India: 22 people held in Rs5 billion instant loan, extortion scam

The gang approved loans on high interest rates and after recovery, used to extort customers using morphed photos


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Published: Sat 20 Aug 2022, 8:57 PM

In an operation that lasted over two months, India’s Delhi Police busted an instant loan-cum-extortion racket amounting to over Rs5 billion (Dh230 million) and arrested 22 people from different parts of the country, officials said on Saturday. The gang operated at the behest of Chinese nationals and the extorted money was being routed to that country through hawala and cryptocurrencies, they said.

According to the police, hundreds of complaints were lodged alleging that loans were being passed at higher interest rates, and after complete recovery of the money along with interest, the gang used to extort more money from the people using their morphed nude pictures.

The Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operation (IFSO) of the Delhi Police took cognisance of these complaints, and during analysis, found that more than 100 such applications were involved in the racket.

These apps were seeking malicious permissions from users. After obtaining access to the users’ contacts, chats, messages and images, the gang used to upload sensitive information to servers based in China and Hong Kong, a senior police officer said.

The applications were developed in the garb of providing small amounts of loan. The user would download one of such applications, grant permissions to the app and the loan money used to get credited to his account within minutes, the officer said.

The users would then begin receiving calls from different numbers that were procured on fake IDs, who would extort money threatening that their morphed nude pictures would be uploaded on the internet if they failed to heed to the demand, Deputy Commissioner of Police (IFSO) KPS Malhotra said.

Due to social fear and stigma, the users used to pay the money, which was later sent to China through hawala or after purchasing cryptocurrencies, the DCP said.

The gang used multiple accounts and each of the accounts received more than Rs10 million per day, they said.

Police found that the network was spread across Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and other states. The 22 people, including two women, were nabbed from different parts of the country, Malhotra said.

During the interrogation, they revealed that they operated at the behest of Chinese nationals. All the data regarding the recoveries was being provided from the servers in that country. Identities of few Chinese nationals have been confirmed and efforts are being made to trace and arrest them, police said.

After the crackdown, the operatives have been shifting their recovery call centres to Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, they added.

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