Remittance vouchers the new Illegal moneylending scam

Remittance Vouchers the new Moneylending Loan Scam?

With the hard clamping down of illegal moneylenders and the tightening of moneylending borrowing rules, moneylenders are now starting to feel the pinch. In a new rise of moneylending schemes, one that uses remittance vouchers has caught the attention of Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW).

Remittance Vouchers Scheme

This new remittance vouchers scheme that has been hitting the news targets specifically at FDWs They are the prime targets because of the tightening of licensed moneylending rules which permits foreigners from borrowing over a certain cap. This new loan cap caused a new struggle amongst foreigner workers as they are unable to pay back the money they owed.

Under the new regulations, foreigners earning less than $10,000 a year in Singapore can borrow up to only $1,500 from all licensed moneylenders combined. Even with rising concerns about a sharp increase in maids taking out loans and ending up in debt.

It was revealed in Singapore’s Parliament last November that 28,000 maids borrowed from licensed moneylenders in the first six months of last year. This number is more than double the 12,000 who borrowed in the whole of 2017. In 2016, there were just 1,500 maids who took out such loans.

Since then, foreigners are turning to other moneylending sources and at times turning to illegal moneylenders. Their debt further increases as they start missing their repayments.

The Story of Kata

Kata  Store, a cellphone retailer at Lucky Plaza, sold remittance vouchers which provided maids to remit money and get a loan indirectly.

It works by allowing them to buy remittance vouchers of a certain value, of which they have to pay an upfront fee. They are then required to make high-interest repayments which in one case was paying up 45% more than the initial loan. What’s more is that administrative charges of $2 a day would be imposed if repayments are not met on the due date.

With the remittance vouchers, they will give it to the staff at Brunphil Express. They will then remit the cash back to their hometown.

Kata does not hold a moneylending license and is issuing loans that are disguised as instalment plans to maids who do not understand the consequences. This form of offering is causing people to end up in bigger debts.

There have been cases of foreign workers not being able to pay back loan sharks and ended up being recruited by them as runners. Some would even persuade their friends and colleagues to borrow money from them.

Some of the maids are being pressured to send money home thus leading them to borrow from illegal moneylenders. This has resulted in a slew of foreign worker scams too. Scam operators call and threaten potential domestic workers, harassing their employers making them pay money not owed.

It appears that the new rules have somehow affected foreigners living in Singapore although the loan cap ruling was initially introduced to allow them to avoid over-borrowing.

If you are an employer of a foreign domestic worker, do educate them about the problems of borrowing and they would be repatriated back if they borrowed from unlicensed moneylenders.

Advice on Borrowing

If you are thinking about borrowing, always borrow from a licensed moneylender or licensed financial institution. They undergo stringent checks by the government and ask for financial advice on their offerings. Make comparisons with other lenders and read the fine print. Clarify any questions before you attempt to make the loan.

Money Lenders Regulations and outlook for 2019

Money Lenders Regulations and Outlook of Money Lending Industry 2019

Money Lenders Regulations

The fast-paced financial industry is Singapore has brought about several new changes to the Moneylending Industry here and introducing new money lenders regulations that is both benefiting to money lenders and borrowers.

Hearing from public outcry, the Ministry of Law introduced new loan interest rate caps. This ruling caps the interest rate of loans issued by lenders to be at 4 per cent monthly. This indirectly borrowers from over-borrowing and at the same time the borrowing cost that a moneylender can impost is now capped at 100 per cent of the loan principal.

Not only extending to locals, foreigners are also better protected now. An aggregate loan cap of $1,500 across money lenders is applied to foreigners earning less than $10,000 annually.

However, even with this ruling to protect borrowers, foreign domestic workers (FDW) are now lured into the borrowing game and think of it was quick and easy money. Some money lenders exploit the situation and charge the 4% on top of late repayment fees of $60 monthly. This amount of total repayment does not help FDW as they are unable to maintain their loans and lead to stealing from employers or even criminal activities.

New Business Models, New Money lenders, New Money Lenders Regulations

Late last year, new moneylending licenses were issued. This is a first in six years as a one-time lifting of the moratorium (imposed in 2012) as part of a pilot scheme in light to the new money lenders showing promise in better protecting borrowers through business-led improvements.

The new business models shows usage of data to assess creditworthiness of potential borrowers, digitizing their business processes to lower cost and provide better lending terms to borrowers.

New Loan Rules

Since Nov 30, 2018, the first phase of the Moneylenders (Amendment) Act 2018 and Moneylenders (Amendment) Rules 2018 kicked in, aggregate loan caps are set to limit the amount borrowers can borrow from all licensed moneylenders combined.

