Indian Police busted an $80 million (Rs 500 Crore) extortion racket involving 22 Indian nationals and Chinese app developers who were running the 100+ quick loan app scams on Google Play Store. The news comes after a police official claimed that the funds were being sent to China using Hawala transactions and cryptocurrencies.
Indian capital Delhi’s Special Cell and Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) investigated the case and exposed the quick loan app scam with over 100 applications tied to Chinese nationals.
Reports say the 22 detained individuals were taking orders from Chinese nationals and scamming people with quick loan schemes using mobile applications.
How did the quick loan app scam work in this case?
Investigators received over a hundred complaints about several instant loan apps that disburse loans at higher interest rates. Even after paying the loan off, the perpetrator used morphed nude images of the customers to demand money in exchange for deleting the photos.
The technique was used by over 100 similar apps that were a big part of an international extortion racket. Upon a thorough technical investigation, it was discovered that the apps were asking for “malicious permissions” from the users —- phone permissions that are not mandatory to run the app. The IFSO collected the complaints and started working on the case to find the real culprits behind the scam.
The perpetrators accessed the user’s contact list, chats, messages, and photos. All the combined data were uploaded to servers in China and Hong Kong after being granted access permissions.
How do quick loan app scams steal data from users?
According to the police, these applications were developed in the garb of loan-providing apps. Once the user installed them, it asked them to turn on redundant permission from the users, and since these apps were hosted on Google Play Store and websites, users conformed to the consent, all due to get a quick loan to help them in their needs.
“Once users have applied for loans, the app starts to upload sensitive data from the users’ device to servers hosted in China and Hong Kong,” the police officer said.
The stolen data was also sold to private companies in other parts of the world. Customers were getting calls from various numbers, threatening to pay additional money with morphed images from their phone gallery.
The victims were forced to pay money to different bank accounts, created against fake user IDs, and transferred to China via Hawala and cryptocurrency.
Moreover, the loan facility was easy to use, and users could get loans ranging from Rs 5,000 ($80) to Rs 10,000 ($160); however, after taking the loan, users were forced to pay interest in thousands of USD, according to the official report.
Chinese individuals were involved in the quick loan app scam
According to the Financial Trial, the extorted money was being transferred to different accounts, and the daily flow of extorted money reached over Rs 1 crore ($160k) per account. The police have confirmed the identities of a few Chinese nationals who were directly involved in the quick loan scam.
After revealing their identity, the police were able to track down their call centers, which are being shifted to other countries like Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
The transaction included funds over USD 500,000,000, sent to China via Hawala or cryptocurrency.
The Chinese individuals Lynda, Akira, Zoya, Kobe Bryant, and Luo Rong, a.k.a. Xiasi, are the real owners of these apps and have been running these scams for a very long time.
Additionally, the police authorities have lodged three separate complaints against the proprietors, and international authorities are searching for them in India and China.