The third episode titled Instant Loan Apps: The Dark Side of Fintech is a somber reminder about the perils of fraudulent online money lending schemes
The episode documents interviews with victims, investigators, and bureaucrats about the online instant loan applications and how they have caused unimaginable distress to people who availed these services.
The pandemic crippled an already ailing Indian economy, and the working class suffered the brunt of it. In the aftermath of the first lockdown, people across India faced acute financial difficulties. This forced them to rely on several mobile applications for instant loans, which were run by scammers. The ambiguity in the law regarding such applications protects these scammers and leaves users vulnerable to Fintech applications that have access to their private information.
Journalist Mithun MK of The News Minute provides a detailed analysis regarding the issue. He goes to great lengths to outline how these apps became popular, how the founders of these apps operate, and how they target their victims. The interviews with the victims, Balaji Vijayaraghavan MK and Kavitha Vallur, were informative and heartbreaking at the same time. They narrate the pain and suffering they had to endure as the scammers resorted to blackmail and extortion.
The documentary details how the scammers blackmailed and threatened them to disclose their private information online, and even harassed their contacts on their mobile phones. It’s the android phone users who are at higher risk of such scams as they are more often targeted by hackers. And, since India has a larger user base of android phones, many in the country are likely to fall victims to scams by Fintech applications. Earlier this year, Google announced that they have taken down several applications.
Many victims of such loan apps frauds have committed suicide due to harassment and humiliation by money lenders. According to News18, in December last year, three suicides brought a multi-crore money lending scam to light. Jenis Makwana's interview is an eye-opener about the real dangers these applications pose to society. Makwana’s brother, Abhishek took his own life allegedly after he was harassed and blackmailed by money lenders. Makwana’s interview points out the flaws within the system, and how the law and judiciary failed him and his brother. It highlights a larger systemic problem of policy failure.
In this episode, from a technical perspective, there is a slight shift in the aesthetics of how the interviews are conducted which has improved the overall quality of the documentary. However, the information regarding the laws and how government policies, or the lack of it, may have created this new market are not delved into considering such companies moved their base of operations from China to India after the Chinese government passed a law banning them from operating in their country.
The episode offers a stark warning to the general populace about the pitfalls of accepting the terms and conditions of a mobile application and granting it access to personal files.