With the job market being incredibly volatile over the past few years, it seems like every industry has been facing some sort of manpower crunch.
Even loan sharks in Singapore.
Yup, you heard that right.
And yes, gone were the days when the weirdest Telegram messages you’d receive were from dodgy insurance agents asking you if you’d like to buy insurance from them.
Recently, a tip-off that Lianhe Zaobao received from a reader revealed that loan sharks in Singapore have been recruiting people to aid them in their “endeavours”.
(AKA terrorising people by doing things to their homes that you’d usually only see in TV shows.)
Here’s what these loan sharks have been offering, as well as what other parties, such as lawyers and the police, have to say.
Offering Up to $400 for Roles Such as Paint Runners
In the message provided by Zaobao‘s reader, a user sent a Telegram message in a local group chat which detailed the amount of money that loan sharks are offering.
For starters, door knockers will be paid $50 or $100 per unit.
Lockers, who are responsible for locking people’s gates, will be paid $150 per unit.
On the other hand, the user said that paint runners would be paid anywhere between $300 to $400 per unit.
Of course, what the message didn’t state is that these rates also come with some sort of criminal record, free of charge.
Loan Shark Repeatedly Asked Reader If They Can Start Work Immediately
The reader, who declined to be named, decided to reply to the user’s message to see if it was a legitimate message.
To the reader’s surprise, the loan shark recruiter replied to their message promptly.
The latter even said that they urgently need people to travel to Queenstown or Commonwealth to help them with their “operations”, i.e. harassment.
Additionally, the recruiter also asked the reader repeatedly if they were able to “start work” immediately.
Another Group Claimed that Those Recruited Can Earn Over $1,500 Per Day
And it seems like similar messages have been sent in other groups as well.
In another Telegram group, a user sent a similar message in an attempt to recruit people to help loan sharks.
That user claimed that those recruited by the loan sharks would be able to earn over $1,500 per day.
Which, of course, shouldn’t sound enticing once you find out how you’re earning the money.
In particular, that message advertised their different services and rates as well.
For example, paint runners would earn $400 per unit, while those that set cars on fire can earn $1,350 per car.
The user even said that individuals would receive payment for their tasks within five minutes of completing them.
According to the message, individuals will also receive an additional bonus immediately if they choose not to work for the loan sharks anymore.
Regarding these messages, the reader felt that these users behaved arrogantly and expressed their hopes for the relevant authorities to investigate the issue.
Police’s Response: The Number of Illegal Moneylender Harassment Cases Has Decreased
When responding to queries from Zaobao, a spokesperson from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) revealed that the number of harassment cases related to illegal moneylending has decreased over the years.
In 2018, there were over 4,600 such cases.
In comparison, there were around 2,800 such cases in 2022 last year.
Out of these cases, 270 of them involved the arrest of individuals involved.
That number was below 200 last year.
It was also mentioned that multiple people could be involved in one act, while some individuals may be involved in multiple acts.
Some of these harassment acts may also take place online, such as through sending messages to debtors to harass them.
Apart from that, Zaobao also reported that the SPF issued at least 12 announcements to crack down on illegal moneylending operations.
Police officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and seven major police departments in Singapore also launch week-long operations almost every month to crack down on such operations.
The spokesperson also highlighted that the SPF would step up their efforts to keep the number of illegal moneylending acts to the minimum.
Additionally, it was stated that individuals involved in such activities would be punished severely in accordance with the law.
The SPF also reminded the public to stay away from illegal moneylenders and not to assist these moneylenders or be associated with them.
Members of the public who suspect or know someone involved in illegal moneylending activities can contact the police at 999 or call the “X-Ah Long” hotline at 1800-924-5664 to notify the police.
And here’s what the lawyers have to say.
Lawyers that Zaobao spoke to explained that such Telegram messages might constitute offences under the Moneylenders Act in Singapore.
This is because such messages can be interpreted as the users trying to instigate or instruct another person to harass others.
In particular, the phrases such as “paint runners” would prove that these messages are trying to instruct individuals to harass others.
According to the Moneylenders Act, individuals who assist loan sharks in harassing others may face up to five years’ imprisonment, a fine between $5,000 and $50,000, as well as caning of three to six strokes.
On the other hand, those convicted of aiding illegal moneylending activities may face up to four years’ imprisonment and a fine of anywhere between $30,000 to $300,000.