Recently, I reconnected with an old friend of mine over a hearty mookata dinner.
During the conversation, my friend recounted how he and his family were the victims of loan shark harassment recently.
This sent my Seedly writer sense tingling, and I began asking him more and more questions about his ordeal.
With his blessing, I am now writing this guide based on his personal experience and wisdom from the experts to help you, or any others you might know the deal with loan shark harassment.
Here are five things you need to know about dealing with loan shark harassment.
TL;DR: How to Solve Loan Shark Problems in Singapore
However, if find yourself this situation, know that you are not alone.
According to Channel News Asia (CNA), almost 300 people were arrested for loan shark/unlicensed moneylender activities in Singapore in early September this year.
That’s not all.
About two months earlier, 237 people, aged 13 to 77, were arrested for their involvement in loan shark activities.
Even during Circuit Breaker, the loan sharks got creative, sending their debtors unwanted food delivery orders worth hundreds of dollars. They even had their runners pose as stay-home notice enforcers to continue harassing their debtors.
From the above incidents and arrests, you can see that the loan shark problem is very prevalent in Singapore.
The Shark Loan Story
So this is what happened with my friend and his father, who I shall call Xiao Feng and Uncle Feng.
A ‘friend’ of his father’s (let’s call him John) had betrayed Uncle Feng’s trust and made his Uncle Feng an unwilling guarantor for his loan shark loan, with Uncle Feng’s National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) and handphone number.
Thankfully, the amount borrowed was not too astronomical as this John only borrowed $5,000 in total.
But, this was how the nightmare started, as John had borrowed $1,000 from five different loan sharks.
Pro-Tip: All licensed moneylenders are regulated by the Ministry of Law and are issued licenses. If the moneylender you are borrowing from does not turn up in this register, has no license number and/or businesses address, almost ten times out of ten you are dealing with a loan shark.
These moneylenders also use SMS, messaging platforms like WhatsApp, flyers and emails to advertise their services.
These advertisements are more often than not sent by loan sharks. Do not ever reply to these messages. Instead, you should block and report the number as spam.
Also, another important thing you can do is to be very careful with giving out personal information like your NRIC, SingPass or bank account details to anyone.
1. Do Not Make Payments to The Loan Shark
Xiao Feng recounted that he and Uncle Feng made a big mistake.
After a week of not responding to the loan sharks, they actually sent them pictures of their house door and informed them that the total loan amount had gone up from $5,000 to $7,500.
This would mean that the loan shark was charging them an insane weekly interest rate of 50 per cent, which translates to a astronomical daily interest rate of about 7.1 per cent!
Tired with the constant harassment over SMS and WhatsApp, they paid off the loan sharks by transferring money into their bank accounts.
After paying off the loan sharks, Uncle Feng did not hear from them for a while.
But, it was the calm before the storm, as barely a week later, the loan sharks claimed that they have not received any money and begin harassing them again.
Throughout, Uncle Feng was also receiving messages from other loan sharks offering loans. This is because these loan sharks tend to share victims’ numbers with a network of loan sharks.
This often creates a vicious cycle, as the desperate victims may borrow from one shark to pay off another and end up being ‘eaten’ by a whole bunch of sharks.
As the harassment did not stop, Uncle Feng went to the police.
2. Inform The Authorities And Cooperate
Uncle Feng went to the police and reported the case of loan-shark harassment at a nearby neighbourhood police post.
You can also call the police at 999 or the X-Ah Long hotline at 1800-924-5664 (1800-X-AH-LONG) to report the loan shark.
Another option will be to report the loan shark on the Singapore Police Force i-Witness reporting page.
Upon making the report, the police advised them to stop making further payments to the loan sharks and reassured them that they would patrol the block more frequently.
In addition, you should cooperate with the police fully and do not in any circumstances agree to do anything for the loan sharks.
There are two main offences you might commit if you work for loan sharks under the Moneylenders’ Act (Revised Edition 2010):
For assisting in the business of UML:
- Fine between $30,000 and $300,000
- Imprisonment for a term of up to four years
- Caning of up to six strokes. (for males)
This includes activities like using your bank account or ATM card to facilitate the business of unlicensed moneylending (UML) carried out by the loan sharks,
For acting on behalf of an UML to commit harassment:
- Imprisonment for a term of up to 5 years
- Fine between $5,000 and $50,000
- Caning of between 3 and 6 strokes (for males).
This includes activities like working for loan sharks as a runner to harass people with the tactics detailed below.
To play safe, just do not agree to doing anything for loan sharks as you might be unwittingly committing a crime.
3. Do Not Give In To The Loan Sharks’ Harassment and Threats
Now that you have reported to the authorities, you should not respond to their harassment or threats.
But, I would think that this is easier said that done. The loan sharks in Singapore employ a range of scare tactics to instil fear, shame and guilt into their victims.
Also, they will not easily give up and will try and squeeze as much money as possible from their victims.
The tactics loan sharks employ include but are not limited to:
- Splashing paint and tagging your house with words like: ‘O$P$, how much you ‘owe’ them etc.
- Pouring industrial adhesive into your locks.
- Locking your gate with a chain lock.
- Sending flyers to your neighbour’s house to shame you about your debt.
- Splash paint at your neighbour’s house.
- Harassing you at your workplace.
- Intimidate you by mentioning the names of your loved ones.
- Sending expensive food delivery to your house.
- Sending runners who pose as safe distancing ambassadors to your house to intimidate and scare you.
- Post photos of non-paying borrowers online with their photographs and names.
- Threaten violence or in rare cases use violence.
Another thing that might help will be to install a security camera at your house to monitor any suspicious loan shark activity and possibly help the police in their investigation.
You might also want to buy a bolt cutter to place in your home to cut locks just in case.
It is not going to be easy but know this. Since the loan sharks are carrying out illegal money lending, they do not have any right to receive payments or lend money.
Thus, I would recommend you to stay strong and ride out the harassment and threats.
You should also cooperate with the police fully for you and your family’s safety.
If possible, you can consider moving out of your house temporarily.
Xiao Feng and Uncle Feng moved out of their house and stayed with their relatives for about two months.
Luckily, the loan sharks gave up and left them alone. But as I said, it could be just luck.
4. Change Any Personal Information You’ve Shared With Loan Sharks
The next thing to do will be to change all your personal information and passwords that might have been compromised.
This includes stuff like your Singpass account login details and phone number.
This is for your own safety and prevents further harassment on your home.
5. Get Help From The Community And Social Service Agencies
There are also many social service organisations that provide credit counselling and can help you with your loan shark problems.
Some of them include:
|Arise2Care Community Services||6909 0628
|Adullam Life Counselling||6659 7844
|Blessed Grace Social Services||8428 6377|
|Credit Counselling Singapore||6225 5227|
|ComCare||1800 222 0000|
|Debt Advisory Centre||6416 3990|
|Methodist Welfare Services (Debt management)||6478 4700|
|National Council on Problem Gambling||1800 6 668 668|
|One Hope Centre||6547 1011|
|Silver Lining Community Services||6749 0400|
|The Samaritans of Singapore (emergency counselling)||1800-221-4444 (24 Hours Daily)|