Police issued an alert in May 2022 over a new scam in Singapore requesting victims’ confidential information, such as Singpass or bank account details to process loans. In these cases, the victims received unsolicited text messages through messaging applications, such as WhatsApp and Telegram. Victims of this new loan scam were cheated of more than S$20,000.
Police advise Singaporeans, Permanent Residents, and Foreigners to stay vigilant against evolving scams. To protect yourself from WhatsApp money lender loan scams and other similar schemes, you must know how it works. Plus, a few tips to avoid falling prey to loan sharks.
How Does WhatsApp Moneylender Loan Scam Work
Individuals who are in desperate need of quick cash for emergency expenses are the most vulnerable to loan scams. Illegal money lenders, also known as loan sharks, are becoming bolder and more creative in their tactics. In fact, some loan sharks will impersonate licensed money lenders to email, call or text unsuspecting victims with an attractive loan offer.
Here’s how these illegal lenders reel in potential victims:
- Loan sharks will approach you via WhatsApp, SMS, email, or Facebook with an attractive loan offer.
- They will send a link to a fake website, claiming they are a branch of a licensed money lender.
- Once they hook you up with a loan, they will ask you to transfer an admin fee for loan approval.
- Some of these loan scammers will try to be as convincing as possible by providing fake documents.
If in the unfortunate event that you fall prey to these loan scams, the loan shark will stop texting you, without the promised loan. Or they may start harassing you if you fail to pay the initial deposit before the loan is approved or make repayments.
How To Protect Yourself From Loan Sharks
Loan scams continue to evolve and have become a worrisome trend. The Police reminded the public that licensed money lenders are prohibited from approaching potential borrowers through text messages, phone calls, or social media platforms.
While the Singapore Police Force is actively making arrests, it is still a good idea to stay vigilant. Here’s how:
- Ignore and block unsolicited text messages. Remember that licensed moneylenders are not allowed to promote their business via SMS, email, flyers, WhatsApp, and other forms of advertisement.
- Check the updated list of licensed moneylenders in Singapore on the Ministry of Law’s website.
- Verify that the moneylender’s website is the same as the one listed on the Ministry of Law’s list.
- Keep your personal details private.
- Don’t deposit any money before the loan is granted.
That said, it is also important to watch out for too-good-to-be-true loan offers. A loan shark may attract you with a no-cap loan amount and long repayment terms. However, these loan sharks will charge exorbitant interest rates and other hidden fees making the loan almost impossible to repay.
How To Report Loan Scams
If you or you know someone who has been a victim of a loan scam, you may call the Police Hotline at 1800-255-0000 or submit information online at here. Rest assured that your personal information will be kept strictly confidential.
How Licensed Money Lenders in Singapore Operates
Need quick financial assistance for emergency expenses? Only borrow money from licensed money lenders if a traditional bank loan is out of your options. Legal money lenders in Singapore follow the rules and regulations set by the Moneylenders Act to protect both the lender and the borrower. Most importantly, legal lenders are regulated by the Ministry of Law.
1. Have a License To Operate a Moneylending Business
This means licensed money lenders have a registered business name and a license number. You can find the compiled list of licensed money lenders on the Ministry of Law’s website.
2. Have a Physical Place of Business
Licensed lenders have an official place of business which is the same as the one listed on the Ministry of Law’ website. You will need to visit their office when signing the loan agreement.
3. Perform Due Diligence
Legal money lenders will ensure that their clients can repay the loan promptly. When borrowing money from a legal lender, they will meet with you face-to-face. You will also need to provide:
- Proof of identity, such as a copy of your NRIC card or passport
- Proof or residences, such as utility bill
- Proof of income, such as 3-months’ worth of payslips
Loan scammers will grant you a loan without meeting you face-to-face.
4. Will Not Send Unsolicited Text Messages
In Singapore, licensed moneylenders can only advertise through these three channels:
- Business or consumer directories (both in print and online media)
- Their official website
- Advertisements placed within or on the exterior of their place of business.
That said if you receive any other form of loan advertisements through WhatsApp messages or Facebook, and other social media platforms, these are from loan sharks.
5. Will Never Keep Your Identification Documents
While licensed money lenders may require a copy of your NRIC card, they will never ask you to disclose private information, such as bank account details or Singpass login info. They will not retain your NRIC card, passport, driver’s license, and other identification documents.
6. Provide Loan Approvals in Person
It is allowed to apply for loans online. However, approving and disbursing loans online is prohibited. All licensed money lenders in Singapore are required to meet the borrower face-to-face. As such, legal lenders will perform a facet-to-face ID verification before granting the loan.
Only contact a licensed money lender through the contact details found in the Registry. Remember that loan scammers will try to impersonate licensed lenders and will be using their names, license number, and fake websites.
Loan scams are on the rise. As such, no matter how desperately you need money, never fall prey to these illegal schemes. Use this guide to help you watch out for signs of loan scams and how to protect yourself from illegal money lenders.
- Loan offers that reach out to you through SMS, messaging apps, phone calls, or social media platforms are loan scams.
- Loan scammers may also create fake websites that mimic licensed money lenders. Check the Ministry of Law’s website to ensure that you’re visiting the official website of a money lender.
- Loan sharks offer too-good-to-be-true loans but you’ll need to make a deposit first before they will process your loan application.
- Scammers will ask for your personal and bank details remotely via messaging apps. They will also approve your loan remotely without doing in-person ID verification.
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