“Calls, threats”: the three suicides motivated by the racketeering of instant loans
On the afternoon of December 16, P. Sunil, 24, hugged his five-month-old son for a long time as he and his wife Ramya, 23, watched television at their home in Kismatpur in Hyderabad. Then, he went to another room and hanged himself.
In the days that followed, police discovered that that morning Sunil had received dozens of phone calls and messages from numbers related to instant loan applications. “I knew he had taken out loans through the apps. He was unable to repay as he had lost his job during confinement, and he received continuous calls, even at night, full of abuse. They threatened to deposit FIRs, lock his bank account, defame him. He was worried all the time. To repay a loan, he took another and found himself with a debt of more than Rs 2 lakh ”, explains Ramya, now with his in-laws in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh.
Over the past few days, Telangana Police have received at least 90 complaints from similar victims, who have borrowed money through apps that wipe out loans within half an hour, charge high interest, and supposedly work in tandem. A defaulter is subjected to constant harassment, over the phone, including fake FIR messages and court notices, and humiliated in front of friends and relatives. There have been reports of three suicides and one suicide attempt.
Police in Hyderabad, Cyberabad and Rachakonda in Telangana wrote to Google to remove 158 instant loan apps from Google Play Store. Telangana police raided offices and call centers in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Pune and Gurugram, from where hundreds of staff called customers. The 14 people arrested include a Chinese national, who is believed to be behind 11 of the applications.
Cyberabad Police Commissioner VC Sajjanar said he feared “thousands of people were silently being abused and harassed, fearing to seek help.” A preliminary investigation revealed nearly 1.4 crore in transactions worth nearly Rs 21,000 crore, according to a statement from the Hyderabad police, reported by PTI.
Dr Balraj, a sub-inspector at Rajendranagar Police Station who is investigating Sunil’s case, said Sunil has 30 instant loan applications. “Due to the high interest rates, he had to repay almost double the amount he borrowed. He found a new job and was due to join it a week later, but recovery agents had started calling his contacts. ”
Sunil was working as a developer at a games company in Madhapur, Hyderabad, before being fired. He initially used a credit card to pay his bills, but when dues increased he started borrowing from instant loan apps.
Before consuming pesticides on December 12, Kirni Mounika, 24, texted the Fly Cash instant loan app, one of 55 on his phone, saying, “You’ve already ruined my life. Four days later, Mounika, the only employee in her family, with three young brothers who are still studying, died.
After a B.Sc in Agriculture, Mounika had joined work as an agricultural extension agent in the village of Rajgopalpet in Telangana, earning Rs 37,000 per month. “She was lively, hardworking. She had joined two years ago and was already a role model among the young officers, ”says P Sravan Kumar, district agriculture manager.
In addition to covering household expenses, Mounika’s salary paid for the school fees and board of her three brothers. Police discovered that she first borrowed Rs 16,832 on November 1 from Cash Bean. When the November 7th maturity date came, she borrowed Rs 22,000 from Credit Bean on November 5th. “From November 1 to December 9, she borrowed Rs 2.71 lakh, which she had repaid around Rs 2.50 lakh. From the way the money, ranging from Rs 2,800 to Rs 7,000, was deposited into her account, it appears that she took a loan from one app to pay off the other. Additionally, some apps seem to have pushed her or convinced her to download new apps. She continued to repay until December 9, when she owed more than Rs 1 lakh in interest and the apps had started sending messages to her contacts, ”said Rameshwar Rao, ACP, Siddipet Division.
After that, police said, Mounika stopped borrowing and sent messages asking for two to three days. As in other cases, recovery agents then deployed a combination of tactics – they made hundreds of calls and flooded her phone with SMS and WhatsApp messages, sending fake FIRs, fake court notices, and fake letters marked to the RBI to block his bank. accounts, Aadhaar and PAN. On December 11, they texted contacts on her phone, including her best friend Sahaja and her mother. On December 12, as she was packing her bags to attend Sahaja’s wedding in Warangal, instant loan apps started messaging the WhatsApp groups of her office colleagues and relatives with her photo, calling her failing. At 5:00 p.m. the same day, Mounika consumed pesticide.
Mounika’s father, Kirni Bhoopani, is an ex-sarpanch, and although not well off, the family had political ties to Nangunur Mandal. “I don’t know why she took out these loans. If I had known, I would have stopped her, ”says Bhoopani.
Unaware that she is dead, recovery agents have made at least 40 calls a day and sent at least 250 messages over the past few days to Mounika’s phone.
Two days after Mounika’s death, Dr Santhosh, 36, consumed pesticides at his home in Malkapur, after sending a selfie video to his friend B Subramanyam saying he had found himself trapped in a cycle of debt. On December 23, Santhosh passed away. “He blamed five instant loan application companies. If he ignored their phone calls, they would call his family members… It seems there was not a minute’s rest, ”Subramanyam said.
Santhosh worked as a Site Manager at SL Trans at Ramagundam Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited. He lived alone, with his family living in Visakhapatnam. “During confinement, he borrowed money. He paid back most of it but got caught in a cycle. He took Rs 9,319 from Udhaar Loan; 9,197 rupees from Rufilo; 4,230 Rs from Reepay; 16,660 rupees from AAA; and Rs 11,770 from Loan Gram. He ended up with a debt of Rs 51,176, the interest which was an additional Rs 50,000, ”said DCP P Ravinder.
According to police, most instant loan applications do not have RBI approval. Police Commissioner Sajjanar said: “Once a person takes out a loan, other app operators encourage them to take more loans. In many cases, after a customer has refunded the full amount, more money is credited without a customer asking. The operators of the application have carefully sorted out the trap, without revealing all the details. If a person urgently needs Rs 5,000, they will only receive around Rs 3,800, after deducting “Processing Fee and GST”. Customers are therefore forced to take out loans from other applications.
After obtaining consent to access contact list, photos, documents, etc. when clearing the loan, the applications have these details with them.
The searched call centers belong to, among others, Liufang Technologies, Hotful Technologies, Pinprint Technologies and Nabloom Technologies, registered in Bengaluru; and Onion Credit, CredFox Technologies Pvt Ltd and Digipeergo Tech Pvt Ltd, in Hyderabad. Digipeergo is owned by Chinese national Zixia Zhang. In Pune, police raided Jiya Liang Infotech, which operated 10 instant loan applications.