Firmer action needed against loan-shark messages

I believe thousands of mobile phone users receive unwanted messages from illegal moneylenders every day ('Hello, want to borrow money?'; Feb 5).

Blocking the telephone numbers does not always help, as the loan sharks seem to have advanced technology to bypass the blocks.

Some are now sending their unwanted messages in the early hours of the morning, perhaps to reduce cost. People who need to have their mobile phones turned on 24/7 because of work have their sleep affected when they wake up to check the messages.

Why can't the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) and the police stamp out this menace?

Asking those affected to lodge a police report or to call the National Crime Prevention Council hotline is not helpful. Doing so has not been effective in stopping the scourge.

The latter's "Ah Long" hotline is sometimes busy and calls are diverted to its mailbox, which is full.

All this suggests that insufficient resources are channelled to the fight against unlicensed moneylending.

Some are now sending their unwanted messages in the early hours of the morning... People who need to have their mobile phones turned on 24/7 because of work have their sleep affected when they wake up to check the messages.

The PDPC asks callers to report these unwanted messages to the police. Why does it not act as the first line of attack and prosecute these moneylenders? If tuition agencies can be charged for breaching "Do Not Call" rules, why not illegal moneylenders?

Besides this hotline, the PDPC and the police should set up another hotline, to which complainants can forward screenshots of the SMSes and WhatsApp messages from the loan sharks.

This saves time, as it obviates the need for two humans to communicate, and computers can analyse the input quickly.

The police should pose as customers to nab the runners, who will then lead them up the chain of command.

If need be, the Personal Data Protection Act should be beefed up.

Matthew Chang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2018, with the headline 'Firmer action needed against loan-shark messages'. Print Edition | Subscribe