Despite warnings, people still fall prey to loan app scams

Instant money with little documentation remains a big lure

July 21, 2022 09:51 pm | Updated 09:53 pm IST - KOCHI

Over a month ago, 40-year-old Sudha (name changed) borrowed ₹60,000 from three different loan apps to meet a few emergency expenses, including her children’s school fees. But, she got just about ₹48,000 after deductions in the name of processing fee.

The loan was to be repaid in a week. Her nightmare began on the morning of the sixth day. Incessant WhatsApp calls and texts demanding repayment became the norm since. Part payments to UPI links sent from multiple apps were never accounted for and the debt grew, fuelled by exorbitant interest rates. The demands soon turned into threats, using permissions she had granted to access her contacts list while installing the apps.

“They even had access to my phone gallery and started sending my morphed pictures and derogatory messages to those in my contacts. This was despite repaying about ₹1.36 lakh in one-and-a-half months,” said Sudha. Since then, she has changed her mobile number and formatted her phone on the advice of the cyber police.

Cyber police sources said people continued to fall prey to loan apps despite many documented instances of fraud. Instant money with little documentation remains a big lure. Uploading copies of her Aadhaar and PAN cards was all that Sudha was required to do.

Notifications from such apps flood mobile phone users, wooing them with easy loans and links for installation. A random search on the internet also throws up any number of such apps. Reviews by customers for many of such apps serve as the biggest warning about the threats they pose, but are consistently ignored.

“The operators are often from north Indian States and they mask their digital footprint. Tracking them down is a tough task. Also, the money gets transferred across a complex network of accounts. Creating awareness to stay away from such apps is the only plausible solution,” said a senior cyber police official.

There are also reports of money not being lent at all, but app installers being threatened to repay loans they never took. “Many victims choose to pay fearing the humiliation of being painted as a cheat and their morphed pictures reaching those in their contact lists,” said a cyber cell source.

There are others who borrow money and refuse to repay, hardly bothered by threats of naming and shaming. Some of them even lodge police complaints about being pestered by loan apps or simply replace their mobile numbers. “But loan apps seem to have factored in that possibility and still operate, confident in the knowledge that people who will pay up scared of their intimidating tactics will be any day more than the ones who simply don’t care,” said the officer.

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