24 July 2020

With the reputation that loan sharks in Singapore have, most of us wouldn’t want to deal with them in the first place.  

But perhaps desperate times have called for desperate measures. You needed money during a time when no bank or financial institution was willing to offer you a personal loan. With limited options to finance your needs, you’ve decided to consider a money lender’s offer.

But what if you ended up taking up a loan offer from a loan shark, who is also known as an “ah long”? 

There are many risks you expose yourself to when you borrow from a loan shark. 

Firstly, you pay exorbitant interest rates compared to any kind of legitimate borrowing. You may also be threatened and harassed to repay the money, or be pressured into taking up more loans to repay one loan with another.

Whether you’ve knowingly or unknowingly ended up “swimming with the sharks”, be sure to stay calm. It’s not too late to take action.

But first, how do you know if you are dealing with loan sharks? And what should you do if you’re dealing with one? 

How To Know If You’re Dealing With A Loan Shark In Singapore

Here are 6 ways to differentiate loan sharks in Singapore from licensed moneylenders, so that you can avoid falling prey to them. 

1. Loan Sharks Advertise Their Loans Through SMS, Flyers, And Emails

Since it’s already 2020 and we’re all living in the digital age, loan sharks in Singapore are also moving towards “modern tactics”. This includes using social media, phone applications, emails, flyers, cold calls, and SMS to seek out new borrowers.

If you’ve received an SMS or WhatsApp message offering a hassle-free loan process, chances are it’s from a loan shark. 

Keep in mind that these are all violations of advertising rules for licensed moneylenders. 

Licensed moneylenders can only advertise through the following channels: 

  • Business or consumer directories
  • Their own website
  • Inside or outside their business premises, such as the side of the wall, door, shutter, gate, and window

Need to get a personal loan quickly for an emergency? You don’t have to get it from a loan shark. Learn about your options here. 

2. Loan Sharks Are Willing To Lend You Any Amount

Another way to spot an unlicensed moneylender is to look at the amount they’re open to lending you. 

Chances are they’ll approve any amount without looking at your income level. They won’t even ask for any proof of income such as payslips and income tax statements to verify that you have the means to repay your loan. 

On the other hand, there’s a limit to how much you can legally borrow for unsecured loans. 

Here’s a table summarising how much you can borrow from licensed money lenders based on your income and nationality. 

Annual income Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents Foreigners living in Singapore
Less than S$10,000 S$3,000 S$500
At least S$10,000 and less than S$20,000  S$3,000 S$3,000
At least S$20,000 6 times of monthly income 6 times of monthly income

Source: Ministry of Law

Don’t have payslips to apply for a loan? Here’s how you can still get a loan through legitimate sources. 

3. Loan Sharks In Singapore Charge You Interest Rates Exceeding What’s Legally Allowed

Loan sharks typically get their funds from unidentified sources. They will then lend large amounts of money with the intention of earning through outrageous levels of interest in a short amount of time. These lenders may also call for debt repayment anytime. 

On the other hand, licensed moneylenders can only charge a maximum interest rate of 4% a month, regardless of your income or loan amount. And the interest can only be calculated based on the remaining amount to be paid. 

Let’s say you take a loan of S$10,000 with an interest rate of 4% per month. If you’ve repaid S$3,000, the interest to be paid will only be calculated based on the remaining amount of S$7,000. 

Likewise, the late interest rate that licensed moneylenders can charge is capped at 4% per month. It only applies for the amount that’s repaid late. 

For instance, you’ve borrowed a loan of S$10,000 and did not pay the first instalment of S$1,000 on time. This late interest rate can only be charged on this S$1,000. 

Apart from the late interest rate, licensed moneylenders can also charge a late fee that’s capped at S$60 per month. 

Learn all about the differences between borrowing from a licensed vs unlicensed money lender in Singapore.

4. Loan Sharks May Charge You A Loan Processing Fee Without Approving Your Loan

Another sure way of checking if the lender you’re dealing with is a loan shark is the fees they charge. 

Loan sharks in Singapore may request for a loan processing fee, also known as an admin fee, before approving your loan. These loan sharks may justify this as a mandatory processing fee for all borrowers or even as collateral.

This hidden charge is a red flag. Bear in mind that licensed moneylenders will never ask you to pay anything before you receive your loan.

