22:16 GMT16 January 2021
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    With dependency on the internet, smartphones and apps becoming more prevalent among everyday lives of Indians, risks related to scams and compromised privacy have multiplied. In the recent past, several cases of online fraud have made it to the headlines.

    Police in the Indian state of Telangana are investigating an instant loan app scam, and have arrested another Chinese national for his involvement in India-based micro-finance businesses that have led to the suicide of at least six people. The latest arrest raises the total number of Chinese people booked in the case to three.

    The 26-year-old Chinese man identifies himself as He, and hails from Jiangxi province in China. He arrived in India in 2019 on a business visa representing three directors of different micro-finance firms – Xu Nan, Xu Xinchang and Zhao Qiao. Each had call centres in the cities of Thane and Pune in the Indian state of Maharashtra.

    These Chinese nationals were operating around 25 apps including - Krazy bean, Krazy rupee, cash plush, Rupee pro, Gold Bowl and First Cash among others – that offered instant loans to users.

    The seriousness of the case gained momentum after six people in India committed suicide after facing harassment from the loan providers.

    The initial findings in the loan-app scam led Indian police officials to trace around 14 million transactions worth over $2.8 billion so far. These transactions were facilitated via payment gateways, bitcoins as well as bank accounts linked to these companies. 

    How the Scam Played Out

    The arrested Chinese nationals allegedly targeted people between 20-40 years old, offering instant loans via their apps at high interest rates. The apps, available on Google Play Store, gained access to the users' contacts, mobile information and other private information  upon installation.

    As part of the general procedure of procuring a loan, the apps also asked users to provide their proof of identification, PAN card and bank credentials so that they could get quick financial help for a period of 7-10 days.

    Post the due date of loan re-payment, users were segregated into different “bucket lists” – depending on the amount of money they owed. The bucket a borrower was placed in would then determine the level of harassment and abuse that the person would be subjected to.

    How Did The Blackmail Game Work

    Customers who missed the deadline for re-paying their loans would be classified as defaulters and the call centres of these apps would begin reaching out to them.

    The customer care executives would not only threaten the borrower with dire consequences, but would also begin reaching out to random people in their phone books to further their cause of getting the loan money back along with the high interest payment, the media reported.

    Indian police authorities have reached out to Google with the list of these fraud apps, asking the tech giant to remove them from its app store.

    In addition, Indian police investigating the scam are also updating the Enforcement Directorate (ED) – India’s economic intelligence agency – with regular follow-ups and developments in the case.

    Along with the three Chinese officials, a 26-year old Indian man, Vivek Kumar has also been arrested by the Telangana police in connection to the case.

    The number of cyber-fraud cases are increasing by the day. 

    Earlier this week, Bihar state police busted a major inter-state cyber-fraud racket, leading to the arrests of 16 people from a rest house from the famous Buddhist pilgrim town of Bodh Gaya. 

    Upon searching through their possessions, the cops confiscated 40 ATM cards, 12 bank passbooks, 24 smart phones, 12 feature phones, 12 SIM cards, 14 fake stamps and fake ID cards. 

    Among other items, 2 kg of 'gold-type' coins, laptops, two colour printers, 2,500 scratch cards, 1,700 envelopes, 10 kg of pamphlets, diaries, registers, contraband liquor bottles and three motorcycles were also seized.

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