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Fraudulent loan apps: Google Play removed 2,500 of them, says Sitharaman

Fraudulent loan apps: Google Play removed 2,500 of them, says Sitharaman

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Virendra Pandit

 

New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday said search engine giant Google either suspended or removed over 2,500 fraudulent loan apps from its Play Store between April 2021 and July 2022.

The government is constantly engaged with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and other regulators and stakeholders concerned with controlling fraudulent loan apps, she said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

The matter is also regularly discussed and monitored in the meetings of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC), an inter-regulatory forum under the chairpersonship of the Finance Minister.

The objective is to remain proactive, maintain cyber security preparedness with constant vigilance, and take appropriate and timely action to mitigate any such vulnerabilities in the Indian financial system, she said.

Among the steps taken to control fraudulent loan apps, the RBI has shared a ‘whitelist’ of legal apps with the government of India. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) shared it with Google, whose app store is the primary source of distribution of digital lending apps.

Google updated its policy regarding enforcement of loan lending apps on the Play Store and also deployed additional policy requirements with strict enforcement actions for lending apps in India, Sitharaman said.

As per their revised policy, only those apps are allowed on the Play Store that are published by Regulated Entities (REs) or those working in partnership with the REs.

“Between April 2021 and July 2022, Google reviewed approximately 3,500 to 4,000 loan lending apps and suspended or removed over 2,500 fraudulent loan apps from its Play Store,” she said.

The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), has been regularly analyzing the digital lending apps proactively.

Based on its analysis and complaints reported on the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal, the I4C team analyses apps on various parameters and reports to Meity apps found suspicious for blocking, she said.

To spread awareness against cybercrimes and to safeguard the interests of citizens, several steps have been taken by the government, the RBI, and banks.

The RBI has formulated the conducting of electronic-Banking Awareness And Training (e-BAAT) which has largely focussed on awareness about fraud and risk mitigation, while a Nationwide Intensive Awareness Programme (NIAP) was carried out in collaboration with the REs.

In a separate response, Sitharaman said over 44.46 crore loans amounting to Rs 26.12 lakh crore (as of November 24, 2023) have been sanctioned to the borrowers under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) since its inception.

Under PMMY, collateral-free institutional credit up to Rs 10 lakh is provided by Member Lending Institutions (MLIs), i.e., Scheduled Commercial Banks (SCBs), Regional Rural Banks (RRBs), Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs), and Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs).

Any individual who is otherwise eligible to take a loan and has a business plan for a small business enterprise can avail of a loan under the scheme.

Loans can be availed for income-generating activities in the manufacturing, trading, and services sectors, and also for activities allied to agriculture, under three categories, — Shishu (loans up to Rs 50,000), Kishor (loans above Rs 50,000 and up to Rs 5 lakh) and Tarun (loans above Rs 5 lakh and up to Rs 10 lakh).

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