In fact, licensed moneylenders may only charge an upfront admin fee of up to 10%. This will only be charged when the loan is granted, and will be deducted from the principal amount

Do take note that the total charges comprising the interest, late interest, admin fee, and late fee cannot exceed the principal amount. So if you’re taking out a loan of S$10,000, the interest, late interest, admin fee, and late fee combined cannot be more than S$10,000. 

Should you be unable to repay your loan, do note that licensed moneylenders can also charge you legal costs ordered by the court for loan recovery.  

5. Loan Sharks In Singapore Don’t Provide A Loan Contract

Man reading text message on phone from a loan shark in Singapore

It’s common for loan sharks to advertise their services and approve loans through text messages.

A foolproof way of knowing if your money lender is a loan shark is if they don’t offer you a loan contract. Or even if they do, they might ask you to sign a blank or incomplete loan contract. So, always check through the loan contract, thoroughly, if you are given one.

Also, loan sharks may grant your loans remotely over the phone or by SMS without fully explaining the terms and conditions to you. 

If you aren’t assured about the terms and conditions or have insufficient detail, cancel your application and cut off contact with them immediately.

It is mandatory for licensed money lenders to issue you a loan contract. The terms and conditions, including repayment schedule, interest rates, and any fees are also supposed to be explained to you in detail. Furthermore, they have to give you a copy of the contract. 

Be sure to look out for other contractual terms as well, such as what would happen should you default on your loan. 

And while there are licensed moneylenders that give loan pre-approvals over SMS, they still need to verify your identity and particulars at their approved place of business.

With Crawfort, a licensed moneylender, you can get your loan approved via SMS within 8 minutes after submitting your loan application online. But to prevent identity fraud, you’ll still have to go down to the outlet for a face-to-face verification. In addition, they’ll go through with you the loan contract in detail before you sign it and get your loans disbursed. 

6. They Use Threats And Abusive Language Against You

Use of threats and abusive language is one of the biggest signs that you’re dealing with a loan shark. 

Mdm Low is one of the many victims who fell prey to loan sharks as she mistook them for licensed moneylenders. When she wasn’t able to pay them back on time, their tone would become harsh and they would scold her over SMS and WhatsApp. They also started threatening to kidnap her children. 

There are different forms of threats and harassment that begin before you decide to take a loan from loan sharks in Singapore, and they will definitely continue after you’ve borrowed from them. 

These “ah longs” may carry on with scare tactics for unpaid loans, or even intimidate you by mentioning names of your loved ones, and may harm them if you do not make repayments on time. 

In fact there’s been a rise in loan shark harassment cases in Singapore as unlicensed moneylenders are going digital. Not only do they use SMS and WhatsApp to advertise loans, but also to harass borrowers. Such cases include sending borrowers pictures and video clips of flats getting locked up and set on fire. 

Other tactics that loan sharks have used recently include sending large amounts of food delivery, as well as recruiting runners to pose as stay-home notice enforcers to harass debtors

How To Deal With Loan Shark Harassment In Singapore

Infographic on how to deal with loan shark harassment in Singapore

Remember to stay calm and not yield to the threats of loan sharks.

Loan sharks are everywhere and it’s always best to avoid them.

However, if you’ve become entangled with them, here are some things you can do to help yourself. 

1. Check Whether They Are Registered Under Ministry Of Law’s Registry Of Moneylenders

The Ministry of Law oversees all legitimate moneylenders and issues them licenses. Hence, if the money lender you’re dealing with doesn’t operate with a license number and a registered business address, chances are you’re dealing with a loan shark.

However, there are black sheeps in every industry. Any money lender that harasses you is breaking the law. 

Besides using threats and abusive language, licensed moneylenders are not allowed to do the following when collecting debts: 

  • Show up at your house or workplace in groups of more than 5 people, as this is considered an unlawful assembly
  • Cause any injury
  • Vandalise public spaces such as splashing paint and writing on the wall
  • Follow you persistently, which can be considered as unlawful stalking
  • Damage or seize your goods without a Writ of Seize And Sale from the Courts

Learn more about what licensed moneylenders in Singapore can’t do.

2. Report Them To The Authorities

Although loan sharks in Singapore resort to intimidation or even violence, they are not above the law.

