China continues to use mobile apps for digital fraud and espionage

The year 2020 ended with a shocking revelation about fraudulent activities being carried out through several mobile based instant loan apps available on Google Play Store. During raids in Hyderabad and Gurugram in the last week of December 2020, Hyderabad and Cyberabad Police busted the call centers of the fraudulent instant loan apps such as Cash Mama, Dhan and Loan Zone, etc.

Recently, a Cyber Crime Police Station, Cyberabad, registered eight cases against these loan applications and launched an investigation. The police received a complaint from a person on December 17, 2020, in which he stated that for his financial needs he searched Google and downloaded the Instant Loan App and uploaded an Aadhar card, PAN card, self-authentication photo.

Abuse and threat

After that he took a total loan amount of Rs 1,20,000/- from 28 instant loan applications. Even though he paid the loan amount of Rs 2,00,000/- with interest, he received calls from different mobile numbers and tele callers started making abusive and threatening calls and also blackmailed him of sending legal notices. Therefore, he requested to take necessary action and filed a complaint.

Telangana Police has brought 158 such fraudulent apps to the notice of Google and has sought to block them on the Play Store. Some of these  apps are: Krazy Bean, Krazy Rupees, Cashplus, Rupee Pro, Gold Bowl, Rupee Day, Cash Goo, Cash star, Money Now, Pocket Rupee, Cool Cash, First Cash, Credit Rupee, Real Rupee, Loan Gram, Cash Train, Cash Bus, AAA Cash, Super Cash, Mint Cash, Happy Cash, Loan Card,Repay One, Money Box, Monkey Box, Past Credit App, etc.

Cashless Consumers – an advocacy organization for digital payment ecosystem, and Banbreach – a Cyber Security Company have identified 426 fraudulent apps, which breach privacy of the consumer.

Personal data transferred

As soon as one tries to use these apps after downloading them, their personal data is illegitimately transferred to the servers in Indonesia. Moreover, their credentials along with phone numbers of their family members and friends are instantly shared with tele-callers and agents of 25-30 other similar apps. After scrutinizing the data, they prepare a list of soft targets, mainly women.

The tele-callers call these targets and ask them to pay on behalf of the victim using bogus stories of them being defaulter to ‘some of their liabilities and a case being registered in their name’. Text messages through Whatsapp are also sent to the victims which states that an FIR was registered in New Delhi with some false case numbers. They also send fake CBI notices to the victims for threatening them to pay.

China-controlled companies

According to the police investigation, these loan apps and call centres are run on behalf of Chinese-controlled private limited companies registered in Bengaluru like Liufang Technologies, Hotful Technologies, Nabloom Technologies and Pinprint Technologies. These companies run under control of Chinese nationals. The overall Head of Liufang, Nabloom and Pinprint, Zhe Wei @ Zhu Wei @ Lambo Zhongzhi @ Lambo, was detained at New Delhi Airport, when he was trying to flee India. He is also at the helm of another company Aglow Technologies Pvt. Ltd. An Indian national, K Nagaraju, resident of  Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh, has also been arrested, who was managing one of the four companies owned by Lambo. Another Chinese national, Qiu Yuan, has been identified as the operational contact person.

Rs 80 crore deposits in different accounts

These companies were having 26 bank accounts with deposits worth Rs.80 crores. These accounts along with several digital wallets were being used to camouflage the traces of the fraudulent transactions as well as payment of salaries to the call centre employees. The bank accounts have been frozen by the police and investigations are on to further identify inter-connection of other companies through these accounts and payment gateways.

A Chinese national Liang TianTian along with her husband Parshuram Lahu Takve (Indian) and one Shaik Aaqib (Indian) have been arrested by Rachakonda Police in an instant online loan apps fraud case. Liang TianTian started a company named Jiya Liang Infotech Pvt. Ltd., registered in Pune in the name of her husband. Indian hands involved.

Jiya Liang Infotech was working with Bienance Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd., Ajaya solutions Pvt. Ltd. and Taelde technology Pvt. Ltd. for unauthorised loan recovery. They were involved in charging excess interest rates as well as harassing and defaming the victims through various mobile-based instant loan apps.Police investigation also reveals that two other firms Shine Bay Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (Onion Credit) and Cred Fox Technologies were also involved in disbursing instant loans through mobile based applications. Their founder K Sharath Chandra was arrested by the Cyberabad police. Police are also suspecting the role of another Chinese national namely, Wang Jiaqi @ James, director of Anniu Pvt. Ltd. in a similar instant loan apps fraud case.

Clamp on Chinese appsIt seems that China has been undermining the threats of bans on its apps from across the globe and is determined to go ahead with its digital espionage spree. Last year, Indian government had to put a ban on 224 Chinese apps, which were found involved in fraudulent activity such as breaching privacy of the consumer and digital espionage. However, the recent revelation of involvement of the Chinese in fraudulent activities being carried out through mobile-based loan apps indicates that other fraudulent Chinese apps have been mushrooming ever since. (DNA)

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