CWB uncovers massive loan application scam
When Hemanth and his friend Chiranjeevi approached police earlier with a fraud complaint against a company that had recently hired them, they had no idea they would be part of a massive mobile loan app scam with suspected links. with Chinese nationals.
The pair, both in their early 30s, had posted their resumes to recruiting sites earlier this year and were surprised when a human resources official offered them a deal that sounded too good to be true. They were offered “manager” positions and a guaranteed salary with little else to do. All they were required to do was submit their personal documents, including their Aadhaar and PAN cards. They didn’t even have to show up at a desk.
However, after two months without receiving a single rupee from their employer, the duo approached the police in November. Police from the Central Crime Branch (CCB), who handled the case, unearthed a network of 52 companies that allegedly robbed customers by offering high interest loans and processing fees through applications. At the head of this network was Licorise Technology Pvt. Ltd., a company in Munnekolala, Marathahalli, which reportedly employed unemployed BPO workers as loan collectors.
The company would have operated on several levels: offering short-term loans on various mobile applications such as Cash Master and Crazy Rupees; hire former BPO employees to work as salvage agents and establish Benami companies on behalf of employees.
The accused offered micro-loans of as little as 1,000 with interest rates of up to 15-20% of the total loan amount. Interest rates were also compounded on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. They also charged a high processing fee, almost half of the loan granted.
The apps, once installed by borrowers, would provide access to all of their phone contacts, gallery, and other sensitive information. The management ran a real “call center” with 50 to 80 employees whose job it was to convince people to download the applications and apply for a loan. By downloading the apps, customers gave them access to their contacts and other information.
So far, the CCB has announced that it has arrested Licorise Technology’s human resources director Kamaraj More, 25, and team leader Darshan Chavan, 21, for threatening debtors. CCB officials declined to release details of other suspects and people higher in the management of the company.
Call center executives were offered salaries based on the percentage of loan recovered from customers who had downloaded the apps. “They have been asked to get customer dues by hook or by crook using coercion, abuse and blackmail if necessary,” said a police officer.
Defaulters were humiliated in front of friends and acquaintances with messages that the victim had “cheated” on someone. Others have seen their photos transformed and shared on social media as blackmail.
Licorise is said to have launched several Benami companies and bank accounts using employee documents. “The defendants were dealing with clients of the UP and Bihar from the office in Munnekolala. Loan payments and other transactions were routed to several accounts owned by companies such as’ Fesolovo Pvt. Ltd., Leadbolt Pvt. Ltd., and Zeter Pvt. Ltd., which Licorise had launched using Hemanth and Chiranjeevi’s Aadhaar and PAN maps, ”a senior official said.
Even though bank accounts opened in their name showed transactions amounting to thousands of rupees, the duo were told the companies were taking losses. The CCB discovered 52 of these companies.
When CCB Economic Offenses Wing raided in November, they said the companies had ties to registered non-bank financial companies (NBFCs) for disbursing loans. “These companies weren’t even offering loans. They get loans from NBFCs, cheated customers. All the windfall was transferred from the country to China, ”said a CCB official at the time.
Another official said the CCB was looking for managers suspected of being from China. “The defendants told police they were hired by a Chinese national in online interviews and received instructions by phone and text,” he said.