Kerala police swing into action; illegal loan apps, websites taken down

Notice served on Google, domain name registrars seeking to remove 72 sites & loan apps
Kerala police swing into action; illegal loan apps, websites taken down

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In the wake of a rise in suicides following threats from unauthorised loan app operators, the state police have launched a major counter operation, taking down 72 websites and removing several apps from Google Play Store. 

On Friday, state police Cyber Operations SP Harisankar served notice on Google and domain name registrars seeking to remove 72 websites and apps that endorse or provide online loans, in addition to some trading apps. Sources confirmed that these websites and apps were removed by Saturday. Further, 24 more apps are under the radar of police.

Recently, police launched a WhatsApp number (9497980900) for those who face threats and blackmail from loan app operators. Victims can file complaints in the form of texts, photos, videos, or voice files to this number. The police will contact the affected people and collect details for further action.

“People get loans through these apps without any collateral. So many people fall into these traps and later become victims of online blackmail and threats. People willingly upload their photographs and IDs on these apps. Most of these loan apps are based in Telangana and in north Indian states. Respective local police are taking action based on complaints. A strong awareness campaign is the need of the hour, and the state police are making efforts in this regard,” Manoj Abraham, ADGP (Intelligence) told TNIE.

Meanwhile, there are apprehensions that the apps removed would reappear on Play Store and App Store. “Earlier, the Union government removed many such apps. But they keep on reappearing on Play Store in different identities. So, it is impractical to wipe them out by removing the apps from Google. In fact, a coordinated effort is needed from all the states to curb this menace, “ said a senior police official on condition of anonymity.

According to the police, steps have been taken to freeze the bank accounts of illegal apps that have transferred money. Complaints received at the state level will be verified and forwarded to the cyber wing’s portal for action. In the wake of reports of suicides following threats from loan app operators, the number of people coming forward to file complaints has increased. According to Cyber police, only two FIRs -- in Ernakulam and Wayanad -- have been registered in loan app cases so far. A total of 300 complaints were received on the WhatsApp number in a single day. Of these, five complaints have been forwarded for further action, the cyber police said in a statement.

As many as 1,427 people filed complaints against fraud loan apps this year. While the police received 1,340 such complaints in 2022, and there were 1,400 complaints in 2021. The police said the apps, bank accounts, and phone numbers mentioned in the complaints have been checked, and further action has been taken.

The Centre also plans to crack down on illegal loan apps on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Six months ago, the government took down and blocked around 120 illegal loan apps.

HELPLINE

  • Police have launched a WhatsApp number (9497980900) for those who face threats and blackmail from loan app operators
  • Victims can file complaints in the form of texts, photos, videos, or voice files to this number

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