Lisa’s desire to care for her family was how she got into this situation in the first place.
In December 2020, she was barely earning S$2,000 a month as an auxiliary security officer when she gave birth to a boy.
Her jobless husband used her money for his personal expenses, she said, adding that he quickly grew tired of caring for the baby.
Lisa, who also has a daughter – then 5 years old – living in Malaysia with an uncle, decided to go back to work during her confinement period.
“He was not helping in anything … I needed to support my family and pay the outstanding bills,” she said. “And if I had enough money, I would go back to study. Because Singapore is all about (having) the certificate.”
Lisa said her thoughts went “haywire” as she went on the Internet to search for moneylenders.
She found a company with a name and website that looked legitimate enough, so she clicked on an icon to get in touch via WhatsApp.
This was the beginning of Lisa’s months-long nightmare that revolved around persistent demands for money as well as threats to her family, before culminating in her being investigated as a money laundering suspect.
The moneylender asked Lisa, a Singapore permanent resident, for her personal details before releasing the loan. So, she sent pictures of her payslips as well as her Singapore and Malaysia identity cards.
The first red flag was when the moneylender asked her to pay an administrative fee amounting to 10 per cent of the loan.
“They told me this after I gave my details,” she said. “I was having doubts. Why do I need to pay when I never received what I wanted to borrow?”
When Lisa refused to pay, the man started berating her. He sent audio notes threatening her family and videos of front doors getting drenched in paint, a common intimidation technique employed by loansharks.
“I was scared,” she said. “I was panicking and I didn’t know what to do. I just transferred whatever amount I had.”
Lisa eventually paid the man S$3,000, but instead of getting her loan, the man demanded that she settle a late fee as well.