The Anti-Cybercrime Department under the Ministry of Interior urges the public not to resort to precarious online loans amid an ongoing investigation into online money scams. The appeal comes in the wake of multiple reports from victims swindled by fraudulent online lenders.

The department’s director, Sok Nithya, disclosed to The Post on July 5 that numerous complaints have been received and an active collaboration with the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) has been initiated. The objective is to trace the fraudulent lenders and their cohorts and hold them accountable.

“The department has received some complaints and is collaborating with the NBC to launch a manhunt. Upon concluding our investigation, I will provide an update. Meanwhile, I implore our people not to engage with this hazardous informal system,” Nithya declared.

In June, one such victim, Thean Samuon, 23, lodged a complaint against an online lender. A resident of Phkoam village in Banteay Meanchey province, Samuon sought help after being threatened due to her inability to repay a $50 online loan.

“On March 22, 2023, I borrowed $50 online under the name ‘Online Transfer’, but received only $32. I was expected to repay the full $50 within a week,” she explained.

“When the payment was due, I could not afford it. Another online lender then offered me a loan of $50, under the same conditions. Unable to repay, I borrowed a total of $3,000 from various online lenders over 14 instances,” she confessed.

Furthermore, another victim turned to social media, revealing in tears that her spiralling online debts had led her to contemplate suicide several times. Despite her relentless efforts to repay the high-interest loans, she continued to be hounded by threats and disruptions.

In her distress, she warned others against seeking online loans, urging them to seek help from relevant authorities at the earliest hint of trouble, rather than act rashly.

“This loan system is treacherous. My debts grew rapidly as I moved from one lender to another, trying to solve my initial problem with a tontine [informal money lender]. I lost everything in a short span of time,” she said.

On July 4, the Cambodian Microfinance Association (CMA) emphasised that loans are not gifts. “Think carefully before asking for loans. If used correctly, loans can improve your livelihood and that of your family. Please borrow from formal financial institutions like microfinance institutions [MFIs], financial leasing companies, rural credit institutions and banks to ensure legal protection and success”.