KUALA LUMPUR: Last year, Aliff and his sister borrowed RM300 from money lenders to settle their father’s debts, but little did they know that the small loan would bring them a year of suffering.
They have already made repayments totalling RM34,000 but the loan sharks, or Ah Longs, still want to squeeze RM11,000 out of Aliff (not his real name).
He is now living on the run to escape the Ah Longs’ torments – but pictures of him and his family have gone viral online after his phone was hacked. Members of the public are being asked to “beat them up for failing to pay off their debts”.
Aliff’s suffering began when he tried to get an immediate loan to help his father, who fell victim to a scam. He was also unemployed at the time, forcing him to turn to moneylenders.
“I just borrowed RM300. My dad asked for my help, but I wasn’t working at the time because of the Covid-19 lockdown.
“My friends suggested this phone app through which I could submit a loan application. I had to give a copy of my identification card and a video of me saying I borrowed money through the app. That’s all. I got the money immediately,” he told FMT.
However, instead of the RM300 he was promised, Aliff only received RM150 and was required to pay back RM300 within a seven-day period. He could not afford to do so, and had to rope in his sister as the debt continued to rise.
“My sister has already spent so much money because of this. More than RM30,000 is now gone. The first time I paid, RM8,000 was already gone. Then they came calling again, asking for RM6,000, RM8,000.
“They said what I paid initially was just the principal amount and that I had more to pay. In total, my sister and I had to fork out RM34,000,” he said, adding that he then had no choice but to borrow money online from an Ah Long to pay off the debts.
He fell into an unending cycle and, in the end, resorted to borrowing money through 15 different applications to pay off his prior debts. His pictures then went around online leaving him in fear and shame.
“My friend called me and said, ‘A picture of you is going viral.’ In the picture, they wrote, ‘This boy doesn’t pay his debts. If you see him, just beat him up.’ But we actually have paid, in fact, we’ve paid off more than we borrowed,” he lamented.
After jumping from one application to another, he eventually filed a complaint with the Malaysian Muslim consumer association Persatuan Pengguna Islam Malaysia (PPIM), which said Aliff’s case was just one of the thousands who have been entrapped by Ah Longs.
Police statistics show that 3,149 complaints have been filed from 2019 to last October over loan sharks. PPIM said more than 80% of cases involve Malays.
PPIM lead activist Nadzim Johan conceded that loan sharks’ widespread presence was because there was a demand for them, adding that this was due to “loopholes in society”.
To help borrowers, he said PPIM would try to negotiate with the Ah Longs to reduce the amount demanded, in adherence to what the government allows.
“Actually, the government doesn’t even allow them to operate because they don’t have licences. But we don’t want to teach society to not pay when they’ve borrowed money.
“So we let them have the maximum 18% interest allowed under the Moneylenders Act 1951. After that, divide the remainder for maybe 10 months to give borrowers time to repay,” he said.