Vishal Diwan, an IT professional, urgently needed ₹12,000 last October and that’s when he came across online ‘instant loan’ apps that promised him money ‘instantly’, without the hassle of lengthy documentation.
“I had never applied for a loan, so I thought of trying loan apps. I found five apps and applied for a loan for each one. Within minutes, I received ₹24,000 in all from five different accounts. When I checked the interest rates later, I was shocked to find that I had to repay ₹8,000 for each ₹I borrowed 4,800 from each app in seven days,” said the 44-year-old IT professional from Sector 7.
And that’s when the nightmare began.
On December 1, he began receiving more than 100 calls a day to repay loans he had never taken out. “Unidentified people started calling me and threatening me. They started contacting my colleagues, friends and relatives and started harassing them to repay my loan. They turned my pictures obscenely and sent them to everyone on my contact list. They started threatening me to upload these photos on social media, after which I contacted the police in December,” he said.
In total, Diwan was forced to repay ₹3.5 lakh in a month against the ₹24,000 loans he took out, police said.
On May 11 this year, the police registered a case regarding Diwan’s complaint under Sections 384 (Extortion), 420 (Cheating) and 465 (Tampering) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 66, 66B, 67A and 67 of the Information Technology Act. was registered at the Cyber Crime Police Station.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Cybercrime) Indivar, who goes by his first name, said he had received about 20 such complaints related to cheating, threats and harassment from those who took advantage of app loans micro-loans.
Indivar said they start an investigation as soon as they receive a complaint, but it takes a few months to verify all the facts, as they have to collect information from several banks and social media sites.
“People don’t check the app details and read the permissions requested by the app. These apps access all your phone details including contacts and photos which are then misused “Many young people fall prey to fraudulent microloan applications. The main attraction of these applications is the ease of processing loans without any collateral,” he said.
Police say fraudsters are using illegal call centers — several of them were recently arrested in Gurugram — to hack into app users’ phones and steal their data, including bank details, emails and his photographs, and start harassing the user by sending his friends, colleagues and relatives the transformed images of the user.
In at least two of those cases, the victims ended up in divorce court after their spouses received the photos, police said. Even repaying the loan will not free the victim from his clutches, police said, as the harassment, blackmail and coercion would continue, forcing victims to pay multiple times.
Amit Sharma, an executive working for a multinational, said he took out a loan of ₹5,500 in January 2021 and reimbursed ₹25,000 in a month but the harassment didn’t stop even then. “I just took out the loan to find out how easy the process was. I got married around the same time and after a month they started sending my transformed photos to my wife and my married life was in difficulty. I tried to convince my wife that these were processed images, but she was not ready to believe me until a case was recorded by the police,” he said. he declares.
In another incident, a banker who took out a loan of ₹50,000 to travel for his honeymoon ended up paying ₹15 lakh to escape their clutches. Vineet Patel, who is from Pune and works in Gurugram, said he took out an instant loan to go to Goa but eventually had to sell his valuables to repay the loan. “My in-laws and my wife had decided to cancel the marriage and my relatives had to intervene and explain that I was the victim of fraud. We repaid the loan after taking out an ordinary bank loan. The suspects continue to calling me and threatening me; I’ve blocked more than 500 numbers so far, but it never ends,” he said.
In January, police received another complaint from 25-year-old Area 104 resident Kuldeep Singh. He said that on September 7, 2021, he saw a pop-up ad about an instant loan at a 2% interest rate. “I installed the app and I was asked to upload my Aadhaar card and PAN card and photo to get the loan. I repaid the loan amount of ₹2001 on September 14. Then the app unlocked more features and I borrowed more. Later, I realized that the interest is calculated at the daily rate, which means that the total interest rate is almost twice the principle. To repay the loan, I ended up taking other loans from other instant loan apps. I took instant loans of about ₹10.58 lakh and refunded ₹17.55 lakh,” he said.
The police said that despite several campaigns and awareness campaigns, people are still falling prey to such schemes. The toll-free helpline – 1930 – can be used to report cyber fraud and freeze fraudulent transactions, police said.