Loan sharks use new tactic to harass debtors

Even with circuit breaker measures in place, loan sharks have found a way to pester people who owe them money.

The police are now seeing a rising trend of unlicensed moneylenders using food delivery services to harass debtors.

In a statement on Wednesday, the police said that these illicit moneylenders would order large amounts of food or make multiple orders a day to be delivered to debtors' homes, often late at night. Occasionally, the moneylenders would order the food to be delivered to debtors' relatives.

The deliverymen would then request payment from the debtors or their relatives for the food.

Several food and beverage operators using food delivery services have suffered losses because of this tactic, the police said.

Commenting on the matter on Facebook, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin said: "I know times are bad. But please don't fall prey to vultures.

"You may receive SMSes, WhatsApp (messages) or e-mails offering loans... Licensed moneylenders can't advertise this way."

Meanwhile, the police are still arresting suspects believed to have engaged in more traditional loan-shark harassment activities despite the circuit breaker period that kicked in on April 7.

The police said on Tuesday that they arrested a 17-year-old girl in one such case. They were alerted on April 15, at about 5pm, to a case of loan-shark harassment, where the door of an Anchorvale Link residential unit in Sengkang was splashed with paint and writings were found on a nearby wall.

With the aid of images from police cameras, officers from the Ang Mo Kio Police Division established the identity of the teenager and arrested her on Monday.

Those who wish to provide information on such cases can call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000 or submit a form online. For urgent assistance, dial 999.

Members of the public may also call the National Crime Prevention Council's X-Ah Long hotline on 1800-924-5664 if they have information on unlicensed moneylenders. First-time offenders found guilty of loan-shark harassment can be fined between $5,000 and $50,000, jailed for up to five years and be caned up to six strokes. Women cannot be caned.

"The police have zero tolerance for loan-shark harassment activities. Those who deliberately cause annoyance and disruption to public sense of safety, peace and security will be arrested and dealt with severely in accordance with the law," the police said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2020, with the headline Loan sharks use new tactic to harass debtors. Subscribe