Fraud Alert: Beware of Low-interest Loan and Job Scams
Mumbai-based Manoj Kumar Poddar needed a business loan and when someone offered him the loan at a lower interest rate, he readily agreed. He even paid nearly Rs1 crore as a fee or commission to obtain the  'attractive' (read lower) interest rate offered on the loan. However, he neither received the loan nor the lower interest. He is one of the victims of the loan fraud. But more about it later.
In a positive development, the Union ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) has blocked over 100 websites involved in organised investment or task-based part-time job frauds. These websites, which facilitate task-based or organised illegal investment-related economic crimes, are operated by overseas actors and use digital advertisement, chat messengers and mule or rented accounts.
Low-interest Loan Scam
So, let us look at what the low-interest scam is all about, where a person loses money without getting a loan. A report in the Times of India (ToI) says, Mumbai based Manoj Kumar came in contact with Kartik Kishore Ravi alias Mohammed Dawood Khan alias Srinivasan from Anna Nagar in Chennai, who has since been arrested. "Srinivasan promised to arrange for Rs45 crore at 9.6% annual interest, with a few riders — he had to shell out 2.25% as brokerage, 10% as loan processing fee, mortgage property, and pay four monthly instalments upfront."
After meetings with Mr Srinivasan and his associates, Mr Poddar shared the documents required for the loan and paid Rs98 lakh, including Rs2 lakh in cash. The report goes on to say that even after the loan processing formalities were completed, the loan amount was not disbursed. Further, when the businessman asked Mr Srinivasan and his associates about the loan, he got evasive replies. The businessman then approached his bank to cancel the transfer of funds from his account but was told that the money had already been credited and withdrawn from the account.
Mr Poddar then filed a complaint with the Ghatkopar police station. Quoting the Mumbai police, the newspaper reports that in April, the Chennai police arrested Mr Srinivasan in a cheating case. Five similar cheating cases were registered against Mr Srinivasan in Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Latur. 
Most people need a loan at some or the other time and lending money is the bread and butter of financial institutions (FIs), including banks. FIs try to gain as much information as possible about the borrower and ask for as many documents as possible that would help reduce their risk. Borrowers submit all necessary documents, but some find it difficult to put together all the necessary documents; and that is when touts and fraudsters like Mr Srinivasan come into play. 
They promise loans on easier terms and with lower interest rates from reputed lenders. However, for a borrower, it is of utmost importance to visit or check all details of the loan from official sources instead of simply believing whatever the tout or agent says. 
Things get worse when people use a digital app in order to obtain a loan. Most borrowers fail to read all the terms and conditions, the rate of interest and charges, including pre-payment or foreclosure. Remember, the interest component on such credit or loans (yes, these are loans given by lenders associated with the app and reflect on your credit report) is quite high. If you are not prompt in paying the equated monthly instalments (EMIs), you may end up in a loan trap.
Job or Task Scams
The Indian cybercrime coordination centre (I4C), an initiative of the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA), through the national cybercrime threat analytics unit (NCTAU), has identified and recommended blocking over 100 websites involved in organised investment or task-based part-time job frauds.
Several complaints were received through the 1930 helpline and national cybercrime reporting portal (NCRP). These offences pose a significant threat to the citizens and also involve data security concerns. This fraud starts by launching targeted advertisements on platforms like Google and Meta using keywords like 'Ghar baithe job' or 'Ghar baithe kamai kaise karen' in multiple languages.
These fraudsters mainly target retired employees, women and unemployed youth looking for part-time jobs. After clicking the advertisement, an agent using WhatsApp or Telegram starts a conversation with the potential victim and convinces the victim to perform some tasks like video likes, subscribe and maps rating.
After completing the initial tasks, the victim is given some commission and asked to invest more to get higher returns against a few more tasks. After gaining confidence, when the victim deposits a larger sum, the money is frozen, leaving the victim in the lurch.
However, job scams are also taking place offline. Last month, the crime branch of Mumbai police busted a gang that cheated several people by promising jobs in Gulf countries. The crime branch has seized 482 passports from the two accused, who had taken Rs40,000 to Rs60,000 from victims for providing jobs.
According to a report from Mid-Day, the case came to light when the Mumbai crime branch arrested five individuals involved in swindling people of crores of rupees by falsely promising overseas employment opportunities. An investigation revealed that around 300 labourers had been cheated.
Raj Tilak Rosha, deputy commissioner of police (DCP), told the newspaper that the accused initially established an office named 'Bombay International Consultancy' in Ballard Pier, a posh area in South Mumbai. "After being exposed by several victims who received counterfeit visas, the accused shut down this office and opened a new one, 'Indian Overseas Placement Services,' in Andheri," the report says.
MHA asked users to be alert and take precautions, especially before investing in very high commission-paying online schemes sponsored over the Internet. 
How To Report Cyber Fraud?
Do report cybercrimes to the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal or call the toll-free National Helpline number, 1930. To follow on social media: Twitter (@Cyberdost), Facebook (CyberDostI4C), Instagram (cyberdostl4C), Telegram (cyberdosti4c). 
If the fraud is related to your bank account, you need to immediately send an email to the official email ID of your branch (you can find it on the bank's website or your passbook) with a copy to the bank's customer care. Even if you have called the official number for customer care, you must still send an email describing your conversation with the bank executive, along with the time, date, and duration of the call. This will be helpful if you face a liability issue with the bank.
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