Telegram ads lure S'pore teens to work for loan sharks, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Telegram ads lure S'pore teens to work for loan sharks

The proportion of young people who were arrested for unlicensed moneylending offences has more than doubled, as criminal syndicates continue to target youth with job advertisements promising fast cash on Telegram.

The police on June 20 said youth aged 14 to 19 accounted for 8.6 per cent of all individuals arrested for such offences between January and May 2024.

They declined to provide specific numbers, but added that young people in the age group had accounted for 3.1 per cent of all those arrested for unlicensed moneylending offences in the same period in 2023.

Commenting on the trend, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Michael Ho said young people are being lured into criminal acts by the promise of fast cash.

“They are recruited through platforms like Telegram and also through friends offering money opportunities,” added ASP Ho, who leads the anti-unlicensed moneylending squad at Bedok Division.

The Straits Times found three Telegram groups with a total of about 150 advertisements promoting jobs related to illegal moneylending operations.

Those who knock on doors and leave harassment letters can be paid about $100, while splashing paint can earn them between $300 and $750.

An advertisement for “serious runners” to “burn a house” promised $5,000 for the job.

The tactic mirrors the approach taken by scammers who post ads on gambling websites and on social media platforms to lure young people to become money mules.

Money mules are typically those who hand over control of their bank accounts to criminals, or who use their accounts to receive or transfer money under the instruction of criminals and scammers.

In March 2022, ASP Ho’s team handled a case where four youth aged 17 to 18 were arrested for harassment related to unlicensed moneylending activities.

They had targeted a residential unit in Tampines Street 83. ASP Ho said the victim’s unit was vandalised with paint and graffiti, and her gate was locked with a bicycle lock.

Police officers from Tampines Neighbourhood Police Centre and Bedok Division found three of the culprits at a nearby block and arrested them.

They also apprehended another teen who had acted as a middleman between the unlicensed moneylender and the youth.

The teen, who secured the job through a Telegram group called “SG Fast Cash”, said he had communicated with a person he knew only as “Lincoln”.

The four boys were each sentenced to 21 months’ probation.