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200 SIMs,1 number: Threat to woman leads cops to loan app gang

A tip-off from a woman in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruppur district, who was being threatened over a loan of ₹ 18,000 she’d taken via an app, has led to arrest of a five-member gang that ran a maze of phone numbers that were used for such threats to users of some foreign-based loan apps, police said today.

The woman had complained of a receiving a series of messages threatening to post her pictures on an “escort service” website — listing her as as prostitute — if she did not repay.

The gang allegedly ran an illegal “telephone exchange”, meaning that they used devices to link up to 200 SIM cards to one mobile phone number, said Shashank Sai, Superintendent of Police.

They worked for two loan apps based in Nigeria, and one each from Indonesia and China, investigators said. To make tracing them harder, they used a virtual private network (VPN) to access the internet, said the officer.

One IMEI — a number unique to every mobile phone, one per SIM slot — was found to have been linked to 40 devices, he added.

In the express case, the woman had initially taken ₹ 3,000, and then the gang lured her into taking another ₹ 15,000 by sending her easy weblinks to click for disbursal.

Police have charged the men with cheating and impersonation, besides invoking the IT Act. NDTV

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