Bugis, Singapore. Photo: Google Maps
Bugis, Singapore. Photo: Google Maps

Authorities in Singapore have urged foreign domestic workers to stay vigilant after some were received phone messages from people claiming to be legal moneylenders.

This occurred after two domestic workers – a Filipina and an Indonesian woman – fell victim to loan sharks recently who demanded high repayment sums.

A Filipina called Michelle, aged 40, was in need of extra money after being informed that her mother needed an operation due to a cardiovascular condition. She learnt that while her employer was abroad on a business trip, Shin Min Daily News reported.

At the same time, she received an unexpected text from an unknown person, who claimed to be able to lend cash immediately.

Because of the emergency and the fact she was caught off-guard, she replied that she needed to borrow S$400. Michelle noted that only S$350 was put into her account while S$50 was said to be a service charge by the lender.

She was then forced to repay S$500 in the same week, or told she had to pay S$100 as “weekly interest” after a deadline. The lender also threatened to burn down her employer’s home if she didn’t comply.

But a day after the deadline, a messenger for loan sharks who posed as a delivery man visited the house at about midnight. That startled Michelle and prompted her to file a complaint with police early the next morning. Fortunately, her employer was understanding and willing to pay off her debt of S$500 for her.

Another case involved an Indonesian worker named Wati, aged 30, who also received daily texts from a so-called legal moneylender from Bugis in September.

Out of curiosity and after “guarantees” that the lender was a legitimate firm, she replied and took out a S$400 loan. She was required to pay back S$600 the following week.

But it turned into a nightmare as the lender kept injecting money to her account without any request. Eventually there were demands for her for pay a total of S$2,650 from four callers, who said they were loan sharks.

Wati became alarmed and told her employer about her woes. She was then taken to the police for assistance. She had to get her bank account and phone numbers changed to stop all the harassment.

Police have urged people to be vigilant. They say employers or domestic workers can dial ‘999’ if urgent assistance is required, or they can call the National Crime Prevention Council’s (NCPC) ‘X Ah Long’ (literally meaning ‘no loan sharks’) Hotline on 1800-924-5664 to provide details which can be relayed to police to assist investigations.