A joint operation by three regulatory agencies has led to the arrest of 422 individuals suspected of operating illegal lending mobile applications.
They were arrested after a swoop by the Joint Cybersecurity Committee (JCC) last Monday.
The JCC was set up jointly by the Cyber Security Authority (CSA), the Bank of Ghana (BoG) and the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO).
The exercise came after the JCC through its Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) at the national level, received 270 complaints of cyber bullying, harassment and death threats, among others, within the past six months from victims of these platforms.
The swoop, therefore, entailed raiding the various premises of four suspected illegal digital lending companies in the Greater Accra Region.
They are Mascedi Consult, Valley A. Consult, Makto Technology Limited and FourCredy.
The raid also led to the retrieval of 654 mobile phones, 22 laptop computers and about 800 SIM cards.
The Director-General of the CSA, Dr Albert Antwi-Boasiako, who is the chairperson of the committee, made this known at a press conference in Accra Wednesdat (July 12).
Dr Antwi-Boasiako said the activities of the lenders and their financiers were an infringement of the protected rights of individuals enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.
It also violated the data protection principles provided under Section 13 of Ghana’s Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843).
For that reason, he assured the public that while the perpetrators would be duly punished according to the provisions in the constitution, the JCC would continue to embark on sensitisation activities to ensure that everyone was safe from such attacks.
Dr Antwi-Boasiako also said that the success of the exercise was a testament to the government’s commitment to sanitising the country’s cyberspace to enable the public to transact business without fear.
The Executive Director of EOCO, Commissioner of Police (COP), Maame Yaa Tiwaa Addo-Danquah, said that investigations so far had identified 150 unlicensed digital loan application platforms whose owners and administrators resorted to the use of death threats and non-consensual distribution of private messages, images and videos.
She said they perpetrated that mainly through authorised permissions granted by unsuspecting victims who patronised their various digital platforms.
COP Addo-Danquah cautioned the public to desist from engaging with unlicensed financial entities who plied their trade online, adding; “to stay safe, click only when you’re sure, don’t click when you’re not.
Do not install applications you know nothing about. There is nothing like free lunch.”
In a speech read on his behalf, the First Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG), Dr Maxwell Opoku-Afari, stated that the BoG, through its regular surveillance activities, had observed a growing trend regarding the provision of credit products by unlicensed entities to the public through mobile applications in contradiction with the law.
He said the central bank had intensified its public education to prosecute the nefarious activities based on prevalent concerns and complaints which bordered mainly on consumer abuse and harassment, data protection and privacy, identity theft, cloning, money laundering and terrorism financing, among others.
“The Bank of Ghana has, therefore, established the requisite regulatory and supervisory systems to promote a digital financial service space of integrity that safeguards the interest of consumers,” he said.