Police filed a case against unidentified people on Tuesday after a 44-year-old IT professional from Sector 7 alleged harassment, public shaming and threats from representatives of some lending apps.
According to the police, Vishal Diwan, the plaintiff took out a loan of approximately ₹24,000 through five applications in October and was forced to repay ₹3.5 lakh to 10 more applications in a month due to high rate of interest.
Diwan said he urgently needed ₹12,000 in October last year. “I had never applied for a loan, so I thought of trying loan apps. I found five apps and applied for a loan for each one. Within minutes I received ₹24,000 from five different accounts. When I checked the interest rate later, I was shocked to find that I had to repay ₹8,000 for each ₹4,800 I borrowed from each app in seven days,” he said.
Diwan said that to repay the loan to the five apps, he took out loans from 10 other apps, each with a repayment term of seven days. “It’s a trap set by these scammers and they don’t leave people alone despite the refund. I sold my wife’s jewelry and paid ₹3.5 lakh in one month to settle all dues,” he said.
However, on December 1, he began receiving more than 100 calls a day to repay loans he had never taken out. “Unidentified people started calling me and threatening me. They started contacting my colleagues, friends and relatives and started harassing them to repay my loan. They turned my pictures obscenely and sent them to everyone on my contact list. They started threatening to upload these photos to social media, after which I contacted the police in December,” he said.
Police said they opened an investigation soon after and it took them nearly five months to check bank accounts and phone numbers associated with the accounts to locate the suspects, police said. A case under sections 384 (extortion), 420 (cheating) and 465 (penalty for forgery) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 66, 66B, 67A and 67 of the Information Technology Act was filed on Tuesday at the cybercrime police station, police said.
Bijender Singh, an officer from the cybercrime police station police station, said that most people who create such apps follow the same modus operandi. In 2019, more than 45 such apps were shut down after several people across the country committed suicide following harassment by app representatives. “The apps keep changing names and their reps keep harassing people who take loans from them. We have received several complaints over the past two years and the suspects operate in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Rajasthan and continue to change their mobile numbers,” he said.
Police said no arrests have been made so far, but are tracking IP addresses and locations to carry out raids.
According to police, these app providers run illegal call centers and distribute victims’ contact lists to harass them to keep paying them.