Headline, April 16 2021/ ''' '' THESE LENDERS' THUMB '' ''' : INDIA


 THUMB '' ''' : INDIA

APPS PREY ON HARD-PRESSED INDIA BORROWERS : And then Lenders harass and shame working-class and rural people who can't pay.

THE LOAN APPS EMERGED AT A DESPERATE TIME. The government enacted a tough two-month lockdown a year ago to contain the virus, plunging India into a deep recession.

Millions were thrown out of work. Traditional forms of lending like banks and microlenders were temporarily closed.

With names like Money Now, First Cash, Super Cash and Cool Cash - according to police documents -the apps came and went on Google's app store in India, some reappearing with a slight change of identity.

Most were built with off-the-shelf software that made their creation as easy as starting a blog, said Srikanth Lakashmanan, one of the coordinators of Cashless Consumers, a collective of technology volunteers who have been studying the apps.

With a few taps on a phone and a fresh selfie, a borrower could get the cash needed for a doctor's appointment, for restocking the kitchen or for paying a child's school fees.

REPAYMENT could be due in as little as a week. Lenders often added interest and fees amounting to as much as one third of the loan even before they sent the money, so borrowers would already owe more money than they received. And to get money, borrowers had to hand over their personal information.

THE HARRASSING CALLS BEGAN soon after sunrise. Kiran Kumar remained in bed and, for hours, thought about how he was going to end his hostage of a life.

The cement salesman had initially borrowed about $40 from a lender through an online app to supplement his $200-a-month salary. But he couldn't pay the mounting fees and interest, so he had borrowed from others. By that morning Mr. Kuman owed roughly $4,000.

Even worse, the lenders had the phone numbers of those closest to him and were threatening to make his problems public.

''If I am labeled a fraud in front if everyone, my self-respect is gone, my honor is gone,'' Mr. Kumar, 28, said in an interview. ''What is left?''

The authorities in India are increasingly worried that there may be many more victims like Mr. Kumar. They believe a new breed of lender, its technique sharpened in China, has been preying on working-class and rural people who have been devastated by the impact of the coronavirus on the Indian economy.

These lenders don't require credit scores or visits to a bank. But they charge high costs over a brief period. They also require access to a borrower's phone, siphoning up contacts, photos, text, messages, even battery percentage.

Then they bombard borrowers and their social circles with please, threats and sometimes take legal documents threatening dire consequences for nonpayment. In conservative, tightly knit communities, such loss of honor can be devastating.

One police investigation alone in the city of Hyderabad has mapped out about 14 million transactions across the country worth $3 billion over about six months. India's central bank and the national authorities are investigating.

''It is becoming difficult for us to count the zeros,'' said Avinash Mohanty, the joint commissioner of police in Hyderabad. The police attributed five suicides in the city to the tactics of the lenders.

ABOUT 100 lean apps have been removed from the Google platform, according to the Indian government. A Google representative said it had reviewed hundreds of loan apps and removed those that violated the terms.

The investigations are raising alarms in India about the vulnerability of a population of 1.3 billion people still getting accustomed to digital payments. Online transactions in India will reach more than $3 trillion by 2025, according to PwC, the consulting firm.

Further fraud findings could lead the government, which has already limited the personal data that online companies can use, to take a tighter grip on the industry.

The apps also speak to the global nature of online fraud. Many of the companies use techniques that flourished in China two years ago, before the authorities there shut them down, and that have since reappeared elsewhere.

In an interview with The New York Times, the collection agent - a fast-talking 24-year-old who made about $130 a month - said each day he would receive electronic files on about 50 borrowers. The files included their personal details, copies of their government IDs and their contact lists.

Workers could make a weekly bonus of about $7 a day if they pressed three-fourths of the borrowers into paying loans back, said the collection agent, who asked for anonymity for fear of reprisal from his former employer.

But returning to what saved Mr. Kumar on the morning last summer when he lay in bed and thought of ending his life was a call to a friend who helped collect some money.

''If it wasn't for my friend, I was 90 percent sure that day I would commit suicide,'' Mr. Kumar said.

The Honor and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research on the 'World and Practices',  continues. The World Students Society thanks authors Mujib Mashal, Hari Kumar and Cao Li.

With respectful dedication to the Founder Framers : Vishnu and Lakshmi, People of India, Leaders, Students, Professors and Teachers, and then the world. 

See Ya all prepare and register for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter - !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011 :

'''' Apps - Amps '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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