The mobile loan trail leads to China

Cops hit a rock wall after tracking IP addresses and backends of apps in Chinese cities as 11-state probe enters choppy waters

In some cases, scammers have used broadband services in Nepal and Bangladesh to activate WhatsApp numbers. Representation photo

The investigation into the loan application case following the arrest of five men by the Maharashtra cybercops seems to have reached an impasse with the emergence of Chinese links. Maharashtra Cyber, the nodal agency for cybersecurity and cybercrime investigations in the state, discovered that one of the Gmail IDs used to download the Handy Loan app from Google Play Store had been activated from China.

Cyberpolice also found WhatsApp numbers used to harass Handy Loan app borrowers were active in at least 11 states other than Karnataka from where the five defendants were arrested last month. The action followed a series of midday reports that highlighted the harassment of borrowers with their transformed photos.

Also Read: Two More Loan Application Cases with Nepal Link Highlighted

Recovery agents arrested last month.  File Picture
Recovery agents arrested last month. File Picture

Sources from Maharashtra Cyber ​​said the agency tracked the Handy Loan app’s IP address in China. “There are two email ids that were used to activate the Handy Loan app and one belongs to China,” an official from Maharashtra Cyber ​​said.

The investigation showed that the kingpins behind the digital loan scam used broadband connections in Nepal and Bangladesh to activate multiple WhatsApp numbers, which were then used to harass and threaten borrowers. “It’s basically their tactic to dodge law enforcement and delay the investigation if a case has been recorded,” the officer said.

Earlier, in the middle of the day, the office of Oasis Broadband in Kathmandu had visited, whose services had been used to activate some WhatsApp numbers by loan sharks. However, company staff refused to share the contact details of the owners of the WiFi routers involved in the racketeering.

A Maharashtra Cyber ​​officer has said that the criminals behind several digital lending apps used fake addresses to register their products. In the case of Handy Loan, cyber cops from Maharashtra traveled to Gujarat to verify the address on the application, but it turned out to be fake.

Too many layers to peel

Police have encountered layers of conduits to move the ill-gotten money coughed up by borrowers to its final destination, which in some cases is China.

Debt collectors in mobile loan apps often transform borrowers' photos to blackmail them.  Representation photo
Debt collectors in mobile loan apps often transform borrowers’ photos to blackmail them. Representation photo

“UPI payments were on multiple layers like the first account the payment was received on belonged to Karnataka and then the money was transferred to accounts in Uttar Pradesh before being sent to another account in mumbai. We are checking all the details but it takes time to get a response from the banks involved and fraudsters are taking advantage of these procedural bottlenecks,” the officer added.

Police said untangling the money trail was crucial as it would help them establish a larger conspiracy. The Enforcement Branch, which has also investigated a few cases under money laundering legislation, has ties to China. “If the money trail also confirms China’s involvement, we will surely ask ED to investigate the money laundering in this case as well.”

Considering that some of the WhatsApp numbers used by the accused were previously with people in at least 11 states – reflected in the national cyber portal – Maharashtra Cyber ​​also alerted authorities in those states including Punjab, Telangana, India. Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar. , Delhi and Haryana.

A screenshot of the Handy Loan app on Play Store.  His address in Gujarat turned out to be fake
A screenshot of the Handy Loan app on Play Store. His address in Gujarat turned out to be fake

Working on Maharashtra cyber entries, Pune Rural Police recently arrested the five men arrested for their alleged roles in a similar case registered with Lonavala and Daund police. “We took them into custody for making harassing calls and turning pictures of borrowers,” a Pune rural police officer said.

Five follow-ups so far

Last month, the Maharashtra cybercriminal arrested five youths, including an MBA, from Karnataka for allegedly making harassing calls and transforming photos of borrowers in the name of the Handy Loan app. All five told the court they simply made callbacks based on information shared by their employer. “All are qualified and come from good families. They were unemployed and working from home, one of them was arrested the day after he arrived,” their lawyer, attorney Rajesh Khobragade, told a city court.

Khobragade said the main defendants in the case who harass borrowers are still at large.

“Now other police officers are also taking custody based on the cases registered against the Handy Loan app. So far, Lonavala and Daund police officers have taken their custody and the court has already given them custody. granted bail after giving them enough time to question them,” Khobragade said.

The accused are housed in Arthur Road Jail. “All are now in custody and incarcerated again at Arthur Road Jail and I hear other police are also going to arrest them,” Khobragade said.

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