Loan sharks' new tactic during circuit breaker: Using food delivery services to harass debtors

Moneylenders would occasionally order the food to be delivered to the debtors' relatives.
Moneylenders would occasionally order the food to be delivered to the debtors' relatives.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Even with the circuit breaker measures in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus, 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 here.

In a statement on Wednesday (April 22), the police said that these illicit moneylenders would order large amounts of food, or make multiple orders a day, to be delivered to the debtors' homes, often late at night.

Occasionally, the moneylenders would order the food to be delivered to the debtors' relatives.

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

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

Commenting on the matter on Facebook, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs 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. These are scams or scums (referring to loan sharks)... Licensed moneylenders can't advertise this way," he added.

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.

For instance, 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 a residential unit in Anchorvale Link in Sengkang was splashed with paint and writings were found on the nearby wall.

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

For those who wish to provide information relating to these cases they can call the police hotline on 1800-255-000, or visit their website. 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.

Those found guilty of engaging in loan shark harassment can get fined between $5,000 and $50,000, jailed for up to five years and get six strokes of the cane. 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.