Loan sharks sending ads via WhatsApp chat groups

If you find yourself being added to a WhatsApp group chat by an overseas mobile phone number, beware.

The police yesterday warned the public against unlicensed moneylending syndicates, which have recently taken to messaging platforms to advertise their services.

In a statement, the police said that affected individuals are typically added randomly to a Whats-App group chat by an overseas mobile phone number, before they receive advertisements about moneylending services in Singapore.

"Such advertisements are likely to be from unlicensed moneylending syndicates, which have resorted to advertising their unlawful activities via messaging platforms," the statement said.

The police advised the public against replying to these messages.

Instead, those affected should block or report the number as spam through WhatsApp, they added.

Since 2012, the police have seen a decrease in loan shark harassment cases that cause damage to property due to tough enforcement, strong community partnerships and wider deployment of police cameras.

However, such efforts have driven loan sharks to move towards "non-confrontational and non-damage tactics", such as via SMSes, mobile phone applications and social media platforms, to harass borrowers and to solicit new debtors, the statement said.

The police added they will continue to work closely with stakeholders and the relevant authorities, such as the Infocomm Media Development Authority, to deter such activities.

The public can provide information on unlicensed moneylenders via the I-Witness portal at http://www.police.gov.sg/iwitness or call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000.

All information will be kept strictly confidential, the police said. Ng Huiwen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2018, with the headline 'Loan sharks sending ads via WhatsApp chat groups'. Print Edition | Subscribe