Online Extortion Leading to Suicide, Multiple Rise in Loan App Crimes: Police Alert Citizens and Fake Call Center Dismantled in Bangalore
The Cyber Police Station of Pune Police in Maharashtra received 699 complaints of loan application offenses in 2020. The number rose to 928 in 2021. 3,151 complaints were filed against officers of the loan application until August this year.
Earlier this month, Sohail Shaikh (25), a resident of Viman Nagar in Pune, who obtained money through a loan application, committed suicide. The investigation revealed that he had been threatened and abused by the loan application officers for the repayment of the money. His father Javed Shaikh had filed the FIR in connection with this case at the airport police station.
Gauri Dange, 25, allegedly murdered her grandmother Sulochana, 70, at her home in Warje on September 13. The investigation revealed that Gauri had taken out a loan from an online credit platform for her expenses. To repay this loan, she had taken out a loan from another online application, etc. The loan application officers repeatedly called him for the repayment of the money. Therefore, she murdered and robbed her grandmother of a Rs 36,000 case and a gold chain.
A 30-year-old woman from Hadapsar had filed an FIR at the Cyber Police Station in Pune on August 16. She had downloaded a loan application on her mobile phone after receiving a call from her agents. Although she did not need the money, a certain amount of loan was made in her name. The accused then began to contact the woman to ask her to repay the loan. They allegedly transformed his photo with obscene images and distributed them to people on his contact list. After the threats, the woman transferred around Rs 1.11 lakh to different bank accounts.
The Pune City Police has observed a multiple increase in crime related to loan applications. While producing nine defendants arrested at a fake call center in the city of Bengaluru, Karnataka, in connection with the online extortion of money from a Hadapsar-based woman in a loan application case, police told the court on Wednesday that there had been a significant increase in such crimes.
According to the information provided by the police to the court, several micro-finance companies, which are not registered according to the law, have created an online loan application on Google Play Store. Agents of these loan applications contact people by phone, asking them to upload their loan applications online.
These agents have access to the data, including the contact list, photographs and videos saved in the mobile phone gallery of these people, who submit their information online to download the loan application.
Sometimes, even if there is no loan application, the agents transfer certain amount of money to the bank account of the loan app users. Officers then transform photographs of loan app users into obscene content and distribute it to people on their phone contact list. Threatening to defame the user of the loan app, the agents extort money from them online, calling it the “repayment” of the loan. The victims are forced to transfer the extortion money to different bank accounts through online transactions. The police discovered that loan enforcement agents were using several fraudulently obtained SIM cards to commit these crimes.
Cops have launched an investigation into phone calls made to a Hadapsar woman, who had filed an extortion complaint online against loan application officers. The technical investigation carried out by the police revealed the details of a fake call center in Bengaluru which was used to commit the loan application related crimes. Cyber Police Station team then traveled to Bengaluru and arrested nine people identified as Vighnesh Manjunath (19 years old), Ganesh Subbaraidu (26 years old), Akash MV (19 years old), Shraddha Gauda (25 years old) , Parvati Santosh Das (39), Ashwini Murugan (24). ), Shilpa Gauda (25), Priya S (23) and Deepika L (20) on September 28.
A court in Pune remanded the accused into custody until October 7. The search for other defendants is ongoing, including a woman identified as Seema Gauda.
Police Inspector Kumar Ghadge of the Cyber Police Station told the court that ten SIM cards, mobile phones and other electronic items were recovered from the defendant during the searches. Police said the complainant received calls from the defendant between February 2 and June 10 this year asking her to download certain loan apps from the Google Play Store. Later, they sanctioned her loan and started harassing her for repayment.
Police suspect there are more people involved in the loan application racketeering, who may have domestic and international connections. The police investigation is ongoing to find out whether the defendants also extorted money from other people in the country. Police are also looking for people who provided citizens’ mobile phone numbers to the defendants. Police said the bank accounts the extortion money was transferred to and the SIM cards used to call citizens are under investigation. Police suspect transactions worth millions of rupees through the accused’s bank accounts. The investigation is also ongoing to find out who created the fraudulent online loan applications used to commit crimes.
Police have asked citizens to be aware and avoid answering suspicious phone calls regarding the loan application.