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The Problem With Digital Loan Providers Harassing Defaulters’ Friends and Families

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Listen, I am tired of receiving calls and getting text messages that my cousin’s sister’s uncle’s friend’s brother took a loan from an app that I have never heard of in my entire life. Dear loan apps, stop it!

Now that I’ve let that out, let’s start this conversation.

Some time ago, on social media, I read of a young man who took his life because he borrowed money from a loan company. When he defaulted on payment, they sent messages to his friends, family members, and his girlfriend’s family members too. It was mortifying. The person who shared the story said after the messages were sent to family and friends, he believed “something snapped and that was it” for his friend.

Loan apps are known for giving out quick loans, but they’re also notorious for one thing: shaming defaulters into paying back their loans by involving their family, friends and even enemies. One cool evening, after a hectic day, I decided to take a nap when I got a call.

Hello

Hi

Do you know a person called so so so and so?

*me thinking it was one important call*

Oh no, I’m not so sure, is there a problem?

Yes, there is. This (proceeds to call the person’s name again) is a fraud and a thief and if you know his whereabouts, kindly disclose to us.

Sigh, I just wanted to rest.

He took a loan from us and your name is one of the guarantors. If you do not find him, we will… (proceeds to threaten me).

Excuse you? Was I there when you were giving him the loan? How am I a guarantor without my knowledge? Anyway, I gave them a piece of my mind and told them never to call or threaten me again if they did not want to see cr*zy. I never got another call from them but I have gotten many more calls and messages like that.

Last year, an investigation was launched into how digital loan providers breach the data privacy of their debtors and resort to unprofessional conduct and illegal measures in recovering the loans. Kunle Sanni, for Premium Times, wrote the story of Piye Garuba who got in touch with a loan provider offering short-term loans. He became a regular customer but when he got a loan the 11th time, he hit a rough patch and couldn’t pay up within the stipulated time. 

Piye told Kunle that when he defaulted, he began to receive multiple text messages from different sources saying they are recovery agents from the loan app. “The agents kept sending threatening messages to all my contact lists including my wife, colleagues, mother-in-law, and uncles. The harassment went further with several threats and curses. They also used all manners of offensive adjectives like ‘chronic and unremorseful debtor’. Some of the text messages stated that I had been declared ‘wanted.’”

Piye Garuba is not the only one who experienced this. Once, my sister received a WhatsApp message from a loan app representative who sent her a photo of her former colleague and tagged him a “hardened criminal who was wanted and on the run.” My aunty read these exact words aloud to me when I went visiting. Her former househelp had taken a loan from a loan app and had not paid fully; her debt was remaining 3,000 naira.

What these loan apps do is beyond naming and shaming, they breach the privacy of those who get loans from them, disclose the information given to them in confidence, open their customers up for bullying and harassment, and put the lives of these defaulters at risk. Some even go as far as declaring their defaulters dead and printing their obituaries. Like Azuwuike Chinedu who, sharing his experience with Olwakemi Abimbola of Punch Newspaper, said he had defaulted on his repayment plan for five days and the next thing he saw was his obituary.

It is also important to mention that some people get loans with the aim of defaulting payments. They hop from one loan app to another, requesting loans that they have no intention to repay, and this puts pressure on the debt collectors saddled with the responsibility to retrieve these loans.

One told Amos they’re given targets and “The team leaders threaten to sack us if we don’t meet the target. When they verbally abuse us, we tend to transfer the aggression on the customers using any means possible to recover the company’s money.”

But how far is too far? Does “any means” include printing obituaries of defaulters or threatening their family and friends? Why are you calling to threaten me over the debt of people I barely know? How did you get my number? Aren’t you invading my own privacy and disturbing my peace too? There are laws that guide the retrieval of debts in Nigeria, why aren’t they followed? Why’s it so hard to get defaulters to pay, legally, or put certain policies in place before giving out loans? Can defaulters sue the digital loan company over targeted harassment, seeing as they’re at fault in the first place?

I’m tired of receiving these calls and messages, so what can be done?

 

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Featured image: Dreamstime

Editor at BellaNaija Features. And writing beautiful stories of places, things, and people like you. Reach out to me, I don't bite: [email protected] | Instagram @oluwadunsin___ | Twitter @duunsin.

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