The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued guidelines last week to regulate digital lending apps to tackle the growing number of frauds and unethical activities. The banking regulator is also preparing a “whitelist” of all legal applications that will be authorized by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to be listed on Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store. . However, in the midst of all this, a digital loan app, called Wonder Loan, is listed on Google Play. The app is accused of duping customers with fake five-star reviews and shady loan repayment schemes. According to an email from one of the app’s customers, Wonder Loan not only disbursed a loan amount that was not requested, but also duped him with an additional amount of money as reimbursement in less than a week.
Who owns/operates Wonder Loan? What does he promise?
According to Google Play SEOWonder Loan is developed by the Thai Nadu Fint Group, which has only been active for two months and has only one app – Wonder Loan – listed on Google Play, according to app data platform AppBrain.
Wonder Loan has a Google Play rating of 4.9 stars, with over 46,000 user reviews. It has already registered more than a million downloads. Wonder Loan, just like most other digital loan apps, provides a platform for registered non-bank financial companies or banks to lend money to users. According to his websiteusers can get loans of Rs 3,000 to Rs 2 lakhs through Wonder Loan.
Regarding eligibility, Wonder Loan’s website (which is notably titled home.smarkpokketi.com – no mention of Wonder Loan or even Thai Nadu Fint Group) states that users must only be Indian citizens of more 18 and have a “stable job”. Users will need to upload their KYC documents, including ID, proof of address, and PAN card.
Wonder Loan offers a loan interest rate of between 2 and 22%.
How does Wonder Loan allegedly trick customers?
Bengaluru-based independent direct seller, Sunil Managuli, the customer who reported his experience with Wonder Loan to ABP Live, saw advertisements of the app on Facebook and other websites and was intrigued by the app in due to its high number of five-star ratings. and downloads. Once he entered his details on the app, he was automatically credited with three loans of Rs 5,000 each. It should be noted that Managuli did not request any loan amount. The actual credit that appeared in his bank account was 3,010 rupees each.
Once a user enters their details, an in-app timer starts, where you must select a loan of your choice from dozens of other third-party lenders listed in the app. Even if a user does not select, a loan amount is still disbursed.
“Once I entered my KYC details, the three loans amounting to Rs 15,000 were instantly credited to my bank account, which I never requested,” Managuli told ABP Live over the phone. . “It means the total loan is Rs 15,000 but the actual credit in the bank account is only Rs 9,030 and the repayment term is only six days,” Managuli said. According to screenshots of his bank statement and the Wonder Loan app, seen by ABP Live, Managuli’s claims appear to be true.
“Once I saw the credits, I immediately contacted the listed company’s help desk email id, making it clear that I did not need such loans, asking them not to not credit the amount to my account,” Managuli said.
“However, I got no response and the three loans of Rs 5,000 remained credited to my account.” Managuli said he was given six days to repay the loan. “Within four to five days, I started receiving text messages and phone calls from alleged company executives who threatened me that if I didn’t repay the loan, they would contact my friends and colleagues based on my my contacts and my address book and ruining my reputation as a loan defaulter. I was emotionally devastated.
Now, when he tried to make the refunds within the stipulated six days, one of the three transactions failed. According to Managuli’s screenshots, his loan amount was disbursed by three companies – Golden Rose, Boost Loan and RupeeCoin. Of these, while the first two payments were made correctly, the RupeeCoin payment was not made.
The app says the refund can be done through UPI avenues like PhonePe, Paytm, Google Pay and others. However, payment from Managuli to RupeeCoin via PhonePe did not complete successfully. When he contacted a company hotline, trying to find a solution to the problem, he received a rude response.
According to a recording of the phone call shared with ABP Live, a company executive repeatedly berated Managuli saying that PhonePe payments are not compatible with the app. Although Managuli repeatedly tried to tell the executive that payment had already been made from him, he was forced to pay an additional Rs 5,000 to settle the matter. “So for a loan that I never really asked for, I had to pay the company an amount of Rs 20,000 to avoid harassment,” Managuli said.
A larger scheme at play
The three aforementioned platforms (Golden Rose, Boost Loan, and RupeeCoin) are actually digital lending apps that were removed from Google Play a few years ago under the Center’s instructions. Managuli said: “I have heard of cases where some people do not settle the amount and end up being harassed by the companies as they reach out to their friends and family and treat them terribly – driving even to suicides because of the psychological pressure in some. case. I didn’t want to deal with any of this, so I decided to settle down.
All three companies have several consumer complaints filed against them, some as recent as August 2022, according non-profit Consumer Complaints Court platform.
A closer look at Wonder Loan user reviews reveals a deluge of 5-star posts from users with foreign names, most of which appear to be bots. Amid these reviews, ABP Live also encountered several 1-star reviews (see below), who spoke of a similar experience to Managuli’s.
“I just installed the app. When I was looking for loan opportunities, I was offered [SIC] a very small amount and which I never wanted. But even though I didn’t click on the loan, the amount was credited. When I asked for cancellation, they disagreed and didn’t even respond,” user Koushik C J wrote. Another user, Aravind Vk, wrote, “I installed this app . After submitting the document, 6000 was credited to my account without informing and the term is given for 7 days only and request to repay 10000. As long as it is written on this application, 2_22% interest will be charged. What’s the point of 4000 in 7 days. It’s not correct.
To such criticism, Wonder Loan responded with generic responses, such as “This is a regular lending platform” and “Use it with confidence”.
Interestingly, a profile named thainadu finance private limited posted the following notice on the app’s page on Google Play: “FAKE APP”. We, THAINADU FINANCE PRIVATE LIMITED, do not provide digital loans. We have no connection [SIC] to this WONDER LOAN app. We have registered a complaint with the Cyber Crime department for misuse and identity theft. Beware of this scam app.” Considering the inaccuracy of the post, it may not have been posted by the genuine Thai Nadu Finance company at all. So this review should be taken with a pinch salt.
Managuli pointed out that while all 5-star reviews came from seemingly foreign users, the 1-star reviews all came from Indian users (or users with Indian IDs).
ABP Live reached out to Google to understand why apps with such mixed and overwhelmingly opposing reviews are still listed on its Play Store and marked with the “Verified by Play Protect” badge. This report will be updated when we respond to you.
Although Wonder Loan has not been listed on Google Play, Apple’s App Store also has several digital loan platforms listed on its platform. However, it is unclear how many of them are genuine and which are shady.
What has the RBI said about digital lending apps?
As mentioned earlier, the RBI has taken a strong stance against fraudulent activities through digital lending apps. Last week, he said that all loan disbursements and repayments should be executed only between the borrower’s bank accounts and the ER (revenue expenditure) without any loan service provider transfer/pool accounts ( LSP) or third-party party. Automatic increase of the credit limit without the express consent of the borrower is prohibited.
The RBI also said it was creating a “whitelist” of “all legal apps and MeitY will ensure that only those ‘whitelisted’ apps are hosted on the app stores.”
The Payments Council of India (PCI), a representative body of participants in the digital payment system in the country, has praised the steps taken by RBI to prevent illegal lending app operations. PCI Chairman Vishwas Patel said: “The global decision on ‘illegal loan apps’ is highly commendable as it will save millions of innocent people from falling prey to these unregistered, unregulated and illegal, and will ensure that international fraudsters do not gain access to Indian payment systems.”