Google removes 75 fake loan apps; websites too under scanner

Representational Image: ImYanis/ Shutterstock

New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram: Amid rising complaints against illegal online lending apps, Google has removed 75 predatory loan apps from its Play Store in the past 24 hours.

And in the last week, it has taken down 134 of the ‘quick loan’ apps from its Play Store. Shockingly, 12 of the fraudulent apps were found to have over one lakh downloads and 14 apps have over 50,000 downloads. Still, nearly 50 fake apps are available on the Google Play Store.

With this, the number of fraudulent apps removed since July has reached 369 -- 266 from Google Play Store and 103 from Apple's App Store. 

The Central government has warned of a crackdown against illegal lending apps following incidents of unsuspecting individuals falling victim to online financial scams. Recently, a family in Kochi died by suicide after being harassed by loan sharks. It was later found that the young family had taken a loan from an app.

Union Electronics and IT Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar issued an advisory the other day to Google and Apple not to onboard such unsafe apps.

The Kerala Police also forwarded a letter to Google and other online service providers on Friday, asking them to remove fraudulent apps from their platforms. Many of the apps had suddenly disappeared on Thursday night itself. However, IT experts say that many of the apps will reappear within days in new forms. This could pose a serious challenge to regulate them, they point out.  

The Kerala Police also served notices to ban 72 websites for allowing illegal loan apps to function. Kozhikode unit of Cyberdome has initiated strict surveillance of instant loan apps amid the complaints. A probe revealed that many such predatory apps are being operated through certain websites based in Indonesia and Singapore. The cyber wing has prepared a list of 72 such websites and officially wrote a letter seeking their ban.

Meanwhile, the police received 628 complaints on its dedicated WhatsApp number about loan scams. However, only 20 complaints merited a probe, and cases have been lodged concerning five of them, police said.

The latest victim to end his life following extortion from online loan sharks was Wayanad native Ajayaraj. He had availed of a quick loan from the illegal app ‘Candy Crush’, police said.

A four-member family from Kochi’s Kadamakkudy, too, was found dead in their house. A preliminary probe revealed they had availed of a loan online and were threatened by loan sharks for the repayment.

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