Delhi police arrest 5 behind Chinese loan application for extortion

Delhi Police Cyber ​​Cell has arrested five people from Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for allegedly abusing and extorting borrowers from a loan application, police said in a press release. The extorted amount was being sent to China, the statement added.

The app is called Cash Advance Ha, which police described as an “unlicensed Chinese micro-finance company”. To install this app available online, permissions to access gallery and contact list on the device must be granted. Once the user granted access, “all their data was automatically transferred to Chinese servers” and the loan amount was disbursed.

The team involved in the operations of the app tracked the users who received the loan repayment.

“After a day of loan transfer, the defendant team started calling the loan seekers and their known relatives, friends, etc. through different whatsapp/mobile numbers to repay the loan…Even after the loan repayment/ money, the alleged accused person used to extort more money from the loan applicant and also started sharing vulgar/threatening messages with the family member, relatives and friends of the applicant loans to push him to pay more and more money —Delhi Police Press Release

In the past, several people have taken their own lives due to harassment by representatives of predatory loan apps, some of which had connections to Chinese nationals.


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Victims called from fraudulently obtained numbers

On March 15, Anurag Halder (a resident of Sodepur, Kolkata) filed a complaint alleging that he and his family, friends and were abused and threatened by strangers through WhatsApp calls from international mobile numbers. This was after taking out a loan from the Cash Advance Ha app.

Based on the complaint, the Delhi Police analyzed call data records from the phones allegedly used to commit the crime. “He revealed that the defendants were phoning the victims through a fraudulently obtained WhatsApp number and their registered owners were unaware of this WhatsApp activation from their mobile numbers. Most of these mobile users were from West Bengal and Assam“Delhi police said.

Call data records also revealed that one of the accused was in the Delhi-Gurugram border area. Based on this information, the police carried out raids in Salapur Khera, Bijwasahan in Delhi, where they arrested 22-year-old Sonu Singh. After questioning Singh who allegedly worked as a recovery agent for the company, police also arrested Vikash Kumar from Farukhabad, Uttar Pradesh.

“During technical analysis, it was further discovered that Vikash Kumar was leading a team of callers, who used to call loan seekers/victims who had borrowed their app. defendants’ gadgets, it was found that the defendants used to send threatening messages to the victims’ contact list to extort the victims,” the press release reads.

The app’s privacy policy had red flags everywhere

“The privacy policy has been hosted on a website which includes the collection of data such as contact list, images, SMS, Aadhaar card, PAN card, bank details, etc.. It is mentioned in the privacy policy of the Android application that if the user does not pay the loan amount, they will contact the people in their contact list to collect the loan amount“, reads the press release.

During a technical analysis of the app, the Delhi Police found that loans can be easily obtained from the app without KYC document verification. “Loans were made available in a very short period of time, sometimes immediately to a given IPU or bank accounts with a higher interest rate. A small amount of loan could be disbursed after service charge reduction with higher interest rates, as if Rs.6000/- is the loan amount, Rs. 2300/- would be service charge and Rs. 3700/- would be the disbursed amount of the loan,” he said. he declares.

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Delhi police scanned the app for malware and found that data was being sent from the app to third-party servers based in China. The extorted money was also sent to China in the form of cryptocurrency by a defendant in the case.

Hyderabad police halted a similar operation last month

The Hyderabad City Police Cyber ​​Crime Division has arrested two Bengaluru residents for allegedly operating six predatory instant loan apps under the supervision of a Chinese national named Chen Chaoping.

Shabbir Alam and Umakanth Yadav were employees of Sky Links Technology Pvt Ltd, based in Koramangala, a company which allegedly operated the lending apps – Ocean Ruppee, Life Wallet, Maloo Wallet, Elephant Cash, Box Cash and Dutta Rupee. Once installed, the apps obtained permissions to access the gallery, contact list and stored location on the device before providing short-term loans, according to a press release.

In 2020, Chaoping reportedly operated a lending application call center called Golden Bag Technologies Pvt. Ltd in Bangalore. Alam worked as a supervisor and Yadav was the company’s IT manager. However, when the police started cracking down on predatory loan apps in 2020, Chaoping 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. Based on his instructions, the accused hired about 100 telecallers and established Sky Links Technology Pvt Ltd.

How serious is the problem of predatory loan apps in India?

SaveThem India, a foundation working to tackle the problem of loan applications in India, received more than 55,000 calls from victims of harassment from loan application agents until September last year. Here are the common harassment techniques used by these agents to recover the money:

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  • 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 app operators threaten to take legal action against the borrowers and send the government bogus legal notices with electronic stamps showing the stamp duty paid in the registered case.

These aren’t just obscure apps

At a time when Chinese lending apps are being criticized for charging exorbitant interest rates and using predatory practices, fintech company MobiKwik has been accused of using similar and ethically questionable practices to secure repayment of a loan contracted 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, he claimed that MobiKwik agents started harassing him on WhatsApp. 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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