If you have a domestic helper, or more commonly referred to as maid at home, and have noticed that your maid has been going for more shopping sprees than usual, then maybe it’s time for you to spend some time and have a nice chat with your maid liao.
Facebook user Keisha Koh shared a long post on Singapore Scams Discussion to alert others, specifically fellow maid employers, to educate their maids and prevent them from falling into the trap of Ah Longs (illegal moneylenders).
In the post, she shared that these Ah Longs operate in a syndicate and they are currently targeting maids because locals are now too smart to take loans from them. Maids, especially the more gullible ones, will take a loan from these Ah Longs because they promise them: “easy, just use first and pay off slowly”.
She had unfortunately found this out in a hard way when she realized that her maid was heavily in debt to more than 10 Ah Longs.
Here’s an example of how the Ah Long deal works:
- Ah Long approach Leticia and bluff her that his loans are 100% legal. Since Leticia don’t know the proper process of getting a proper and legal loan, she really believed that Ah Long is 100% legal.
- Leticia give her work permit to Ah Long to apply for the loan, with her Sir and Mdm’s house address is on it. Ah Long also ask for Sir and Mdm’s name and contact number (Leticia don’t know what is it for and Ah Long also never tell Leticia that her Sir and Mdm now becomes her guarantor.)
- So Leticia borrowed $400 from Ah Long. Ah Long also told Leticia that she can pay back $100 a week through installments until she clears the debt.
- Leticia very happy because she think it’s a good deal! Leticia went to spread her joy and share with her other friends like Lulu, Rosemary and Cecilia, who also started taking loan from Ah Long too.
- Ah Long then ask Leticia to return the first $100 merely three days after he gave her the $400. Ah Long also told Leticia that if she don’t pay up, the interest will start to snowball.
- Leticia very stressed! She don’t know where to find the money to return to Ah Long.
- Then here comes Ah Long, using another number and pretended to be another Ah Long to reach out to Leticia and “help” her by offering another loan. But you know lah, where got so good one, if so good, then there won’t be news about Ah Long hang pig head, do graffiti like O$P$ on people’s wall liao, right?
- Another tactic that these Ah Longs would use is, they will try to get Leticia’s bank account. And once they have it, they will just randomly deposit an amount into her account then say that counts as another loan, even if she didn’t want it.
- And if Leticia transfers the money back, Ah Long just simply say “you never tell me before you transfer, so not counted!” then transfer the money back to her account again and counted it as an active loan.
- Leticia thought she can ignore Ah Long’s harassment. But now Ah Long change target and start to harass Sir and Mdm instead.
- If Leticia still working with Sir and Mdm, Ah Long will “convince” Sir and Mdm to pay on Leticia’s behalf.
- If Leticia is not working anymore and kena send home by Sir and Mdm, then Ah Long will find out which agency Leticia is from and then call up the agent and “pretend” they want to hire her. So if the agent is blur enough to not notice and let her get hired by Ah Long, then can say goodbye to Leticia liao.
Her advise to those suffering the same fate as her:
- Lodge a police report quickly as it can help police to collate information which can be useful to help them take down the syndicate one day.
- Stay strong and keep eyes wide open to people around and check for any suspicious activity and record it down.
- Call 999 immediately if in fear of being physically harmed in any ways.
You can read her post in full text below:
Firstly, I apologise for a very Super Long post ahead. I want to make sure I get all the relevant information included in here.
I wanted to share something for employers of FDWs or commonly referred to as maids.
Ah Longs (illegal moneylenders) are currently targeting maids because locals are now too smart to take loans from them.
A while ago, I found this out the hard way. My maid was heavily in debt to over 10 loansharks. I asked why, she said it snowballed.
These guys operate in a syndicate. Some dumb maid will take a loan because of the promise of “easy, just use first and pay off slowly”. Then after getting the money, she won’t shut up, she will spread her “joy” with her friends. Then the friends all get involved (happens mostly during off days).
These maids don’t know that if you take a proper loan, you need proper paperwork like identification documents, payslips, etc. And these loansharks will lie that their loans are 100% legal. They first say that you borrow $400 now then every week pay $100 in instalments. After disbursing the money, they will ask for first instalment merely 3 days later and if the maids don’t pay, interest snowballs.
Then when the maids are in distress due to one loanshark payment, they use the good cop bad cop style and have another number another name msg her and “help her out” by offering another loan.
Loan amounts are generally smaller than all the stories we hear about locals getting scammed by them but as you know, there’s no escaping.
