Loans followed by extortion, threats and abuse | Delhi News

New Delhi: Neha (not her real name), who was waiting for her salary to be paid, urgently needed money to pay rent and other bills. She came across an app, Danakredit or Cash Advance, and took out a loan. Over the next week she received her salary and paid off the loan, unaware of the horror that awaited her.
Her worst nightmare came true when even after repaying the loan amount, she received threatening and abusive WhatsApp calls and messages from Cash Advance employees. The scammers used the profile picture of a senior police officer to intimidate and force them to pay more money than “interest” and other fees. The crooks even sent their transformed and vulgar photos to their family members, friends and relatives via social media.
Neha was one of the many people harassed by this syndicate. Such apps, developed by a Chinese citizen, have led to suicides and mental breakdowns in several people. The apps gained ground during the pandemic as they offered contactless service.
When investigations by DCP (Special Cell) KPS Malhotra and the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations Unit pointed to a foreign hand behind the syndicate, an alarmed Delhi Police Chief, Rakesh Asthana, sought a full technical investigation.
Technical analysis of the app revealed that it was malicious and illegally obtained user data, contacts and images and transmitted them to third parties.
Traces of money were found and funds were found to have been transferred to an open bank account opened in the name of Balaji Technology. Further investigation revealed that Balaji Technology was a motorcycle repair shop. What was even more shocking was that Rs 8.45 crore was credited to this account and transferred to other accounts at the same time in just 15 days. This indicated a money laundering operation.
During malware analysis, it was found that the Android app assumed permissions to install third-party apps or malicious payloads without user’s permission. “The Cash Advance (Danakredit) Loan app was identified as a Trojan horse or spyware that collected confidential and personal information and was used for blackmail. The app was connected to a China-based server by creating proxy connections in the Android device,” the report said.
Cops found three modules of this syndicate at work. The first was the finance team, the other the technical group, and the third the extortion module. “The technical team developed the app and hosted it on the Play Store. After catching victims, they sent their data to the extortion syndicate, who milked the victims and handed the baton to the finance team, who transferred the money, apart from the user data, to China,” Malhotra said.
During installation, the app asked permission to access contact list, photo gallery and other personal data. Once approved, the loan seeker’s details were transferred to Chinese servers. As soon as this process was completed, the fraudsters were immediately transferred the loan amount. The users were offered loans at a low interest rate and assured that the amount was interest-free for 90 days. But later the fees were charged daily.
A team of scammers called the loan seekers and their relatives, friends, etc. using different cell phone numbers and demanded them to make payments. They would also pass transformed vulgar photos to the loan seeker’s family members, relatives and friends to intimidate them into paying more.

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