Between January and November 2019, at least 1700 cases have been reported, with at least $6.8 million cheated.
Victims would typically receive a SMS text message or WhatsApp message offering loan services. The sender may even claim to be a staff from a licensed moneylender. Interested parties are then instructed to transfer a sum of money as a deposit before the loan can be disbursed. However, after transferring the money, no loan was disbursed. The victims only realised that the message was not from a licensed moneylender, and the person whom they had been corresponding with did not exist, after contacting the respective licensed moneylenders that the scammer had claimed to represent.
In another variant, perpetrators would send victims PDF documents, purportedly from the Ministry of Law and/or Monetary Authority of Singapore, informing them that they are required to pay a deposit sum and 7% GST for the loan amount, before the loan can be approved. This was to deceive the victims into believing that they were corresponding with a licensed moneylender. In some cases, the victims received another PDF document informing that the loan request had been processed. When these victims declined to make the payments, the perpetrators would harass them by claiming that the loans have already been approved and that they had to pay a processing fee to cancel the loans.
Members of the public should take note of the following:
- A licensed moneylender is not allowed to make any cold calls or send any unsolicited text messages to members of the public.
- The licensed moneylender is obliged under law to verify the identity and particulars of the borrower at its approved place of business. The licensed moneylender cannot approve or grant a loan to a borrower remotely. The address of each licensed moneylending office is published on the list of licensed moneylenders on the Ministry of Law’s Registry of Moneylenders website at https://rom.mlaw.gov.sg/information-for-borrowers/list-of-licensed-moneylenders-in-singapore/.
- A licensed moneylender will not ask a loan applicant to make any payment before the disbursement of the loan, or to make any payment to secure the disbursement of the loan. This includes GST, “admin fee”, “processing fee”, or any other fees. An administrative fee may be charged by the licensed moneylender after the loan has been granted, but this will usually be deducted from the loan principal that is disbursed to the borrower.
Members of the public are advised to take the following precautions with regard to such scams:
- Ignore such advertisements. Do not reply to these messages. Instead, block or report the number as spam on WhatsApp or through third party applications.
- Do not give out your personal information such as NRIC, SingPass or bank account details to anyone.
If you receive a cold call or unsolicited text message asking if you would like to take up a loan, call the anti-scam helpline at 1800-722-6688 to verify. Visit www.scamalert.sg to find out more about scams. Join the ‘Let’s fight scams’ campaign at www.scamalert.sg/fight by signing up as an advocate to receive up-to-date messages and share them with your family and friends. Together, we can help stop scams and prevent our loved ones from becoming the next scam victim.