These new loan caps restrict Singapore citizens and permanent residents with an annual income of less than $20,00 to only borrow up to $3,000 from all moneylenders combined.

For foreigners, a lower aggregate loan cap of $1,500 is set to those earning less than $10,000 annually. If they are earning between $10,000 and $20,000 a year, they can borrow up to $3,000. For those who are earning at least $20,000, they can borrow up to six times their monthly income.

Regulatory Framework

A regulatory framework is now implemented, whereby licensed money lenders must obtain a borrower’s credit report from the Money Lenders Credit Bureau (MLCB) before granting any loan. This bureau is a central repository of data on borrowers’ loan and repayment records.

Accurate borrower information must be sent back to the bureau with timely updates when borrowers repay their loans.

Similar to the casino self-exclusion rule, there is now a rule to help borrowers regulate or curb their borrowing behaviour. They can opt for the self-exclusion framework and licensed money lenders are prohibited from lending to any individual.

What’s more for Money Lenders Regulations in 2019

The second phase of implementation is to professionalise the moneylending industry. This requires all licensed money lenders to be incorporated as companies limited by shares with minimum paid-up capital of $100,000 and to submit annual audited accounts to the Registry of Moneylenders.

Unlicensed moneylenders: Learn about harassment tactics and avoid them

Unlicensed Moneylenders New Harassment Tactics and How to Avoid Them

Unlicensed moneylenders a.k.a loan sharks have been keeping up with technology and equipping themselves with new harassment methods, which led to the Singapore Police Force issuing a new advisory on it last month.

Getting New Customers

It starts from how to recruit new borrowers — instead of printing flyers and going by word of mouth, loan sharks have started buying databases of numbers and sending WhatsApp messages to them, offering loans at low cost.

These loan sharks will often appear to be legitimate businesses through having a business name, phone number and even a website.

Simplifying the Borrowing Process

After securing your trust, the loan sharks also understands that they should simplify the borrowing process in order to onboard new customers.

So instead of meeting up and asking for your financial details, all they need are some personal details like a screenshot of your identification card, company name and address, SingPass login details and even where your children are studying.

(Note: This should raise alarms about the legitimacy of the business. Licensed moneylenders are not allowed to ask for your SingPass logins and other personal details like where your children are studying.)

First Incentivise, then Lie

In order to further convince you, they will first put up a repayment plan that seems reasonable, but over time, they will come up with excuses to change it and forces you to abide by the new change.

“At first, it could be monthly payments, but next week they would say: ‘Hey your payment is up’,” she said. When she told the moneylender of the original terms, the usual reply would be that the guy who gave it had gotten into an accident.” – As reported by CNA

The New Harassment Tactics

Finally, after you paid back your original debts, and some more, you realised that you still owed 5 times the original amount you borrowed.

And when you failed to pay that, harassment begins. While the previous methods of harassment such as splashing of paints and drawing graffitis on walls are still in used, loan sharks have begun using methods that inflict more emotional harm.

One such method is to send unsuspecting strangers to your house through various means.

They might place a large order with food delivery services such as McDonald’s or KFC and send them to your house. Or they might lure unsuspecting male subjects to your place by pretending that their “dates” live there.

Other more sinister methods include threatening to burn your home by sending you a video of burning homes or taking photos of where your children study.

Sounds scary right? Because it is. And the best way to avoid all of the above is to not approach unlicensed moneylenders at all, and do due diligence before borrowing from any sources.

In the police advisory, SPF encourages the public to avoid unlicensed moneylenders at all cost, and if necessary, approach licensed moneylenders that are listed on the Ministry of Law’s Registry of Moneylenders website at https://www.mlaw.gov.sg/content/rom/en/information-for-borrowers/list-of-licensed-moneylenders-in-singapore.html.

Licensed Moneylenders Loan - New limits and aggregate loan caps

Licensed Moneylenders Loan: New limits and stricter loan caps

Rules are always changing in the moneylending industry, and it is getting stricter each round. The latest rule, imposes a limit on the amount of licensed moneylenders loan that a person may borrow from. With rules changing and tightening the past two years, learn how the new rules is going to change the industry again.

As the public outcry for tighter control of licensed moneylenders and better protection for borrowers, the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) kicks in the first phrase of the Moneylenders (Amendment) Act 2018 and Moneylenders (Amendment) Rules 2018.

The first phrase of Moneylenders (Amendment) implementation calls for aggregate loan caps to be set to limit the amount borrowers (Singapore citizens, permanent residents and foreigners) can borrow from all licensed moneylender sources.