If you’ve been approached by someone you think is a loan shark or find yourself in danger after engaging with one, contact the police or the X-Ah Long hotline at 1800-924-5664. You can also lodge a complaint with the Registry of Moneylenders at 1800-2255-529.

Alternatively, you can report the loan shark through the Singapore Police Force i-Witness reporting page. 

Today, it’s become commonplace to receive SMS or WhatsApp messages from loan sharks. If you happen to find yourself in such a situation, block and report the number as spam immediately.

Beware of these predators, as once you take on services from loan sharks, your number will be circulated to a network of loan sharks. You could then end up in a vicious cycle of borrowing from others contacting you about their services just so you can pay off your existing debts. 

This was also what happened to Mdm Low after she first engaged with a loan shark. As she made her initial payments promptly, she was deemed a good payer. But this also led to her number being quickly spread to other loan sharks in Singapore. 

When she couldn’t pay the exorbitant interest for the first loan, she started borrowing from another loan shark to repay the first. It got to a point where she ended up taking loans from over 50 loan sharks. What was initially a S$20,000 loan snowballed to S$400,000. 

Find yourself in debt and need help repaying it? You can apply for the Debt Management Programme. Find out all about it here. 

3. Stay Calm And Don’t Yield To Threats And Harassment

It’s important to remain calm and not yield to the threats of loan sharks. If you’ve already informed the authorities, it’s best to leave things in their hands as they are better equipped to deal with loan sharks. 

You should also avoid showing loan sharks that their harassment and intimidation is working, as this could only make them braver and put you at more risk of getting into trouble. 

Under any circumstances, do not agree to do anything for them. This includes assisting them and allowing them to use your bank or ATM card, as well as being a runner to harass other debtors. 

Assisting loan sharks in Singapore is a crime. If found guilty, offenders will be charged under the Moneylenders’ Act (Revised Edition 2010). 

For assisting loan sharks by allowing them to use a bank account or ATM card to facilitate a transaction, first time offenders can be charged with the following: 

  • Jail term of up to 5 years
  • Fine of between S$5,000 and S$50,000
  • 3 to 6 strokes of the cane

First time offenders found to have committed or attempted any act of harassment can be charged with the following: 

  • Jail term of up to 5 years
  • Fine of between S$5,000 and S$50,000
  • 3 to 6 strokes of the cane 

You should also change any personal information that the loan sharks may have to avoid any further harassment. This includes changing your phone number, social media accounts, and bank account login details. 

4. Stop Making Further Payments To The Loan Sharks

After reporting your situation to authorities, it should be safer for you to stop making further payments for your debt. 

Loan sharks sometimes frighten borrowers by saying they’ll be prosecuted and even sent to prison if they don’t pay up. However, since loan sharks are transacting illegally, they don’t have the right to receive payments or lend money in the first place.

5. Get Help From Social Service Agencies

If you’re having financial difficulties and need help dealing with loan shark problems, you can also seek help from some of these social service agencies:

Go For Credit Counselling

Consider going for credit counselling if you have trouble managing your debt. During the session, a credit counsellor will advise you on how to manage your debt and negotiate with your creditors on a repayment plan. 

Thinking of going for credit counselling? Learn all you need to know about it here.

Apply For Financial Assistance

If you need temporary and urgent financial assistance, you may also consider approaching the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) ComCare which offers the ComCare Interim Assistance

Do note that in order to qualify for it, you’ll need to meet the following criteria: 

  • Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident, in which at least one immediate family member in the same household is a Singaporean, and
  • Have a household income of at most S$1,900, or a per capita household income of at most S$650

Looking to take a loan from a licensed moneylender in Singapore? You can take out a personal loan with Crawfort.

