Telangana police have busted a multi-state instant loan app racket and arrested six people including a woman in a crackdown after complaints poured in from harass borrowers who have availed personal loans through these apps, mostly after losing jobs during the lock down due to the pandemic.

Till date these instant loan app companies have claimed three lives including a software professional, a farmer and a young woman in the state as they harassed the borrowers by sending messages to those in the contact lists proclaiming them to be defaulters, even sending their photographs to their near and dear ones. Most of those who availed these loans lost their jobs during the lockdown and had taken these easy loans through these apps.

The victims were lured by hosting loan apps on Google play store promising attractive interest rates. But as Cyberabad police commissioner VC Sajjanar pointed out these app firms were actually charging 35 per cent interest on loans that too for a very short period of 7 to 10 days which was illegal. The two firms Onion Credit Private Limited and CredFox Technologies Private Limited were working from Hitec City with a call centre employing 110 employees. CashMama, Loan- Zone, Dhana Dhan were some of the apps that were being run by the companies. The first two were associated with nine Non-Banking Financial companies but the last one did not have any approval. They have almost 70,000 active clients and were on Google Play store for a year. A total of three laptops, 3 desktops, 22 mobile phones were seized along with freezing of 18 bank accounts with an amount of Rs 1.52 crores.

Shivakrishna who complained to the cyber crime wing through their Twitter account narrated his harrowing experience and inkling to the modus operandi. A private sector employee who lost his job as a supervisor during the lockdown took loan from these online app for meeting his daily expenses. He had borrowed about Rs1.50 lakh out of which he has already repaid 80,000 but the app accessed his contact lists and sent out messages proclaiming him to be a “defaulter”. After giving out his name, phone number and birth date the message said he was a defaulter and they should “be cautious when doing any financial transaction with this person.”

The police have been running awareness campaigns against these fraudulent loan apps as they misuse data from apps including contact details, pictures, videos etc to harass or blackmail citizens in case of loan default. They coerced details like photo identity card and Aadhar card and used it to threaten the defaulters besides imposing heavy penalties. Police have also intimated the Reserve Bank of India and approached Google to find out the terms for hosting such apps.

Surveillance at airport

Telangana government has stepped up surveillance at the airport. Seven passengers who travelled from the UK to Hyderabad in the past 24 hours have tested negative after undergoing RT-PCR tests. However, they are being quarantined. A total of 358 people have arrived from the UK in the city since 15 December. The state government has also revised the rates of RT-PCR tests reducing it to Rs 500 at labs and Rs 750 for those conducted at home.