How new licensed moneylenders loan affects you

The new loan caps permits Singapore citizens and permanent resides with an annual income of less than $20,000 to borrow up to $3,000 only.

Whereas those who earn more than $20,000 a year may borrow up to six times their monthly income.

For foreigners, a lower aggregate loan cap of $1,500 for those who earn less than $10,000 annually. If foreigners are earning between $10,000 and $20,000 a year can borrow up to $3,000. Whereas those who earn at least $20,000 can borrow up to six times their monthly income.

New Regulatory Framework

The Moneylenders Credit Bureau will be implementing a regulatory framework whereby licensed moneylenders must obtain a borrower’s credit report from the bureau before granting any licensed moneylenders loan.

The new rules also allow for a self-exclusion framework that aims to help borrowers regulate their borrowing behavior and partake in debt assistance schemes.

Once an individual has applied for self-exclusion, licensed moneylenders are prohibited from lending to this individual.

In order to strengthen the regulation of licensed moneylenders, the law will now require licensed moneylenders to get the approval of the Registrar of Moneylenders before employing or engaging any assistance in the business. This means the loan officers whom are speaking to potential borrowers are fully qualified and vetted.

Not only employees, anyone that wants to be a substantial shareholder or increase his or her shares in a licensed moneylender, prior approval from the Registrar is needed.

The next phase of implementation will begin in early 2019, which includes professionalising the moneylender industry and requiring all licensed moneylenders to be fully incorporated as companies limited by shares with a minimum paid-up capital of $100,00 and to submit to annual audited accounts to the Registry of Moneylenders.

These new slew of laws are here to stay and will only get stricter. This serves great for both licensed moneylenders and borrowers. Lenders can now have better understanding of borrowers and borrowers will now be able to control their own financial well-being better.

Credit Card Debt and Bad Debts in Singapore

Credit Card Debt, Bad Debt and Usage in Singapore

Credit cards, with its convenience and high amount of rewards, continues to be the preferred payment method over cash, bank transfer and e-payments in Singapore.

According to the Global Payments Report by Worldpay, this is especially true for online purchases, where credit card had a 67 percent share of all payment methods.

And with the rising popularity and frequent occurrence of online sales events such as Black Friday, Singles Day and the upcoming 12.12 event, this meant that credit card usage has soared through the roof.

However, more credit card spending, coupled with the rise in interest rates started causing some undesirable situations such as the rise in bad credit card debts.

Rising Credit Card Debt

Kuo Huo Nam, Chairman of Credit Counselling Singapore noted a disturbing trend — that is the rise in credit card rollover balance, with $5.6 billion at the end of September, which is not far from the all-time high of $5.8 billion.

This trend is also showing up in bad credit card debt. Monetary Authority of Singapore data showed that bad credit card debt (“written off debt”) has risen to $27.9 million in March this year, which is only four percent lower than last decade’s peak.

According to Yahoo Finance, this is mainly due to two reason — an increasing reliance on credit card usage and the rise in interest rates.

Credit Card Usage and Interest Rates Increases

The fight for market shares amongst banks has led to attractive rewards for credit card usage. Coupled that with the convenience brought by innovation from contactless payment, it is no wonder that Singaporeans are increasing their use of credit cards.

This has led to an increase in total billings per card to $500 — an all-time high in Singapore — which inevitably caused the rise in credit card rollover balance.

When you combine that with the hike in US Fed rate, it just means more debtors in Singapore are going to find it harder to repay debts.

How to Manage Your Credit Card Debts

With this in mind, it would be best not to default on your credit card loan and let it roll over month to month, as it could become an astronomical amount that might just be impossible to clear off.

If you have the habit of missing payment due to the sheer number of credit cards that are in your wallet, it might be time to evaluate all the options and decide which are the ones you really need on a daily basis.

Lastly, you can also make use of finance apps available on both the Play Store and App Store to track your finance so you will always know how much you have spent for the month right at your fingertips!

Unsecured Loan Rules and Comparison. Learn how it affects you.

Unsecured Loans Rules and Comparison: How does it affect you

Understanding Unsecured Loans

With the rapidly changing financial industry and laws imposed on it, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) stepped in early this year to aid borrowers landing in excessive unsecured debts. A new rule of capping the unsecured loans limit was imposed.

The new rule prevents borrowers from further getting any unsecured loans credit from financial institutions should the borrower have unsecured debts that exceed six times his or her monthly income, financial institutions will not be allowed to provide any increase in credit limit or additional credit that will cause a borrower’s credit limit to exceed 12 times their monthly income.