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Something sudden happens and you find yourself in urgent need of cash. You might be considering borrowing from the bank, but they might take a long time to approve your loan. So, you start looking for alternatives to get a fast loan in Singapore. When it comes to getting quick cash in Singapore, 2 options […]

Personal Loan
6 Reasons Why You May Need A Personal Loan In Singapore

Have you ever found yourself stuck against a wall financially? When you have so many bills to pay, then suddenly, you or someone you know gets into an accident or gets sick. You are then overwhelmed with bills and the debt you need to pay, and the money you’ve saved or earned just isn’t enough […]

Personal Loan
4 Types Of Personal Loan In Singapore You Should Know

It is tough sometimes when we land ourselves in unexpected situations that require immediate financial assistance, such as medical emergencies or investment opportunities. At times like this, taking out a personal loan in Singapore could be a viable option to ease your financial burden.  A personal loan is a type of unsecured loan that does […]

Personal Loan
Personal Loans In Singapore: What To Consider When Applying

Personal loans can seem like a mystery. What are they? When should you take them? How do you go about applying for personal loans in Singapore? A personal loan is a lump sum of money borrowed from a bank or licensed money lender, which you have to pay back in instalments (fixed payments) over a […]

Personal Loan
How To Get A Personal Loan In Singapore Even With A Bad Credit Score

Whether it’s to buy a first home or pay for education, most of us probably need to take a loan at least once in our life. However, not all loan applications can turn out successful. If you’ve applied for a personal loan in Singapore before but it got rejected, it could be due to your […]

Personal Loan
An Essential Guide To Personal Loan In Singapore: What It Is And How To Apply

Whether you need a helping hand to achieve a resolution you’ve set for the year, or you’re in urgent need of money, getting a personal loan in Singapore from a licensed moneylender may come in handy.  But before you apply for a personal loan in Singapore, here are some important things that you need to […]

Blogs and Opinions
Licensed Money Lender in Singapore Vs Bank: Key Differences

Getting married and buying a home are some of the most significant milestones and expenses you’ll incur when adulting. The last thing you want is to be strapped for cash. When that happens, most people think of borrowing money to tide them through the rough patch. You’re usually faced with two choices – should I […]

Personal Loan
Top 5 Personal Loan in Singapore Myths Busted

It’s pretty common to take up a car loan and/or a housing loan, especially since it’s costly to own a car and a home in Singapore. But when it comes to taking a personal loan in Singapore, it’s usually perceived as the result of poor financial management.  Depending on the circumstances, taking a personal loan […]

Company News
Advisory on COVID-2019

In light of the COVID-19 situation, Crawfort Singapore has stepped up and implemented additional precautionary measures at our outlet.

Media
单枪匹马赴菲“拓荒”寻商机

一般人对菲律宾的印象,总停留在治安欠佳和交通拥堵。然而,不能忽视的是,菲律宾有上亿人口,而近年经济增长也保持强劲,可谓商机处处。Crawfort正是看到了这个商机,希望能够为那些懂得数据科技,却无法充分从传统金融机构获取服务的消费者提供服务。

Company News
Crawfort Is Awarded
ISO 9001 : 2015

Crawfort is proud to be awarded the TUV ISO 9001 mark of quality, and will continue to provide excellent quality of services.

Company News
Crawfort Is Honoured To Be Awarded The Singapore Prestige Brand Award (SPBA) 2019

We are pleased to announce that Crawfort has been awarded The Singapore Prestige Brand Award (SPBA) 2019 – Promising Brands. Into its 18th year, SPBA seeks to recognise and honour distinguished brands for their outstanding achievements in branding. Our team went through rigorous rounds of judging by stellar industry professionals who evaluated us based on […]

Media
10 Business Leaders Recognised As Entrepreneur Of The Year

From training aspiring pilots to lending money, 10 local entrepreneurs received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award (EYA) 2019.

Media
The Breakfast Huddle

Find out how we can help F&B SMEs scale their businesses.

Media
CEO Conversation: Transforming Into A Digital Financial Services Provider

Find out how our Group is leveraging technology to serve underbanked customers in the region.

Media
The Case For Alternative Lending

In the last decade, we have witnessed rapid growth in the alternative lending space, with the creation of new business models opening up the range of alternative lending products available.

Media
How Fintech Is Driving Innovative Lending?

In Singapore, SMEs account for around two-thirds of the workforce and a large chunk of GDP growth. And if these firms can’t get funding, their failure to thrive has a dampening effect on the larger economy.

Company News
Crawfort Joins Singapore’s Fastest Growing Businesses

Crawfort rewrites the rules when it comes to moneylending solutions.

Media
Crawfort: Breaking Stereotypes Through Innovation

Innovative business Crawfort is rewriting the rules when it comes to moneylending solutions

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