Many people who have been duped online suspect their cellphones had been hacked but police said that in most cases, the victims themselves click on suspicious links or allow access to their contacts and photo gallery while downloading an app that is later misused.
The police have found that mobile apps that offer loans, for example, seek permission to access the gallery, contact list, location and text messages in the device. Most users grant permission.
The information is often used by recovery agents to blackmail the persons and those on their contact lists.
“When someone needs money and downloads an app for a loan, he or she is in a hurry to complete the procedure so the loan is processed at the earliest. In most cases, people give access to all the personal information without realising they are giving away a lot of sensitive data,” said an officer of the Bidhannagar police commissionerate.
The Bidhannagar police have recently received six complaints from a New Town resident who fell into a trap after taking a loan of Rs 3,000 through an app.
The complainant has alleged that his wife and a friend received morphed photographs on WhatsApp with the threat that their morphed images would be circulated on social media unless they help the loan agency recover the amount.
“I took a loan of Rs 3,000 through an app and repaid it. Then I took another loan, but even before the due date, my wife received her morphed photograph on WhatsApp. She was told that the image would be circulated on social media if she did not make me repay the amount,” said the complainant.
A few days later, one of his female friends received a similar message on her WhatsApp number with his morphed photograph.
“She (the woman contact) called me up and I explained the situation to her. But if all my contacts start getting such messages, some of them will misunderstand me or fall prey to the loan app racket,” he said.
The father of one has lodged six complaints with New Town police station for the harassment he and his friend had been facing over the past few weeks.
“Now, I am getting such messages from an app from where I did not take any loan at all,” he said.
Officers of the commissionerate said they had started probing the cases. Sources said this was not the first time that the Bidhannagar police had received a complaint of harassment by recovery agents.
The Telegraph reported a few weeks ago that a Baguiati resident received WhatsApp messages from an unknown number informing her about a family friend who allegedly took a loan.
The message said the family friend was using her photograph for an objectionable purpose.
The woman on checking with the friend came to suspect that it was a ploy by recovery agents aimed at inciting her and other friends against him. The woman lodged a complaint with the cyber cell of the Bidhannagar police.