A foreign domestic worker in Singapore allegedly started off borrowing money from one unlicensed money lender, only to end up borrowing from six of them to repay the snowballing interest accrued and principal sum owed.
As she was unable to repay the money owed, her employers received harassing phone calls and messages, and eventually had to report the matter to the police.
The helper has since been sent back to Indonesia, with the employer convinced that the unlicensed money lenders could all have been in cahoots.
The case was reported by Shin Min Daily News on Sep. 6.
The employer of the helper separately reached out to Mothership.sg with details pertaining to what happened.
Threatened by loan shark
The domestic helper's employer, identified by Shin Min as Huang, 57, received a series of WhatsApp messages from an unknown phone number at 8pm on Aug. 28.
Huang's Indonesian helper, Min, 36, was accused by the message sender of borrowing thousands of dollars.
The messages even contained several photos of the helper holding her work pass.
Huang said: "I hadn't even registered what was going on before the other party called me and yelled at me as soon as I picked up, asking me if I knew my maid owed [him] money."
Admitted to borrowing money
When confronted, the helper admitted that she contacted the alleged loan shark to borrow S$1,000, but claimed the amount she asked for had not been transferred to her Singtel Dash e-wallet yet.
The helper claimed that she got to know about the alleged loan shark through an advertisement on the internet.
Huang then told the other party that the money would be sent back after it was received, but was told that she would start incurring an interest charge of S$300 a week if she made the repayment the next day.
As the man had her name and address, Huang said he started threatening her by asking her to pay up on behalf of her helper, saying that he would harass her and her neighbours if she did not comply.
She attempted to negotiate with him for half an hour, but failed to do so.
After ending the call, Huang immediately made a police report and blocked the alleged loan shark.
Continued to get harassed over the phone
Huang said she then received more missed calls and threatening messages.
The phone numbers used to contact her apparently had country codes from Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.
She was also sent videos of people getting beaten, paint splashing, and things getting burnt.
In total, Huang received hundreds of messages and phone calls.
Loan sharks could be working together
The employer told Mothership that the story Shin Min ran was the tip of the iceberg.
The man who allegedly threatened her was apparently one of many money lenders, as Min apparently "kept borrowing to cover the previous loan's interest".
The employer added: "We suspect that the loan sharks are all one syndicate as they persuaded my helper to keep borrowing and even provided new contacts to her."
The unlicensed money lenders could also have been emboldened to seek repayment via various methods as they have the personal information of the employers acquired via the work permit documents held by the foreign domestic worker, the employer explained.
She said the helper "submitted her work permit to the loan sharks" and they took photos of the family, house, and car, and used those images as display pictures on chat apps as intimidation tactics.
Huang claimed that Min had been "constantly borrowing" money from the family while she was working for them, and has asked for amounts ranging from S$500 to S$1,000.
The helper was paid S$700 a month when working for Huang.
Helper sent back
Huang said she has sent Min back to Indonesia on Sep. 2, and had to pay for the air ticket, which cost more than S$300.
The helper apparently still owes her S$550.
Huang said: "I regard the money that I've spent as the price of getting a peace of mind. But the most worrying thing now is the safety of my family. I am afraid that after the helper goes back, the loan sharks will come again."
Huang said this incident has made her feel helpless, and it was the first time she has experienced something like this despite having employed helpers for over 30 years.
She said: "These loan sharks know that the helpers can't repay the debts, so they turn to the employers."
"In the past, employers could hold on to the helper's documents, but now they can't. The helpers can use their documents to do illegal things, or even run away, causing a lot of trouble."
Top photos via Shin Min Daily News