Public warned of new type of loan scam over WhatsApp involving fake government documents

Members of the public are warned of a new type of loan scam where victims are instructed by the perpetrators to make payments after they respond to unsolicited text messages offering loans.

In a joint advisory by the police and Ministry of Law’s Registry of Money Lenders (ROM), it was noted that there have been more than 20 reports of such cases with one person losing as much as S$110,000.

The statement said that once the victim responds to a message, the perpetrators would typically send them fake documents which look like it’s from the Ministry of Law or Monetary Authority of Singapore telling them they have to pay a deposit and the 7% GST for the loan amount before it can be approved. In some cases, victims even receive a document to inform them that the loan has been processed.

WhatsApp messages sent by perpetrators to victims. (Source: Singapore Police Force)

“The intent is to deceive the victims into believing that they are corresponding with a licensed moneylender,” said the statement.

When victims fail to make the payment, these perpetrators will harass them by claiming that the loans have already been approved and that cancellation would require a processing fee.

Falsified document made to look like it’s from Ministry of Law. (Source: Singapore Police Force)

The Police and ROM are reminding the public that a licensed moneylender is not allowed to make any cold calls or send unsolicited messages to members of the public. They also cannot approve or grant a loan without first having the borrower physically present at their approved place of business where they are legally obliged to verify the identity and particulars of the borrower.

A licensed moneylender also will not ask an applicant to make any advanced payment before the loan is disbursed or to make any payments to secure the loan. This includes GST, admin fee, processing fee, and other fees. While a licensed moneylender might charge an administrative fee after the loan has been granted, this is usually deducted from the loan principal that is disbursed to the borrower, said the police.

The authorities advise members of the public to take precautions with such scams and ignore such advertisements. The public is urged to not reply to these messages. Instead, block and report those numbers as spam on WhatsApp or third party applications.

The public is also reminded not to give out personal information like NRIC, SingPass or bank details to anyone.

You can cross-check the address of each licensed moneylending office in Singapore on ROM’s website.

If anyone would like to provide information to the authorities about such scams, they can call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000 or submit it online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.

The public can call the X-Ah Long hotline at 1800-924-5664 if they suspect or know of anyone who could be involved in illegal loansharking activities.

Similar cases

In April 2019, 32 people aged between 17 and 56 were arrested over 39 cases of e-commerce and commercial-related offences which resulted in victims losing more than S$1.5 million.

In August 2018, a five-day operation by the Bedok Police Division led to the arrest of 30 men and 25 women between the ages of 18 and 71 involvement in various scams and other commercial crime-related cases including e-commerce scams, loan scams and commercial frauds with transactions exceeding S$1.8 million.

Between January and June 2018, there were 315 loan scams reported which resulted in losses of at least S$670,000. In that same period for 2019, the number of cases more than doubled to 692 totalling S$2.2 million in losses.