Singapore is a country that is known for its world-class airport and airline (Singapore Airlines), timely public transport efficiency, cleanliness, and much more down the list that would make a Singaporean proud. However, there is also an existing social stigma that has long plagued Singaporeans and their loved ones – the Ah Longs.
Singaporean authorities have already taken various active measures to curb the issue, but these criminal organisations are always one step ahead, and some unfortunate locals are entangled with them, pulling in their loved ones into the mess as well.
Here, we take a more in-depth look at the situation and ask ourselves, why do people still choose to go for Ah Longs despite knowing the consequences it will bring and how do they get involved in the first place? What can you do if you are involved in one and what are the alternatives if one is in great need of money?
How does one get involved?
- People walk into the Ah Long trap or loan shark scam unknowingly
There have been many cases whereby an Ah Long or their dealers pretend to be a licensed moneylender or from a reputable financial institute. They get in contact with their victims, coaxing them into giving their personal information, and then debiting a certain amount of money into the victims’ bank accounts. After that, the Ah Longs will be asking for repayments with unreasonable interest rates. Certain times, even after the victim has repaid the original loan amount, the Ah Longs will claim that they have never received the money, and demand payment again.
There are also cases whereby an Ah Long debits a certain amount of money into an unsuspecting victim’s bank account and getting in touch with them threatening them to pay back, the terrified victim then quickly transfers back the amount to the Ah Long. The victim may think that the issue is solved. Unfortunately, they only find the Ah Long claiming the amount got into the wrong account or threatening the victim to pay back again inclusive of higher interest.
The cycle never ends, with the victims paying the Ah Longs again and again.
- Friends and family of debtors become guarantors unknowingly
When situations seem bleak, and one is desperate for cash, there are people who would do almost anything.
One of it is borrowing from an Ah Long in secrecy without letting family members know. In some cases, the debtors give the particulars of unsuspecting family members to the Ah Longs. When the debtor can’t pay up, these unscrupulous culprits will start harassing the debtor’s family members or place of living. In the end, the debtor’s loved ones have to endure years of harassment and stress from the Ah Longs. Some have to fork out their own hard-earn money to these Ah Longs, and then the cycles repeat, with the Ah Longs coming back and asking for more payments.
- Bank loans are too time-consuming, need a lot of paperwork, and most businesses don’t qualify
Typically, for a business to qualify for a business bank loan, the SME or business has to be in operation for a period of time; on average at least two years. This condition already disqualifies a lot of SMEs as most of them are startups.
Aside from this, the bank loan approval process may take weeks. Sometimes, it isn’t the approval period that is time-consuming, but rather the preparation of documents needed for a bank loan that can eat up a lot of time. Businesses will have to prepare financial reports, latest 3 to 6 months bank statements, debtors’ and creditors’ ageing payment list, the directors’ Identification Documents and personal Notice of Assessments (NOA), and so on. To read the full documents required, go here.
The approved bank loan amount on some occasions may not be the amount that the business requested. The approved loan amount is usually set at the discretion of the bank based on the risk assessment of a business.
Most businesses that need an urgent injection of cash don’t have the luxury to wait or apply for a bank loan, especially when the business is in a financial crisis having to pay bills or salaries to the employees, or having to pay suppliers, invoices and so on. With this, it is understandable why some people would go to Ah Longs.
- To avoid bankruptcy
Being declared bankrupt can have a big effect on one’s life. You may face difficulties in securing a job as some employers are hesitant to hire a bankrupt; you will also have restrictions in travelling overseas, managing a business or becoming a CEO of a business, as well as not being able to obtain any credit above SGD 1k.
In Singapore, one can file for bankruptcy if a person is unable to repay debts of at least SGD 15,000. This is also not forgetting that the process to file for bankruptcy requires the applicant to pay a bankruptcy deposit of SGD 1,850. There are also other fees to take into accounts, such as document filing and legal fees.
Some people may deem going to an Ah Long as a means to avoid bankruptcy and to repay the current debt owed, which leads us to the next point:
- Using a loan to pay back a loan
There are some cases whereby a person has a certain amount of debt, and then they turn to other borrowings such as Ah Longs because they need emergency cash to repay back their old debt and it is easier to obtain a loan amount from them as compared to other legal borrowings. A bank loan would be out of the question when they see the debt record, etc. One may start by thinking it’s okay to borrow from an Ah Long, “I’ll get enough money to pay them back one day.” But the day never comes, as Ah Longs are known to be asking for payments repetitively and inflating interest rates by will, some even annoy and harass their victims after years of no contact.
This becomes an endless cycle that never ends, and the person will forever be in a mountain of debt.
So how do you get out of this situation?
Honestly, we are no experts in dealing with situations involving Ah Longs. But if you are involved, being a debtor or a runner for them, the first step is always to report to the police. Calling the police hotline at 1800 225 0000 to break the cycle is the first step towards a new life.
As for debtors who have trouble paying back, they are advised to go to the Credit Counselling Singapore to work out a debt repayment schedule so that one can get their debt under control.
FS Bolt – your choice for an SME loan
For SME owners who need a loan that can boost their business’ financial standing, turn to FS Bolt instead.
A product for SMEs under Funding Societies, FS Bolt is an app that allows SME owners easy loan application of quantum up to SGD 50k. FS Bolt is different from other borrowing institutes as there is minimal documentation required, and you can complete the application process within minutes. Approvals can be as fast as 2 hours, and the funds can be disbursed within 24 hours.
You should never need to spend your whole life living in fear and stressing from Ah Longs. You should also never need to worry about your family’s safety due to money matters. A business needs cash from time to time, and we fully understand that, but one does not need to resort to unlawful means of getting capital, as it will do more harm than good to you and your loved ones.
Funding Societies – Capital Markets Services License No: CMS100572-1 issued by Monetary Authority of Singapore (2016)