One family recently received up to 100 threatening texts and phone calls and had men coming up to the door to harass them.
All because their domestic helper had borrowed money from loan sharks.
A 57-year-old woman surnamed Huang told Shin Min Daily News that she first sensed something was amiss on Aug 28, when she received a string of WhatsApp messages from an unknown number.
The texts indicated that their maid owed them $1,000. Photos of the Indonesian woman holding her work permit were also sent to Huang.
"I'd yet to regain my senses when the person suddenly called me. The moment I picked up, he shouted and asked if I knew that my maid owed them money."
When questioned, Huang's maid admitted to borrowing $1,000 from the illegal moneylenders after seeing their advertisement online.
After going ahead with the process, the domestic helper claimed the cash was not transferred to her Singtel Dash e-wallet, as promised.
"I told the person on the phone that I would return the money immediately when it comes in, but he told me that if I were to pay the following day, there would be an additional weekly interest of $300 factored in," said Huang.
Huang, an accountant, added that the debt collectors had gotten hold of her name and address and began threatening her.
"He wanted me to pay my maid's debt and threatened to harass me and my neighbours," said Huang, who tried to negotiate with the man for 30 minutes, to no avail.
"I hung up and called the police, after which I blocked his number," she said.
What followed, however, was a barrage of a hundred phone calls and texts, Huang added.
The numbers appeared to be from overseas including Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines.
"They even sent me videos which depicted arson, paint-splashing, assault and other acts of harassment to scare me."
In texts that were shown to Shin Min, the person threatened to splash paint on Huang's neighbours' Mercedes cars, "and write your name and phone number on them".
The text continued, "let's see who has more to lose".
Huang's husband told the Chinese evening daily that a few days later on Aug 31, a loan shark runner turned up at their doorstep.
The 62-year-old retiree said that when he answered the door, a stranger thrust a mobile phone at him stating that "someone wants to talk to you".
"The Ah Long on the line asked when I'm going to pay up. The loan shark runner took off when I tried to take a photo of him with my mobile phone."
Following the incident, Huang shared that she received several more texts containing her husband's photo. The caller's profile picture was also changed to that of her husband.
As a result of the harassment, Huang's husband and son replaced and installed nine new CCTV cameras around their property, spending more than $1,500 in total.
Borrowed from 6 illegal moneylenders
Huang told Shin Min that the maid was sent back to Indonesia on Sept 2.
The Indonesian helper had been working for her for more than a year and had a monthly salary of $650.
Huang indicated that the maid always used to ask for an advance on her salary, which could be an amount anywhere from $500 to $1,000.
"She always claimed that her family needed the money to build a house, or for renovation. Then her mother died and she said her children needed money to go to school," said Huang.
"But I didn't think that she would borrow from loan sharks."
Huang also found out that the maid had borrowed from six illegal moneylenders in total, in order to "borrow from one to pay the other".
She shared that besides footing over $300 for her air ticket, the maid had still yet to repay $550 owed to her, but she doesn't intend to pursue the matter.
"Now what worries me most is my family's safety," Huang shared, expressing her fear that the loan sharks may not stop their activities even though the maid is no longer in Singapore.
It is the first such case she has come across in her 30 years as an employer of domestic helpers, adding that she shared her experience in hopes that it can help others.
"These loan sharks know that maids often are unable to repay the debt, and they'll target the employers instead."
Huang noted that as employers are now not allowed to hold on to the passports of domestic workers, there is the risk that the latter may use them for illegal activities or run away.