HomeNewsBriefIn Colombia, Loan Sharking is Now Just a Click Away
BRIEF

In Colombia, Loan Sharking is Now Just a Click Away

COLOMBIA / 27 MAY 2019 BY LAURA ALONSO EN

The longtime loan sharking tactic in Colombia known as "gota a gota" has entered the digital age -- as mafias are now using mobile apps to hide money transfers, charge customers and threaten those who cannot pay.

The “gota a gota” tactic, or "drop by drop," -- named after the way in which victims are slowly bled dry of funds -- consists of lending small sums of money at high interest rates to people who have trouble obtaining traditional loans. The cash often comes from illegal activities, including drug trafficking.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles 

In the past, criminal groups have used store fronts to find customers and physical sheets to keep track of debts. But police say criminal groups have left behind this antiquated method in favor of mobile apps that make it much easier to reach and interact with their vulnerable clients, El Heraldo reported.

Authorities have long fought traditional “gota a gota” operations, and the digitization of this extortion method complicates that task by providing debt collectors a new and easy way to access, charge and keep track of their victims.

The applications record payment dates, new payments, interests, loan status and other details. In some cases, the applications even have access to debtors’ profiles and location. Providing such information puts debtors in a dangerous situation as they are often threatened, robbed, attacked or even killed when they cannot pay.

Meanwhile, authorities have found it difficult to combat the practice of “gota a gota,” because victims are often afraid to speak out.

InSight Crime Analysis

The ease of use of the new cellphone apps will provide new clients to mafias in the business of “gota a gota” loan sharking, which has proven to be particularly lucrative to criminal groups seeking ways to diversify revenue streams and launder money.

While “gota a gota” started in Colombia, it has since migrated to a number of countries in the region – Mexico, Peru and Chile. Even Costa Rica, which has managed to avoid some of the ills of its Central American neighbors, has seen these loans take off because of an influx of cash from drug trafficking.

What’s more, cellphone technology has greatly expanded extortion rackets throughout Latin America. A cheap phone and a few dollars’ worth of prepaid credit are the rudimentary tools to get in the game.

SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of Extortion

The “gota a gota” method, however, usually requires the backing mafias, which have the capital to get in the loan sharking business and the ability to track the cash. And the apps are easy to come by.

A search of app stores by InSight Crime found several of these apps available for free, some of which directly referred to “gota a gota loans” in their names.

What makes the use of these apps alarming is the amount of information clients must provide, including detailed personal information. This simply makes it easier for debt collectors to threaten victims. Why send armed thugs to debtors’ doorsteps when a simple WhatsApp message -- with their exact location or that of their loved ones -- will suffice?

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 24 NOV 2014

Authorities in Colombia have captured a key operative who facilitated the sale of coltan and uranium for the FARC and…

COLOMBIA / 7 NOV 2012

Police and analysts believe that the Urabeños gang is offering automatic weapons to groups that support its bid to take…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 17 NOV 2020

A series of assassinations on Ecuador’s southern border with Peru have been attributed to gang members fighting for control of…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Collaborating on Citizen Security Initiatives

8 JUN 2021

Co-director Steven Dudley worked with Chemonics, a DC-based development firm, to analyze the organization’s citizen security programs in Mexico.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Deepens Its Connections with Universities

31 MAY 2021

A partnership with the University for Peace will complement InSight Crime’s research methodology and expertise on Costa Rica.

THE ORGANIZATION

With Support from USAID, InSight Crime Will Investigate Organized Crime in Haiti

31 MAY 2021

The project will seek to map out Haiti's principal criminal economies, profile the specific groups and actors, and detail their links to elements of the state.

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.