In a two-month-long operation, the Delhi Police Cyber Cell busted a fake loan application and extortion gang by arresting 22 persons from the capital and other states. The accused allegedly lured people with fake loan schemes and later extorted money from them using their personal data. The money was sent to their associates in China via cryptocurrency.
Police Saturday said they have found 100 such fake loan apps involved in extortion while the cheated money is between Rs 2,000 crore and Rs 5,000 crore. The accused use online servers to hide their operations. More than Rs 500 crore has been siphoned off by the gang, said police. To evade arrests, the gang was planning to shift their call centres to Pakistan and neighbouring countries.
The matter came to light after several people filed complaints with Delhi Police, National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal and other investigating agencies about instant loan apps which were extorting money from users using their morphed nude photos.
KPS Malhotra, DCP (Cyber Crime Unit), said, “We found that there were 100 such apps involved in fake loans and extortion racket. The apps would lure users to get instant loans. They would seek permission from users to access their data and steal all their contact details, chats, photos etc. These would then be uploaded on servers based in Hong Kong.”
Gang members in India, referred to as recovery agents, would then call the user and extort money using their morphed photos. Police said these agents were operating from call centres.
“Due to fear of society, the user would pay the money but the accused would extort even more. All money was being sent to China through hawala channels or cryptocurrency. Victims who would take loans of Rs 10,000- Rs 15,000 were threatened and would be forced to pay up to lakhs. We also received reports of suicide cases because of the app,” said DCP Malhotra.
Last month, a 55-year-old bank employee allegedly committed suicide in Bengaluru after he was unable to repay the loan to the accused. He had listed 40 mobile apps in his suicide note and the harassment he faced. “Kumar couldn’t repay the loans and the lenders on the app had morphed his photos. They threatened to post these on porn websites. The accused also posed as Kumar and sent… videos to his friends. The man ended his life because of the harassment. We registered a case of abetment to suicide…,” said a police officer in Bengaluru.
Similarly, a 30-year-old man in Hyderabad and a 38-year-old man in Mumbai committed suicide after their morphed photos were sent to their contacts by the loan app accused. “In the case of the victim from Mumbai, his photos were sent to 50 of his colleagues. His family alleged the recovery agents from the app were harassing him,” said police.
Seeing the sensitivity of the case, Delhi’s Cyber Crime Unit conducted a deep analysis of all applications, call detail records and the financial trail. The accused were arrested after extensive raids in Delhi, Haryana, Bihar, Karnataka etc.
Police said the main accused, Supreet K Shetty, is the director of the gang while Navneet Kumar Bhati, a resident of Bihar, manages the finances. Sources said Navneet had studied in China. “The accused were shifting their call centres from India to Pakistan and Nepal. In each of the bank accounts, transactions worth Rs 1 crore was credited per day,” added DCP Malhotra.