The rule comes in a move to reduce the escalating debt problems in Singapore and led to a slew of changes in how unsecured loans work.

An Infographic by MAS on new measure to help individuals manage unsecured debt

An Infographic by MAS on new measure to help individuals manage unsecured debt

Secured Loans vs Unsecured Loans. What are they?

Secured Loans

Loans are secured if and only when borrowers pledge their assets to the lender as a form of collateral for the loan. Should their loan fall through when repayments are not met, the lender has the authority to sell the assets to recover the money due. If the money recovered is not enough, borrowers are liable to make up the shortfall.

Unsecured Loans

Unlike secured loans, for unsecured loan borrowers do not provide or pledge any form of assets to the lender as collateral. Therefore, interest rates for such loans tend to be higher as financial institutions or lending companies take on more risk.

Past financial records, monthly salaries, unsecured loans debt are taken into consideration whenever an unsecured loan is issued. Personal loans, credit cards are a form of unsecured loans.

What next? Afterthoughts of loans

Regardless of loan types, do be clear on the loan you are getting. The goal is to opt for a loan that best fits your needs and minimising the interest cost whenever possible. Managing your financial wealth is of utmost importance as you would not want to end in a spiralling debt cycle.

Always be clear on your loans, ask the loan officer during your session. When in doubt, do your due research or seek another financial institution.

Learn Foreigner Loan in Singapore

What You Should Know About Foreigner Loan in Singapore

Singaporeans and PRs have aggregate loan caps and self-exclusion framework for borrowing from licensed moneylenders to protect themselves and their families. But foreigners do not face the same restriction, and this has led to an increase in the number foreigner loan and problems that arises with it.

Foreigner Loans Increased 4.5X from 2016

The ministries have reported that foreigner loans increased from 7,500 in 2016 to 35,000 in the first half of 2018 with domestic workers making up a bulk of these loans.

Pastor Billy Lee, executive director of Blessed Grace Social Services said, “Many of these maids come with no money and a mountain of debt to their agents. By right they shouldn’t be borrowing any more money.”

This has led to problems for some employers as they are left to deal with the mess, which include harassments and unsolicited phone calls, left behind from their maid’s borrowing after sending them back home.

A Cap on Foreigner Loans in Singapore

The new cap on foreigner loan, implemented in Q4 2018, will affect foreigners holding any of the following passes: work passes, long-term visit passes, short-term visit passes, dependant’s passes and student passes.

The loans will also be capped based on the foreigners’ earning power.

Foreigners will also be able to protect themselves by applying for self-exclusion, which are already available to Singaporeans and PRs.

Foreigners who borrow from Unlicensed Moneylenders

To further reduce and limit the problems of borrowing, Ministry of Law has taken a hard stance on those who chose to borrow from unlicensed moneylenders.

All foreigners found guilty of this will have their work pass revoked, repatriated and barred from further employment in Singapore. Although employers can choose to appeal this on a case-by-case basis.

Education is Still the Most Important

Prevention is still always better than cure, and the ministries understand this.

So besides having these restrictions in place, the MOM and police will also step up education on the management and risk of borrowing from moneylenders for both foreigners and employers.

The rest of the moneylender restriction stays the same for foreigners — that includes the 4% interest rate caps on the loans and the sum of all permitted borrowing costs on any individual loan must not exceed 100% of the loan principal.

Our team here feels this is a great step in the right direction. Although most licensed moneylenders are already cautious when lending to domestic workers, having a cap in place will help inform those with less experience.

Credit Matters and why you should be aware

Credit Matters and Why you should be Aware

Your creditability of finance based on your credit history can majorly impact what you want to finance like housing loan, renovation loan, business loan or loans that taps onto your credit history. The reason why credit matters is that it affects the amount of loan or even the interest rate and repayment amount that’s dispensed to a borrower.

Financial institutions will check on your credit score when acquiring a loan, loan officers will vet through your credit history to give the proper advice and loan terms to a borrower.

Credit score is seldom thought about to most people, however credit matters as it affects directly the loan and interest rate and can even affect various aspects of your financial life or job. Therefore, it is paramount to keep your credit score in good shape.

Credit score is basically a number based on complex credit assessments by various institutions, this number makes credit matters greatly. It indicates the possibility of a borrower getting a loan and whether a financial institution will approve the loan application.

In Singapore, much of these credit assessment is kept in a credit report at the Credit Bureau Singapore (CBS). This shows your personal details, loans, payment history, bankruptcy records, credit limits, loan accounts and amount owing. CBS analyses these data to determine a credit score using various algorithms.

