The Cyber Police Station of Maharashtra’s Pune police received 699 complaints of loan app crimes in 2020. The number increased to 928 in 2021. 3,151 complaints have been filed against the loan app operatives till August this year.
Earlier this month, Sohail Shaikh (25), a resident of Pune’s Viman Nagar, who got money through a loan app, died by suicide. The probe revealed that he was threatened and abused by the loan app operatives for repayment of money. His father Javed Shaikh had lodged the FIR in connection with this case at the Airport Police Station.
25-year-old Gauri Dange allegedly murdered her 70-year-old grandmother Sulochana at her house in Warje on September 13. The probe revealed that Gauri had taken loan from an online credit platform for expenses. To repay that loan, she had taken loan from another online application and so on. The operatives of the loan application were calling her repeatedly for the repayment of money. Hence, she murdered and robber her grandmother of Rs 36,000 case and gold chain.
A 30-year-old woman from Hadapsar had lodged a FIR at the Pune City Cyber Police Station on August 16. She had downloaded a loan app on her cell phone after receiving a call from its operatives. Even though she did not need the money, a certain amount of loan was sanctioned in her name. The accused then started contacting the woman asking her to repay the loan. They allegedly morphed her photograph with obscene images and circulated these to the people on her contact list. After the threats, the woman transferred about Rs 1.11 lakh into different bank accounts.
Pune City police have observed a multi-fold rise in the loan app crimes. While producing nine accused arrested from a fake call center in Karnataka’s Bengaluru city in connection with online extortion of money from a Hadapsar-based woman in a loan app case, police told the court Wednesday that there has been a significant rise in such crimes.
As per the information submitted by the police to the court, several micro finance companies, which are not registered as per law, have created an online loan app on Google Play Store. The operatives of these loan apps contact the people over phone, asking them to download their online loan applications.
These operatives gain access to data, including contact list, photographs and videos saved in the gallery in the cell phone of those people, who submit their information online for downloading the loan app.
At times even if there is no request for loan, the operatives transfer some amount of money into the bank account of the loan app users. The operatives then morph the photographs of the loan app users with obscene content and circulate it to the people in their phone contact list. Showing threats to defame the loan app user, the operatives extort money from them online, calling it “repayment” of the loan. The victims are forced to transfer the extortion money in different bank accounts through online transactions. The police found that the loan app operatives used multiple SIM cards obtained fraudulently for committing these crimes.
The cops launched a probe into the phone calls made to a woman from Hadapsar, who had filed a complaint of online extortion against the loan app operatives. The technical investigation by the police revealed details of a fake call center in Bengaluru, used for committing the loan app crimes. The Cyber Police Station team then went to Bengaluru and arrested nine people identified as Vighnesh Manjunath (19), Ganesh Subbaraidu (26), Akash M V (19), Shraddha Gauda (25), Parvati Santosh Das (39), Ashwini Murugan (24), Shilpa Gauda (25), Priya S (23) and Deepika L (20) on September 28.
A court in Pune remanded the accused to police custody till October 7. The search is on for other accused, including a woman identified as Seema Gauda.
Police Inspector Kumar Ghadge of Cyber Police Station told the court that ten sim cards, mobile phones and other electronic items were recovered from the accused during searches. The police said the complainant got calls from the accused between February 2 and June 10 of this year, asking her to download certain loan apps from the Google Play Store. They later sanctioned her loan and started harassing her for repayment.
The police suspect there are more people involved in the loan app racket, which may have nationwide and international links. The police probe is on to find out whether the accused have similarly extorted money from more people in the country. The police are also searching for the people, who provided mobile phone numbers of the citizens to the accused persons. The police said the bank accounts in which extortion money was transferred and the sim cards used for calling the citizens are being investigated. The police suspect transactions worth crores of rupees through the bank accounts by the accused. The probe is also on to know who created the fraudulent online loan applications used for committing crimes.
The police have asked the citizens to be aware and avoid responding to the suspicious phone calls regarding loan app.