The global economy is in crisis and has left many families in a frantic struggle for survival in an environment utterly transformed by the Covid-19.
According to a World Bank Survey, 8% of Singapore residents rely on family and friends for emergency financial aid and just about two-thirds of Singaporean households only have sufficient savings to last them six months.
As most commercial activity grinds to a halt and many people lose their jobs in Singapore, those heavily impacted keep their fingers crossed not to resort to odd means of accessing cash to replenish depleting bank accounts. Alas, for so many in the throes of the pandemic, this is not to be.
Enter Loan Sharks
A loan shark lends money, often upon times of emergency, duping debtors into loans they can’t adequately pay for. They’re also known for charging high-interest rates, enforcing unfair penalties on borrowers, and violating contracts through threats and intimidation.
Loan sharking has become so profitable for some that they hunt down debtors like animals hoping to make a meal out of them.
Stories about recent loan shark activities in Singapore
An illegal moneylending business thrives in desperate times, as is their nature to prey on people who are in financial distress. The following stories bring to light some of the current activities done by Singapore loan sharks that we should review to be more aware of their different scams.
The Criminal Investigation Department and seven other police land divisions have pursued illegal lenders who abuse the financial system through unfair financial schemes and other aggressive loansharking activities in Singapore.
The authorities have taken legal action and arrested 199 individuals for their suspected involvement in the unlicensed moneylender business.
Preliminary investigations revealed that among those being probed are 11 suspects that were allegedly carrying out harassment acts at the debtor’s residences. Officers also believed that 36 others were runner accomplices, who carry out automated teller machine (ATM) transactions for the loan sharks.
In addition, the other 152 suspects are alleged to have opened bank accounts and divulged their ATM cards, personal identification numbers, and/or Internet banking tokens to loan sharks to help them run their illegal money lending businesses.
A flat in Jalan Tenteram was found sealed with a bicycle lock, and walls vandalized with numerous graffiti. Police officers suspect a loan-shark-related harassment tactic and incarcerated 3 identified culprits, 2 of which are teenagers (age 16 and 18). While the other was a 30 yr old man, who was also involved in 8 similar loan shark activities across the country.
A recent operation led by police in Jurong uncovered unlicensed moneylender activities that involved several areas in Jurong West, Tuas, Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Panjang, Bukit Batok, and other areas in west Singapore.
The report said that there have been recent examples of individuals being investigated for assisting others in committing or facilitating fraudulent loan shark activities.
The police department works together with other law enforcement agencies to ensure that all loan shark activities are under control.
Although the government has implemented circuit breaker measures to limit loan shark activities from terrorizing citizens, they have started using food delivery services to force debtors to pay them back.
The scammers prey on food delivery men by pretending to be customers, police warned.
They were able to intimidate borrowers by ordering voluminous amounts of food delivered to their family or friends’ households.
The new harassment ploy of most loan shark activities also meant that many businesses using food delivery services incurred financial losses.
Over the past few months, loan sharks have been making headlines for harassing borrowers and fraudulently receiving money from their ill-gotten gains.
Raids were conducted simultaneously at Tampines, Bishan, and Bukit Batok, resulting in the capture of 36 suspects age 26 up to 63.
The authorities found evidence that people were offering to help others get loans with the threat of physical violence, among illegal gambling offences.
Singapore Police earlier reported that the investigation into loansharking is continuing, with more people being questioned as part of the investigation into the islandwide loansharking scheme.
Prevent loan shark for a foreigner, read The Ultimate Guide to Getting a Foreigner Loan in Singapore.
How to spot loan sharks: Red flags to watch out for
- Advertising. A common sign that a lending business is illegal is when they send financing offers via SMS, flyers, or e-mail. Legal Lenders usually can’t advertise their loans through those channels.
- Principal Amount Claim. When they say they can approve any amount of loan. As regulated, borrowers typically have a borrowing limit of not more than six times their monthly income from licensed money lender businesses.
- Interest Rates. When your monthly fee exceeds 4 per cent (regardless of your annual salary)
- Contract. If they ask you to sign for a blank contract
- Asking for personal information. If the lender asks for your SingPass user ID and/or password and other personal details. Legal lenders generally follow rules regarding confidentiality and must not ask for personal information, nor retain important documents.
How to avoid loan unlicensed moneylenders?
It’s always advisable to do your research and make sure that you’re choosing the right loan company for your particular needs. You wouldn’t want to end up trapped with your financial and personal security at risk.
Access this full list of licensed moneylenders in Singapore to help you avoid anything that looks questionable at first glance.
How to deal with loan sharks
Here’s what to do if you accidentally borrowed from a loan shark:
The penalty for first-time offenders convicted of conducting unlicensed moneylending for a living can range from $30,000 to $300,000. In addition, the maximum term of imprisonment is 4 years, and up to six strokes of the cane can be imposed.
The punishment for engaging in acts of harassment and or acting on behalf of an unlicensed moneylender in Singapore can range from $5,000 to $50,000, a prison term of up to five years, and caning between three to six strokes.
- Contact the Registry at telephone number: 1800-2255-529
- The public can call the Police at ‘999′ or the X-Ah Long hotline at 1800-924-5664 if they suspect or know of anyone who could be involved in loansharking activities.
- You may also access Police response by dialling their hotline 1800-255-000 or 999 during emergencies.
How to report ah longs
Call the police hotline on 1800-255-000 or 999 for urgent cases. Members of the public may also call the National Crime Prevention Council’s “X Ah-Long” hotline at 1800-924-5664 if they have information on loan shark activities.
In times of financial crisis, consumers who are looking for quick and easy access to money are vulnerable to unscrupulous lenders. Those with fewer means are at greater risk, as they may be unable to qualify for traditional financial services.
In recent years, Singapore has stepped up enforcement of the law against money laundering and financial crimes, designed to protect innocent victims and reduce financial threats to community resilience and economic growth in Singapore.
For financing options from legal lenders, consult the services of Instant Loan. It is a loan comparison service that assesses your current financial situation to create a list of easy-access financing options to resolve your specific monetary distress.