How online lenders’ crude and offensive tactics drive borrowers to depression and suicide (2)

In this concluding part on the drafting of VICTOR AYENI on online lenders, firm agents defend tactics and health experts warn of implications

They have different categories to which borrowers belong. Those whose loans have not yet matured fall into Q zero; they call them, trick them into paying and promise them fake benefits if they pay before the due date. The Q ones are borrowers whom we call on the same day as their loan is due. Those in Qs two and three are those whose loans are due in a few days or a week. The four Qs are loans with a maturity of 30 days or more. These four Qs are the ones who are harassed because their interests are said to have piled up and the tone of the agents towards them is generally harsh. That’s when they call or text their contacts.

“Also, some people hired as loan collectors don’t really have a lot of emotional intelligence or really understand what their job really entails. They just wanted the job. During the training session we had when we were recruited, our instructor told us to use any tactic we know to get clients to pay them back because Nigerians are tough people.

Erabor also lamented the poor working conditions to which these loan companies subject their agents and the unpleasant responses from some borrowers.

“Working conditions are also poor. The first time I went to interview at this loan company, I observed that most of their staff were visibly frustrated; you are not paid well. You can be fired at any time for not recovering the loans and some defaulters are also annoying. Some will stop talking once they know your reason for calling us or yelling at us or denying their identity and it’s my personal airtime that I use for all those calls,” she said. added.

A software engineer simply identified as Goddy, who works with a technology company that partners with online lending companies, told Our Correspondent how the process works.

“We have many online lending companies working with our company such as Aladdin, Migo, CashPal, Branch International, Blackcopper, Lendsqr, Indicina, Pond colony, Kuick Pay credit, Borrow Me, Carbon, First Credit and Fair Money .

“We have an existing automated system that allows us to collect these loans. However, all of these companies are bound by the same code of ethics or set rules, one of which says “defaulters are not criminals”. We also use a specific application programming interface to find out if a potential customer already owes one of the loan applications through their BVN, which will show us all of their bank accounts and transactions.

“Unlike those loan sharks who harass and insult defaulters or even threaten them with arrest, we have agents who are responsible for calling each of our respective partners and then they will send us a portfolio of all their clients who have obtained loans with them and we assess the amounts loaned to each and note the date of default.Our agents then call the defaulters and remind them of their loans and extend a repayment schedule to them which can span two weeks or two months at most. The goal is to get people to commit to paying,” he explained.

When our correspondent contacted the agent whose phone number was displayed with a threatening message from LCredit, she denied having sent it.

“We don’t message customers unless their payment expires and some customers turn out to be too stubborn and I don’t think I’ve sent anything to that effect,” she said.

Our correspondent also contacted 9Credit, and a call agent who gave his name as Precious admitted it was part of their policy towards those who refuse to pay.

“I’m sure it’s not the first time the person has received this message from the company. It’s part of the policy he knows. Before sending this message, we first send several messages a few days before, advising the person to make the payment, not in a rude way.I’m sure we must have called the person once or twice before calling their emergency contacts.

“That’s why such harsh messages are being sent to them because the person is acting like they don’t want to make the payment within the seven day period,” she added.

Loan shark tactics can cause physical and mental harm, experts warn

A mental health expert at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Calabar, Dr. Victor Essien, noted that the unprofessional methods deployed by loan sharks could lead their clients into mental health issues that they would need therapy to recover from. to put back.

He said, “I think loan applications are causing problems given the current Nigerian economy. The rise of these lending apps may have skyrocketed in 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown as people attempted to recover financial losses or obtain loans electronically. Now that the pandemic is over, people are still looking for loans online, when these borrowers might not have a source of income to repay the loans.

“Now when these people are bombarded with messages calling them fraudsters, thieves and when their family and friends also receive these messages, it can plunge them into depression and, by reacting to these negative messages, they can also have anxiety issues or be unhappy They might also be thinking about suicide As a result they may have poor sleep because they are thinking about how to pay back loans Some of them might have little or no appetite.

“These people who got loans from these apps and who were harassed by these app agents might need mental health professionals to help them and help them through the stages of grief. There is a school of thought that if you lose someone, you must go through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, negotiation, depression, and acceptance. These people would need therapy and would also need someone to help them settle their debts so that the harassment would stop.

A mental health nurse, Mr Rasine Ibe, noted that harmful text messages sent by these loan sharks could lead to physical and mental health problems.

“First of all, I think the impact these apps have on people impacts the health of those involved in terms of developing high blood pressure which can eventually lead to associated conditions like stroke.

“Going through these messages and being in contact with about two people who have been victims of this humiliation, I can say that its effects are in two ways: short-term and long-term. The short-term effects are the disorders of the sleep, worries about appetite, guilt, regret and shame, which can damage their self-esteem and lead some of them to abuse and substance abuse.

“In more serious cases, there could be suicidal ideation, or even outright suicide. They would feel lonely and depressed because they are at the point where no one wants to associate themselves with their “cheater” label, which can trigger suicidal thoughts.

“The long-term effect of this is post-traumatic stress disorder. There is nothing wrong with getting a loan, but these bad experiences can put people at risk of developing neurotic disorders and rob them of profitable opportunities in the future,” he said.

The director of the Health and Development Foundation, Mr Usen Essien, said: “Research has shown that there are what are called impulsive disorders. There are people who buy things they don’t want because they just have an uncontrolled impulse to buy, so it could eventually lead to debt addiction. Some people borrow, not necessarily because they are short of money, but because they have access to what they think is free money.

“But then when you look at people who are getting money from these loan apps with no intention of repaying – and I’m specifically referring to people who are getting loans with no intention of repaying – they might have tendencies criminal rather than addictive, and they also lack integrity.However, these companies should seek a more humane and civilized way to collect their money and even grant their loans, so that they don’t run into trouble. .

“The psychological impacts of their threats are enormous – both on the customer and, of course, on the contacts to whom messages about the defaulters are sent. First, these messages cause people emotional stress because they put them in a situation where they start to think about how to repair the damage already done to their reputation, especially for those who really want to repay but are limited by certain circumstances.

“Second, these messages provoke aggression. Many people respond to threats with aggression because it’s a coping mechanism and ultimately their self-esteem is still intact.

“They react this way as a way to protect their self-confidence. Third, these negative messages lead to low self-esteem, especially when people are unable to repay loans due to unpredictable circumstances; they would no longer be able to cope with their friends and family, which also translates into lower productivity at work. They can also lead to inferiority. »

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