In yet another instance of harassment by the alleged operators of instant loan apps in Kerala, a married woman and the mother of a child in Thrissur has approached the police complaining about her photograph, morphed in a derogatory manner, being circulated on social media.
An examination of her mobile phone revealed that a photograph taken along with her colleagues at her workplace, and which she had set as her a WhatsApp profile, was being misused. Police summoned a man who featured in that photograph and examined his mobile phone as well out of suspicion despite his protests that he was not the kind of character who will indulge in such dubious actions.
Potential blackmailing ploy
Following a more detailed examination, police found that the man had installed an instant loan app on his mobile phone. It emerged that he had taken a loan of Rs. 10,000 twice and repaid it with interest on both occasions.
“Loan apps are so designed that the repayment never reflects in their accounts and they keep harassing the loanees from different mobile phone numbers to keep on paying and threatening with consequences if they don’t oblige,” said a police officer associated with the social media cell of police.
Police stumbled across similarly morphed pictures with threat messages on his mobile phone leading them to the conclusion that the loan app operators were probably behind the morphed picture of the woman as well. “It is a common ploy of such loan apps to get access of the gallery and contact lists complete with the profile pictures of contacts on the mobile phone of the loanees when they install the app. Later, they use this a blackmailing tool and send such morphed pictures to family members and friends urging them to ask the loanee to pay up as a name and shame strategy. In this case, a woman who has nothing to do with the loan ended up as a victim,” said the officer. The case is now being probed by Cyber Crime Police Station.
Almost impossible to track
However, police admit that tracking down the accused is almost impossible since very often such instant loan app operators don’t use mobile phones or bank accounts using their own credentials but buy them cheaply from the original owners with little awareness about the consequences of such an act. Police tail the mobile phone number and bank account using the original KYC (Know Your Customer) only to hit a dead end on realising that they are now being used by others about whom little was known. The only thing to avoid falling into such a trap is to create awareness about the hidden dangers involved in such loan apps, the officer said.