the time of publishing this report.
The victim said that she took a loan of around Rs two lakh. âAfter only 7 days after she failed to repay, threatening calls were made to her from different WhatsApp numbers and abused her in vulgar language. They also called her co-workers and relatives and threatened to release her number to 500 different men,â the statement added.
- clear loan
- King Credit
- ecpress loan
- infinite money
- Apna Paisa
- Quality cash
- Home loan
- Cash land
- Take advantage of the loan
- Cash out now
- fast rupee
- Kuberan Rupee
- hello loans
- fresh rupee
- Easy money
- Simple loan
- loan cube
- Timely loan
- ocean rupee
- Ok Rupee
- rice vault
- Ican loan
- life portfolio
- Unti Cash
- Rupee Home
- return money
- Bus Rupee
- small loan
- Convenient loan
- smart rupee
- Silver PP
- small loan
- Dr Cash
- my credit
At the time of publishing this report, we found that most of these apps are still available on Google Play Store.
How serious is the problem of predatory loan applications in India?
As of September 2021, SaveThem India, a foundation set up in March 2020 to counter the loan app problem in India, had received over 55,000 calls from victims of loan app harassment. Here are some of the common stalking techniques lending apps use to get money back, documented by SaveThem India in screenshots and recordings accessible by MediaNama:
- Night calls: Lending apps use robocall software to harass victims late at night and interfere with their daily lives.
- Threats to notify contacts: If the borrower defaults, the loan application officers threaten to call the borrower’s contacts or create WhatsApp groups to announce their default. In some screenshots seen by MediaNama, such groups were created and images were released with “420” or “fraud” written on the photos of the victims.
- False legal notices: The apps threaten to take legal action against borrowers and send fake legal notices with e-stamps showing stamp duty paid under registered file to the government.
Lending apps use Google and Facebook advertising platforms to deliver misleading or false advertisements
To attract unsuspecting borrowers, predatory lending apps advertise on popular social media platforms like Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram. Ads for these apps have even appeared on apps like Truecaller and Zomato (thanks to integrations with Facebook Audience Network and Google Ads).
Lending app advertising on social media often features misleading or outright fake ads. Here are some ways these banner ads deliver misleading content –
- Media personalities; Some advertisements seen by MediaNama and shown on Youtube include photos of well-known personalities such as Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Sudhir Choudhary and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- Bank logos: Ads running on Facebook, Youtube and Instagram seen by MediaNama use the logos of trusted banks such as Union Bank of India, IDBI Bank, ICICI Bank and SBI. The logos of trusted payment apps such as Google Pay, PayTM and PhonePe have also been used on banner ads to attract unsuspecting borrowers.
Not just obscure apps, RBI regulated entities also engaging in such practices
At a time when Chinese lending apps are being criticized for charging exorbitant interest rates and using predatory practices, fintech MobiKwik (which was seeks to go public until recently) was accused of using similar and ethically dubious practices to secure the repayment of a loan taken out on its platform.
This particular incident concerns Bharath C Raghurama, a 34-year-old man from Karnataka who is currently based in Gujarat. Raghurama had benefited from an instant loan offered by MobiKwik in December and his repayment was scheduled for the end of the month. But when Raghurama was unable to pay him on time, MobiKwik agents started harassing him on WhatsApp, we learn. They warned him that if he was unable to repay the sum as soon as possible, his friends and family would be informed of the situation. They have also attached a list of his “key contacts” as evidence that they have access to details of his friends and family.
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