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PETALING JAYA: Illegal moneylenders or Ah Long have upped their game by using mobile apps that allow them to steal data from borrowers’ cellphones.

Information such as photos, personal videos and contact lists are used to intimidate victims into continuing to make payments even after full processing.

These apps also allow syndicates to control the camera and microphone, access the mobile user’s location, and monitor their movements.

There are over 20 of these apps identified on Google Play including 126 Loan, Ace Credit, De Capital, Easy Duit and JF Credit.

Reviews by The Star found that these mobile apps have a pre-requisite for users who want to install the apps for the borrowing process, requiring them to grant access to their device and social media accounts.

All you have to do is fill out a form in the app, attach a photo of your ID card and also take a selfie with your ID card.

Once verified, you should be able to receive the money within an hour.

Kuala Lumpur Consumer Safety Association President Samsuddin Mohamad Fauzi said they receive complaints from about 10 victims each week, most of whom fall prey to a loan shark named “Jimmy”.

“His victims are all over the country, even in Sabah and Sarawak, through the Credit Masterz app.

“He’ll make his victims do all the dirty work, like throwing paint at other victims’ homes, so he’ll have at least one henchman in every state.”

“In return, he will offer them a discount on their repayment,” he said.

Samsuddin said the loan sharks would form a group or send a broadcast message to victims’ contact lists to harass borrowers, their friends and family.

“They take pictures from the victims cellphone gallery, edit them with some nude pics and send them to their contact list.

“They also claim that the victims are using them as guarantors, so these people will get worried and start pressuring the victims to pay back the loan, even though some of them had already paid the amount,” he said, adding that some would have paid over 200 times the value received.

Reviews also revealed that the loans offered by Ah Long bear an interest rate of 1.5% per month – still within the rate set by the Money Lenders Act 1951, which is 12% per annum for secured loans and 18% per annum for unsecured ones not exceed credit.

However, the victims said the interest rate was just a trap and the consortium would amend the terms of the loan agreement at will once approved.

Some of the Ah Long also claimed that they had licenses from the Department of Housing and Local Government.

Samsuddin said these Ah Long are not easy to trace.

“We’ve tried to locate them before, but have been unsuccessful. We have no idea if they’re local or overseas, but they’re using a virtual private network,” he said, adding that some of the mules are actually their victims.

Mazelan Paijan, deputy director of the Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department, said those looking to apply for a loan should look for licensed moneylenders and ensure the agreement is signed at the physical premises.

CCID Director Comm Datuk Mohd Kamarudin Md Din said police are working with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to monitor and prosecute websites and advertisements linked to illegal online moneylending services.

“Those who have questions can call our CCID Scam Response Center on 03-2610 1559 or 03-2610 1599,” he said.

To date, MCMC has blocked access to five websites that violate the law, at the request of the ministry.

Meanwhile, the Department of Housing and Local Government confirmed that only one company has been granted a license to offer online lending, namely Big Pay.

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