A major online financial fraud involving theft of personal data of applicants by a few micro finance companies said to be front-end firms of investors in some neighbouring countries has been busted here, police said on Thursday. Acting on complaints from some victims, including a woman who took loan using Paisa Loan app, the Criminal Investigation Department raided four companies, arrested the chief finance officer and human resource manager of one of them and seized laptops, mobile handsets and documents.
"On preliminary investigation we have found the owners of these apps are some front-end companies, citizens of neighbouring countries are the investors/directors and CEOs for every such company," the CID said in a press release, without naming the countries. The mobile apps are directly installed, accessed, used and monitored from cloud systems based in those countries. All the data is also hacked and used against the victims.
The investigations revealed that these financing companies had used fake SIM cards to call the customers, it said. Explaining the modus operandi, the CID said they found each company possessed several microloan apps of their own and on installation, users were made to part with details of PAN, Aadhaar, bank account number among others and grant permission for accessing SMSes, call logs, camera and storage on the phone.
The loan generally ranges between Rs 3,000 and Rs 9,000 and customers were charged an interest rate of 36 per cent per annum, which is deducted along with processing fee at the time of payment of the amount. If the customers fail to repay, the financiers harass them by sending abusive and threatening SMS and call the reference mobile numbers collected during activation of the application.
Using data accessed by the apps, a WhatsApp group comprising the contacts of the customer is created and messages against them are circulated with their photograph and with all kinds of "abuse, sexual overtones," with a tag of CHOR, FRAUD, 420, DEFAULTER etc.," the CID said. There were instances where a voice message was sent threatening physical and sexual assault on the women victims by the company recovery agents.
The CID appealed to the people not to share the data over any kind of applications which may go against them.