3 Tips to Protect Your Migrant Domestic Worker From Online / Love Scams
Love scams are on the rise in Singapore. The most recent police figures show since January 2022, at least 384 victims have fallen prey, with losses amounting to at least $15 million.
While no one is immune to online/love scams, Migrant Domestic Workers (MDW) are particularly vulnerable. The nature of their employment – long working hours and living-in with their employers – make them more isolated, lonely, and heavily reliant on their smartphones to connect with the outside world (including online dating sites). The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is causing some MDWs to be even more vulnerable, as their employers are restricting their movement and monitoring their whereabouts.
When out and about on their only day off each week, it is very common for MDWs to be approached by strangers. They are often showered with undivided attention and flattering compliments by men. Many of these men make empty promises of love and/or money. Not only could these situations end up with money swindled or unrequited love, but also an unplanned pregnancy.
You might be thinking, “It’s 2022, who still falls for love scams today?” And we would have agreed with you, until we found out that a foreign domestic worker of a family fell victim to a love scam. Hearing the story about the lovestruck helper got us thinking: FDWs care for the young and old members of our families. We may hire them, but they aren’t just employees – they live and eat with us, and should be treated as a part of the family. How then can we protect our FDWs from being scammed, especially since they may be more vulnerable being away from home in a foreign land?
Here are what employers can support their MDWs with these 3 practical tips:
1. Empathise With Your MDW
It is not easy for MDWs to be far away from home. Many feel incredibly isolated and lonely. During the ongoing pandemic, many MDWs feel homesick as they have not been able to see their family for a prolonged period. A lot of MDW mothers are missing their children terribly.
Employers could show concern towards their MDWs by regularly asking how they are. Find out more about their family back home. Give them short, regular breaks throughout the day to connect with their family and friends, exercise or go for walks. A little kindness and empathy go a long way. It also helps MDWs open up to employers for support and advice when they need it.
2. Explain To Your MDW About Online / Love Scams.
Speak with your MDW about the prevalence of online/love scams – Scam victims likely to fall prey to scams again, survey found | The Straits Times
Remind your MDW to be cautious and never give money to someone without questioning the situation. Encourage her to be mindful when strangers get friendly too quickly, as many tend to play mind games, and prey on the victims’ loneliness and their longing for love and a relationship. Advise her to find out more about the men they meet – online or in person – before entering into a romantic relationship.
3. Encourage Your MDW To Be Involved In Purposeful Activities
Feelings of loneliness and purposelessness could increase the risk of MDWs falling prey to love scams. Instead of only hanging out with a group of friends at the park every week, you can encourage your MDW to get involved in religious activities, engage in sports and go for hikes. She could also invest in improving her knowledge and skills, as well as participating in meaningful community-based activities.
With the National Crime Prevention Council, the police have set up anti-scam initiatives to warn the public about scams but stressed that family members play an important role in preventing “someone they know from falling victim to crime”.
If employers are uncomfortable with getting too personal too quickly, there are organisations like the Centre for Domestic Employees, Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) and Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST) that offer counselling and advice helplines.
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