The fact that if you can’t get a mortgage or loan is likely due to your low credit score, and this is why credit matters in life. If you aren’t on time with payments, it impacts your credit score.

Even with job applications, a person’s credit history can be checked upon especially if the applicant is applying for a financial position.

How to improve your Credit Score?

It is important to keep to your payments on time, as repaying late affects your credit score greatly.  You could also reduce your number of loans or credit cards you have. This reduces the risk of having your credit score affected.

To get a copy of your credit report here, so you can review it and correct it if it is wrong, simply go to the CBS website at www.creditbureau.com.sg and request a copy.

Keeping in mind that credit matters, paying your loans on time and checking up on your credit score are steps to maintaining a good credit score.

Thinking of getting a loan or to better understand the loan application approach, contact our loan officers to find out more.

Rise of Online Shopping and how shoppers spend more

The Rise of Online Shopping Sales and How It Got Us to Spend More

What does 9/9, 11/11, 23/11, 12/12 have in common? They are all online shopping festival sales dates started and promoted by e-commerce companies to encourage consumers to buy and spend more online.

It all started from Amazon’s Black Friday Sale, followed by Alibaba’s Singles Day Sale, and subsequently, e-commerce companies started coming up with other dates to host their own online shopping sprees — think 9.9, 12.12 and some even has weekly sales deals!

Alibaba’s Singles Day Sales even managed to keep smashing its own sales record. They recorded S$34.6 billion during the sales last year, cementing it as the biggest shopping event in the world.

And Singaporeans love these bargain – CNA stated that consumers from Singapore formed the seventh biggest group of overseas shoppers in 2015, coming behind bigger spenders from Russia, Hong Kong, United States, Taiwan and Spain.

And we love these sales because it allows us to buy certain necessity at a bargain price.

For example, a recent homeowner can browse and bookmark furnitures in Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao, and wait for the Singles Day Sales to purchase everything. This way, they can shop at the comfort of their own home and save money at the same time.

But while the sales can help certain group of individuals save money, it also makes a whole lot of people spend more than they normally would.

These companies have engineered ways to gamify the online shopping experience and made deal hunting seem like a treasure hunt.

For example, during most of the sales, the e-commerce platforms will list out some of the popular items and their sales price days or weeks before the actual sales.

This helps the e-commerce platform to get the word out that the sales is coming, and creates hype and a fear-of-missing-out amongst shoppers, which eventually lead to more sales during the actual day.

Lazada even had a online shopping game during the sales that allows people to get products from as low as 99 cents as long as their friends help them to slash the price of the product through their unique referral link.

So, one way to work these sales to your advantage, and not be controlled by your impulses during the sales is to do research beforehand and plan a shopping list of the items you need.

Instead of mindlessly browsing through all the deals, you go into the sales with a clear budget, goal, and only purchase the items on your list.

Besides that, one other way to save more is to look out for credit card partnership that the e-commerce sites have. Often you will be able to enjoy some cash back or in certain cases, earn some air miles!

Now that Lazada’s and Shopee’s 9.9 sales are over, maybe it’s time to start listing down the items you really need and start spotting deals at Alibaba’s Singles Day event!

Proposal to pilot new business model for moneylending industry

Proposals to pilot business models for moneylending

Moneylending industry has always rapidly evolved to adapt to the rising changes in the financial industry. Several laws have been proposed and implemented causing moneylending businesses to be disrupted. The advent of fintech creates new striking changes to how moneylending businesses operate.

Laws have been proposed by the Singapore government to further tighten the moneylending industry. The latest laws are updated on the 23rd of Feb 2018.  With news and complaints of illegal moneylending affecting citizens living in the suburbs, the government has been tightening laws and ruling out unethical businesses that have been taking advantage of borrowers.

Proposals to pilot new business models for moneylending

Empire Global is a leading moneylending company and has always kept customer needs close to heart. Without drastically affecting borrowers and their own business, Empire Global has always kept up to trend with their business models and looking at new ways to improve their own business model.

The Ministry of Law (MinLaw), has invited proposals to pilot new business models for moneylending which brings about the objective to better protect borrowers in the moneylending industry. Applicants will require paid-up capital of at least $1 million, to ensure sufficient financial standing. Assessment of the effective cost of credit and credit policies will be made. Successful applicants will be granted moneylending license for up to two years to implement their business model.

MinLaw intends to issue up to 16 outlets for the implementation of new business models under this pilot model.

Based on the news by MinLaw, Empire Global is looking at new ways to better to benefit the community at large and at the same time remain competitive in this tough moneylending industry. Going forth with the government suggestions, Empire Global has been researching on new financial models and open to all proposals or suggestions towards this movement.