Loan shark harasses maid's employer with photos of family
Businesswoman Mary (not her real name) thought a phone call demanding she clear a $800 debt was a scam.
Then she received texts containing photographs of her house and family members from a man calling himself a loan shark.
Two days before she received the photographs, he had harassed her over the phone, threatening to harm her at her flat if she did not clear the debt made by her Filipino maid, Sofia (not her real name).
Sofia, who had been working with the family for the past four years, had named Mary as guarantor without her knowledge.
Mary, a mother of two, told The New Paper: "When I saw pictures of my family, home and rooms, how could I not panic? How could I not pay?"
She settled the debt later that day.
In January, Sofia borrowed $300 from the loan shark online.
According to Mary, he demanded Sofia send a selfie with photographs of her bank statement and work permit. She also sent photographs of Mary's utility bill, flat and family members as proof that she resided in the flat.
Sofia's total debt grew to about $800 by early this month as she was unable to pay up. To avoid harassment, Sofia changed her mobile phone number, which led the loan shark to contact Mary instead.
Among the 15 maid agencies TNP contacted, one said it had dealt with four such cases this year. Last year, The Straits Times and Stomp reported two cases involving domestic workers borrowing money from loan sharks.
Mr Shamsul Kamar, 45, executive director for the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) told TNP that CDE has had calls for advice on how to assist foreign domestic workers harassed by unlicensed moneylenders, but such cases are rare.
He said: "Should there be a need, we will increase education efforts such as using social media and on-the-ground outreach activities, to remind foreign domestic workers to stay away from loan sharks."
Mary has since filed a police report and sent Sofia back to the Philippines. However, she is still unsettled.
She said: "I'm living in fear. I don't know if more loan sharks would come. I was thinking if we really needed to move house.
"Even now, every time I get a phone call, my heart skips a beat."