Crime

‘They hacked all my contacts’: After sexploitation, loan scam alarms Kashmir

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At a time when some top bureaucrats are facing cyber-attacks in Kashmir, the commoners are grappling with a new online scam where fraudsters are sending morphed pictures and obscene texts to all their contacts.

Aasif Jamal was taken aback when he received his friend’s Aadhaar card photocopy and obscene text on WhatsApp: ‘He’s a wanted rapist…’

Even before he made sense of the telling message, another text flashed on his screen: “This person outraged his mother’s honour and ran away. If anybody sees him, call police.”

Phone beeping didn’t stop that evening, making Aasif anxious about the troubling texts being sent from an unknown number.

“This thug,” came another text, “took loan from our app and is yet to repay it. He abused us when told to clear debt. Please make him understand that he has to repay the loan. We’re contacting you because he has added you as his reference.”

Alerted by those alarming texts, Aasif curtly contacted his friend who feigned ignorance about the so-called loan. A quick cross-checking made it clear that the morphed messages were meant to harass his friend’s contacts.

This case is an instance of the growing online threat from fraudsters putting commoners like Aasif at high risk today. Even the so-called ‘powerful’ are facing this cyber abuse. Lately, two serving bureaucrats in Kashmir reported their profiles being misused to mislead public.

But before the scam through Personal Loan Apps would unsettle people, many Kashmiris reported video calls from unknown numbers. The recorded calls would be edited with obscene shots and sent to the victims for sexploitation.

In the new online scam, if the victims fail to pay the amount with interest, the fraudsters send their photos marked with abuses to all their contacts. The brazen act is aiming at shaming people and put them through a harrowing experience.

When Tariq Ahmad faced the same online abuse, he lost his mental calm. It started for this 23-year-old Bandipora boy when his friend installed an App in his cellphone where he could get Rs. 2000 as loan. Howeve, he was kept in dark about the ‘payback with interest’ clause.

Tariq completed all loan formalities and received Rs. 2275 in his bank account within 30 minutes.
Six days later, when he was in Srinagar, he received a call from an unknown number asking him to pay back the amount with interest. He agreed to pay Rs 3500 till afternoon next day.

“But then,” he says, “I received another call directing me to follow a link sent on my WhatsApp number.”

Tariq became suspicious upon receiving multiple calls from different numbers. They were all telling him to pay the amount with interest.

“At last,” he recalls, “a madam called and told me—‘Don’t pay the amount, our system has been hacked.’ ”

He blocked their numbers, but shortly received photos of his Aadhaar card and all contacts. “Even when I was ready to pay the amount with interest, they told me that they’ll forward my Aadhaar card and obscene text to all my contacts.”

They only lived by their obnoxious threat.

The photo of Tariq’s Aadhaar card and text was sent to all his contacts. And soon everyone was calling him about it. “It made me stressful,” he recalls the distressing moment.

The text shared to his contacts was intimidatingly insulting: “This bastard has run away after taking loan from our company. He has raped a 12-year-old child. We’ve orders to shoot him dead. Share this message with 100 of your contacts. Any information about him carries a reward of Rs. 500,000 lakh.”

Tariq registered a complaint at his concerned police station where he was told to contact cyber police. He was instructed to block all those abusive contacts and suspend his SIM for some time.

“They had hacked all my contacts and gallery.”

Fraudsters, warns cyber police, can get access to contact numbers and phone data and misuse it to harass, humiliate and threaten a person.

“That’s why,” cyber police cautions general public, “you should not fall prey to such online loan frauds. Verify the antecedents of the company/firm offering loans online or through mobile apps.”

But after receiving those dark texts, life isn’t the same for Aasif. He still feels jittery upon receiving texts from unknown numbers.

“In a distressed place like Kashmir, these cyber cons are only escalating anxiety of commoners having no clue about the dark web,” Aasif says. “These fraudsters should be brought to justice for playing with innocent lives.”

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