Another tactic they use after the initial loan snowballing is, once they have the maid’s bank account, they will just randomly deposit an amount into her account then say that counts as another loan, even if she didn’t want it. And if she transfers the amount back, they just simply say “you never tell me before transfer, not counted” then transfer the money back to her account again and count it as an active loan.
It was only after the situation got very bad that I found out about it and immediately lodged a police report.
When she stopped responding to them, they got the employer’s details and start harassing the employers. How?
- The maids have to give their permits to apply loan, Your house address is on it.
- They have to give their employer’s name and number (they don’t know what it’s for but the loansharks don’t tell them this is a guarantor so we unknowingly become guarantor to their debts)
- They go online to check your phone number (I have found that there’s one website that lists all registered phone numbers in Singapore including your address and unit number. I cannot for the love of god remember the site now)
- They have secretly somehow obtained a database from some internal sources working in phone Operators.
During the harassment calls, they will threaten the employers and especially if they know you have kids in the house. They will threaten to come to your place etc. I had one threaten me saying he will call my neighbours (yes he has their names and numbers, I verified) and tell them someone in my unit owes them money, just to embarrass me because people will think it’s either me or my Husband. They would call and use abusive language on us even though we’re not the ones who took the money. And they will pester you if she’s still working with you. Then comes the next scenario:
If still working:
They will “convince” you to pay on her behalf… some can be nice to say “I don’t want to trouble you, I know you’re not the one who borrowed but I don’t have a choice so why don’t you just pay for her then we consider this one closed”.
If not working anymore and sent maid home:
They will continue harassing you because technically you are the guarantor. We found out because this happened to another household who lives in our estate.
If not working anymore and sent maid to agency:
They will ask you which agency you sent to. Then they will call up the agent and “pretend” they want to hire her. And if the agent is stupid enough to not notice and let’s her get hired by them, she’s as good as Gone. And we know this because this is what happened to one of our maid’s Friend but her agent was smart and detected the suspicious behaviour so deflected the situation.
And if you’re wondering, what is the police doing?
Absolutely nothing they can do.
Their advice is:
- Everyone change phone numbers, otherwise block all their numbers.
- Install cctv at your house entrance (need to get license approved from town council)
- Will step up enforcement checks in your area
- Any further suspicious activity immediately call 999.
- If possible, shift house.
Honestly, it’s quite garbage. Not practical to change phone lines due to work, not able to shift house- hello??? Install cctv, we did. Enforcement checks, we did notice only during the very initial period. Block their phone numbers, they just keep changing new numbers to contact you.
After uncovering all the facts, numbers and “loansharks” involved, we saw that it was all one big syndicate. They share a database. Different guys, different numbers, use different tone and talking style but same bank accounts. Funnier, one of the loansharks accidentally let slip to me saying he uses many different names so he has to check his book to see what was the name he gave my maid.
We also decided not to block their numbers and just brave it out. Of course not to say we were reacting as scared little mice. They want a fight, we’ll give them one. So we used aggression to respond to their aggression. All they did was just screamed even louder and more vulgar then slammed the phone after they can’t win.
Some were really nice actually, and never even shouted asking for anything or getting aggressive… the “good cop” style. So we also responded the same way.
After a very Long while, they stopped contacting me and my Husband. But it doesn’t mean we let our guard down. Ever since we know about this we are 100% vigilant and aware of our surroundings. We also made an effort to go around to our closest neighbours and inform them of what was going on and seek their help to inform us if they notice anything suspicious or call the cops, we are blessed to have such good neighbours.
These days, the loansharks just put our phone numbers into their “mailing list” and we get random “I heard your interested in online gambling…” advertising texts. Nothing we cannot manage. But the thought that they can always wait it out to let our guard down and go something to our house is still ever present.
My advice for anyone going through this, stay strong and keep your eyes wide open to people around your vicinity. Check any suspicious activity and record it down. If you fear you might be in anyway physically harmed, call 999 immediately.
Also, don’t wait to lodge the police report. Even though it’s not much help, it helps them collate information to hopefully one day take down the syndicate.
AND if you have a maid who thankfully isn’t in this situation, PLEASEEEEE educate them because they need to know. Because it will cause you, as employers, a world of trouble for their silly mistakes.
I’m sorry this is such a long post. I really feel that this needed to be out there so everyone can know and be more vigilant.
Edit: I copied all my additional posts in comments into main post section upon requests from commenters.