2,500 Fraudulent Loan Apps Removed from Google Play Store: Govt
Moneylife Digital Team 21 December 2023
Google has suspended or removed over 2,500 fraudulent loan apps from its Play Store between April 2021 and July 2022 as the Indian government and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are keeping a close watch to maintain cyber security, Union finance minister (FM)Nirmala Sitharman informed the Parliament.
 
"As part of steps taken to control fraudulent loan apps, the RBI has shared a 'whitelist' of legal apps with the government, and this list was shared by the ministry of electronics and information technology (Meity) with Google, whose app store is the primary source of distribution of digital lending apps," the FM says in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.
 
Google's revised policy allows only apps published by regulated rntities (REs) or those working in partnership with REs on its platform, Ms Sitharaman says.
 
Further, she says, RBI formed a working group on digital lending, leading to the issuance of regulatory guidelines on digital lending on 2 September 2022. "These guidelines aim to strengthen the regulatory framework for digital lending, enhance customer protection, and ensure the safety of the digital lending ecosystem. Key provisions include the upfront disclosure of the annual percentage rate (APR), restrictions on fees charged to borrowers, and the requirement for a standardised key fact statement (KFS) for borrowers," the FM says.
 
The minister assured that the government is actively engaged with the RBI and other regulators and stakeholders to control fraudulent loan apps, adding the financial stability and development council (FSDC) meetings, chaired by the FM, regularly monitor and discuss the matter. She added that the government is committed to remaining proactive in maintaining cyber security preparedness and taking timely actions to mitigate vulnerabilities in the financial system.
 
Between April 2021 and July 2022, Google reviewed about 3,500 to 4,000 loan lending apps and suspended or removed over 2500 fraudulent loan apps from its Play Store to maintain a secure and trustworthy app ecosystem, the FM says.
 
Ms Sitharaman also shared various initiatives undertaken by the government and the banking regulator to increase consumer awareness and protection. RBI has implemented the electronic banking awareness and training (e-BAAT) program, which is focused on fraud awareness and risk mitigation. Additionally, a framework for financial education has been developed for inclusion in the school curriculum. The RBI conducts financial literacy week (FLW), and banks are advised to organise special camps through financial literacy centres (FLCs) and rural branches, she added.
 
In collaboration with RBI, the government has undertaken a nationwide intensive awareness programme (NIAP) in association with regulated entities. The minister says that the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C), functioning under the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA), has been regularly analysing the digital lending apps proactively.
 
“Based on its analysis and complaints reported on the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal, the I4C team analyses apps on various parameters and reports to Meity apps found suspicious for blocking,” Ms Sitharaman says.
 
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