New Delhi – Google has taken action to remove 17 malicious apps from the Play Store that were specifically targeting Indian users with predatory loans and data harvesting. These apps, known as “SpyLoan” apps, exploited the trust placed by users in legitimate loan providers.
According to a report by ESET Research, these deceptive apps tricked users into granting extensive permissions to access their personal data. Once installed, the apps would proceed to steal a wide range of information, including contact lists, SMS messages, photos, and browsing history. The stolen data was then used to blackmail and harass victims, coercing them into repaying loans with exorbitant interest rates.
The reach of these apps extended beyond India, with operations reported in countries such as Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, Indonesia, Colombia, Egypt, Kenya, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, and Nigeria. Researchers estimate that over 12 million people had downloaded these apps before they were removed from the Play Store.
The functioning of these apps involved disguising themselves as legitimate loan providers, effectively deceiving users into downloading them. Once installed, they gained access to users’ sensitive information through permissions granted unknowingly. This data was then exploited to force victims into repaying loans with unreasonably high interest rates and significantly shortened repayment periods, making it nearly impossible for borrowers to meet their obligations. Essentially, these predatory apps capitalized on the desperation of individuals seeking quick financial assistance.
Reports have revealed that victims of these loan applications were subjected to significantly higher costs than those advertised, with repayment periods unrealistically shortened compared to legitimate banks. Borrowers were often pressured to repay loans within a mere five days, an impractical timeframe for many. The true annual cost of these loans ranged from an alarming 160 percent to 340 percent.
The impact of these SpyLoan apps on victims has been devastating, with some tragically resorting to taking their own lives due to the immense pressure to repay their loans.
The deceptive nature of these apps became apparent when users were coerced into providing extensive personal information under the threat of loan denial. This manipulation allowed the apps to accumulate over 12 million downloads worldwide before Google finally took action and removed them from the Play Store.
Google has emphasized its commitment to protecting users from predatory apps and has already removed over 200 SpyLoan apps from the Play Store in the past year. However, the company acknowledges that more needs to be done to prevent the ease of downloading and installing such apps. Google urges users to remain vigilant and adopt precautionary measures to safeguard themselves.
To protect oneself from falling victim to such malicious apps, it is essential to conduct thorough research before downloading any loan or financial app. Checking user reviews, ratings, and the app’s reputation online can help verify its legitimacy. Users should also be cautious when granting unnecessary permissions to apps and should avoid downloading apps from unknown developers. It is advisable to stick to official app stores like Google Play or Apple App Store and stay informed about the latest security threats and scams to avoid becoming a victim of malicious activities.