Business Loans

Why you should only get a loan from a licensed moneylender – not a loanshark – and how to tell the two apart: Part 1

Belinda Wan
June 15, 2021

Just plain scary: Loansharks will make your life a misery, so make sure you only deal with licensed moneylenders that abide by the rules. Photo credit: Pexels

Times are uncertain these days. Case in point: Even Jack Ma is having a rough time.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Unfortunately, this saying doesn’t just apply to people like you and me, but also scammers.

Pandemic or not (or perhaps precisely because of the pandemic), the percentage of online scams has skyrocketed considerably.

Beware of loansharks

The fact that people are online 24/7 to work, live and purchase their needs has given a huge window of opportunity to scammers, including loansharks.

Wondering how a loanshark can be a scammer? Here’s how: A loanshark can pretend to be a licensed moneylender online to loan you that amount you so desperately need for your business or personal needs.

By the time you realize you have been tricked into dealing with a loanshark instead of a licensed moneylender, it would be too late.

You will get that sum you need for sure – but at the expense of your sanity.  

Loansharks charge exorbitant interest rates and will stop at nothing to get their money back – including harassing your family members and neighbours, sometimes through some novel methods.

How licensed moneylenders should operate

Since 1st November 2011, licensed moneylenders have not been allowed to advertise their services via phone calls, text messages or social media. Nope, not even Google Ads.

However, they can advertise their services:

  • In business or consumer directories (both print and online);
  • On their own websites; and
  • In advertisements placed within or outside their premises.

Those that flout the rules by printing flyers, or sending SMSes and emails could be either licensed moneylenders that are knowingly violating the rules, or loansharks.

In any case, you should lodge a complaint with the Registry of Moneylenders (ROM) or contact 1800-CALL-LAW (1800 2255 529) on weekdays, 8:30am to 5pm. You can also send them an enquiry.

Another rule for licensed moneylenders: They must meet the borrower in person at the approved place of business to verify his or her identity before granting the loan. Loan transactions cannot be done 100% online.

While you should always avoid dealing with a loanshark, not all licensed moneylenders behave ethically, however. Be vigilant.  

Before and after you sign the loan contract, make a report to ROM immediately if the licensed moneylender:

• Retains your NRIC or other important personal documents (e.g. driver’s license, passport, work permit, employment pass, etc);

• Asks for your Singpass user ID or password;

• Uses abusive or threatening language;

• Makes false or misleading statements;

• Grants you a loan without explaining the terms and conditions of the contract clearly to you;

• Asks you to sign on a blank or incomplete Note of Contract for the loan;

• Does not give you a copy of the Note of Contract for the loan;

• Leads you to believe you have been granted a loan although you have not applied for it;

• Grants you the loan without following the standard procedures (i.e. without meeting you in person, without obtaining documents that verify your identity, or approving a loan during a call);

• Withholds any part of your principal loan for no apparent reason;

• Sends unenclosed notices of demand to your workplace;

• Harasses or stalks you or your family members into making repayment; and;

• Causes a disturbance at your home that affects your neighbours.

Check the full list of licensed moneylenders released by the Ministry of Law here.

How loansharks scam their victims

A loanshark often passes off for a licensed moneylender by making an almost exact replica of the latter’s website or social media accounts – including the website address, website design, and even the licensed moneylender’s company name and Unique Entity Number (UEN).

But check carefully against Ministry of Law’s list of licensed moneylenders, and you will see that the licensed moneylender and spoof website have different telephone numbers.

The website whose telephone number matches the telephone number in MinLaw’s list is the legitimate one made by a licensed moneylender.

Using such fraudulent websites and social media accounts, the loanshark may ask you for confidential information such as your NRIC number, address and contact number, and use it for unlawful purposes.

Loansharks may also send SMS or WhatsApp messages and claim to represent licensed moneylenders.

They may also text or call you, then ask you to transfer payment in the form of “GST fees” or “processing fees” before they give you the loan.

If this happens to you, lodge a report with ROM immediately. Read more here.

Report possible unlicensed moneylending activities to the Police hotline at 1800-255-0000 or submit the information online at You can also call the National Crime Prevention Council’s X-Ah Long hotline at 1800-924-5664.

Leading digital loan marketplace Lendingpot connects SMEs to its network of 45 lenders comprising relationship managers from banks, financial institutions, and private and peer-to-peer lenders in Singapore. It aims to help SMEs overcome the information asymmetry problem and lack of transparency prevalent in the SME financing sector by offering SMEs financing options such as business term loans, property loans, revenue-based financing, credit lines, working capital loans, bridging loans, invoice financing, and more.

About the author

Belinda loves thinking about random stuff, and collecting useless bits of facts and trivia. She often roots for the underdog, and believes the world needs more happy endings.

licensed moneylenders
money lenders
Ministry of Law
interest rate
Online Scams
Registry of Moneylenders

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