SINGAPORE - Young people should be careful when taking up part-time jobs during the school holidays, especially those promising quick and easy money - or they may unwittingly find themselves being hired as loan shark runners.
Police sounded this warning on Friday (Nov 30) after 109 people aged between 14 and 69 were arrested for suspected involvement in loan shark activities in a three-day operation conducted from Monday to Wednesday.
In its statement, the police said they have observed students being recruited for loan shark activities when they respond to job advertisements posted on online platforms such as Facebook and Gumtree.
Officers from the Criminal Investigation Department and the six police land divisions conducted simultaneous raids at multiple locations islandwide during the three-day operation, leading to the arrests of the 79 men and 30 women.
This takes the number of people who have been arrested in anti-loan shark operations this year to 1,091.
Any person found guilty of instigating a youth to commit an offence of assisting in the unlicensed moneylending business or carrying out harassment acts on behalf of the loan sharks can jailed up to nine years, fined between $6,000 and $300,000, and shall also be liable to be caned up to 12 strokes.
Preliminary investigations suggested that 23 of the 109 suspects arrested are runners who had carried out Automated Teller Machine (ATM) transfers on behalf of loan sharks. Another five suspects are believed to have carried out acts of loan shark harassment by splashing paint and scrawling loan shark-related graffiti on walls.
In addition, three suspects are believed to have provided false contact information to obtain loans.
The remaining 78 suspects are believed to have opened bank accounts and given away their ATM cards and Personal Identification Numbers to loan sharks to facilitate their unlicensed moneylending businesses.
Police are investigating.
"We will continue to take tough enforcement action against those involved in the loan sharking business and they will face the full brunt of the law," the police said.
Opening a bank account, distributing pamphlets, acting as a lookout, being a runner or acting as a harasser for loan sharks are criminal activities that can result in serious consequences such as a hefty fine, jail term and caning.
Under the Moneylending Act (Revised 2010), a person is presumed to have assisted in carrying on the business of unlicensed moneylending if their bank account or ATM card is used to facilitate moneylending by an unlicensed moneylender.
First-time offenders found guilty of carrying out or assisting in a business of unlicensed moneylending may be fined between $30,000 and $300,000, be imprisoned for a term of up to four years and shall also be liable to be punished with caning of up to six strokes.
First-time offenders convicted for acting on behalf of an unlicensed moneylender, committing or attempting to commit any acts of harassment shall be punished with imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of between $5,000 and $50,000, and shall also be liable to caned between three and six strokes.
Those found guilty of providing false contact information to obtain loans from loan sharks can be jailed for up to 12 months. Under the National Registration Act, any person who is guilty of an offence of failing to report a change of address shall be liable on conviction to a fine of up to $5,000, or a jail term of up to five years, or to both.
Loan sharks are also increasingly sending unsolicited loan advertisements via text messages or online platforms. Members of the public are advised not to reply or respond to such advertisements, and report the number as spam. The public should also stay away from loan sharks and not work with or assist loan sharks in any way.
If members of the public suspect or know of anyone who could be involved in illegal loan shark activities, they can call the police on 999 or the X-Ah Long hotline on 1800-924-5664.