Several people approached the Hyderabad police for help over the past few months, facing harassment from recovery agents of instant loan apps. The apps lure people in by offering loans easily and in minutes with high interest rates and processing fees, but methods of recovery when someone defaults have included texting and calling people on the contact list of the person who borrowed money, morphing photos and more. Many victims have complained of extortion from loan recovery agents, who often threatened to morph the victimsâ€™ photos as nude pictures and share them with their families and other contacts or on porn sites. In a breakthrough in such cases, the Hyderabad police have arrested a man named Manish Kumar from Bihar, who had been allegedly blackmailing and harassing victims in the name of loan collection, making threats with abusive language over phone calls, and sending morphed nude photos of victims over WhatsApp.
The Hyderabad Cyber Crime Police arrested 23-year-old Manish Kumar from Bihar, based on a complaint from a Hyderabad woman who said she had taken a loan from an instant online loan app. When she failed to pay her EMIs, she said she started receiving harassment calls and morphed nude photos over WhatsApp, causing her mental agony, stress as well as suicidal thoughts, according to the police. Based on call detail record (CDR) analysis, police identified that Manish Kumar had been sending abusive messages to the complainant, and arrested him from Bihar.
Police said Manish Kumar used to morph the photos of the loan app customers with nude photos using a â€˜Bikini Appâ€™ and would send them to the victimâ€™s family, relatives and other contacts, to defame and harass them on the pretext of loan collection. A mobile phone seized from the accused contained details of loan customers along with their Aadhaar, PAN cards and the details of some of the victims cheated by the accused, police said.
According to a press statement from the Joint Commissioner of Police, Detective Department, Hyderabad, Manish Kumar along with another man named Vikas Kumar, also a native of Bihar presently staying in Delhi and absconding, were indulging in blackmailing, harassing and making threatening phone calls using abusive language, and sending morphed nude photos to the complainant with her image over WhatsApp. Police found that Vikas Kumar would send the details of the loan customers along with their photo, Aadhaar card and PAN card to Manish Kumar. Manish Kumar has allegedly also been harassing the customers with threatening calls over WhatsApp using abusive language.
Manish Kumar has been booked under Sections 66C, 66D, 66 and 67 of the IT Act, 2008, and Sections 384 (punishment for extortion), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) and has been remanded to judicial custody.
Meanwhile, in another similar case from the city, the Rachakonda police have received a complaint from a woman who said that loan recovery agents had created WhatsApp groups with obscene titles and with her contacts as members, where they circulated her morphed photos, the Times of India reported. The woman had reportedly borrowed Rs 4000 from a loan app in December 2021, and was being harassed over the repayment since the first week of May. Rachakonda police are yet to nab the accused in this case.
Earlier this month, a woman who was working in a private firm had approached the Narsingi police alleging harassment by executives of an instant loan app in the name of repayment. She had alleged that the executives had threatened to share her morphed, explicit photos with her family members and friends in her contact list.
The Times of India has reported that Hyderabad police booked as many as six cases in the first two weeks of May against recovery agents of instant loan apps. The allegations included not threats to women to circulate morphed nude photos, and also threats to male victims to circulate their morphed photos accusing them of rape. Last year, at least six people in Telangana died by suicide due to harassment by agents hired by instant loan apps.
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